There’s no arguing that the last few years have been unusual. With all the changes we’ve had to make in order to adapt it’s no wonder that many of us are feeling stressed & maybe even a bit anxious, right?
At China Rose Wellness we’re focused on channeling this energy into taking positive, nourishing action! It’s empowering to know that there is SO MUCH we can do to be proactive, diffuse our stress, and bolster our immune systems! A foundational place to start is with our food choices because the way we fuel our bodies determines both our mental and physical health. It’s the perfect time to let food truly be our medicine!
Fresh is Best
While it might put some folks’ minds at ease to stock up on shelf-stable foods, focusing on whole, fresh foods is vital when we want to stay well. Since many of our food choices are dependent on availability right now our ability to balance strategic meal planning with our willingness to be flexible, creative, and curious about unfamiliar options is key!
Fortunately, each season brings many fresh food options to the table, so the plate is our canvas! Use your flavorful fresh produce finds as the base for the art that will become your meal. Explore what’s beautiful, what catches your eye, and what piques your interest then build a meal around it using what is accessible. Let your inner Cordon Bleu chef loose! There are no mistakes! This is how we learn and grow.
I know it’s tempting in times of stress to succumb to comfort foods like sugar and refined grains that turn into sugar when we digest them (like pasta, white rice, white potatoes, cereal, crackers, chips, and baked goods) because they send initial “feel good” signals to our brains. The trouble is that these types of foods lack fiber so they break down quickly, lifting our blood sugar to the highest of highs only to drop them to the lowest of lows. This leaves us hungry sooner and craving even more sugar (starting the vicious cycle once again) as well as feeling a little tired, irritable, and possibly more sensitive. Nobody needs that right now!
A super great, budget-friendly tip: we’d be better off focusing our culinary efforts on foods that digest more slowly and are more satiating so that we end up eating less overall. Carbohydrates that are high in fiber, like vegetables, beans, lentils, and whole grains like brown rice or quinoa, are solid tools during this time! We can make big batches of these that last us throughout the week so we can pull from them for different dishes and don’t end up having to be in the kitchen all the time.
Small portions of healthy, diverse sources of naturally occurring fats are also vital to our health right now! Not only are they more satiating than their processed, low-fat counterparts but our mental health depends on them! Incorporate avocado, nuts, seeds, olive and coconut oils, as well as quality sources of meat, fish, and whole fat, raw dairy products throughout our days and everything will seem to come just a little bit easier. Balance this by fitting in a little physical activity most days. Options like walking, hiking, dancing, yoga and biking also support a positive mood in times of stress. Yes!
Eating healthy sources of protein throughout the day provides the amino acids our bodies need to detoxify efficiently, heal effectively, and build strong immune systems. Quality animal sources like eggs, meat, fish, & whole fat, raw dairy products are complete proteins on their own. We can also diversify our plant-sourced foods to make sure we’re getting all the essential amino acids we need to maintain health.
If we do have items like white rice, potatoes, and pasta in our pantries consider eating them in small servings and pairing them with larger portions of the whole foods mentioned above so that they don’t take such a physical toll.
Fear not: we don’t have to change everything about the way we cook in order to move towards a healthier way of eating! Simply switching out some of the more processed ingredients in our favorite dishes can make a world of difference! Think cauliflower crust pizzas loaded with fresh produce & hormone-free meat, coconut flour pancakes with fresh, local fruit, homemade chicken tacos with avocado, grilled veggies, and microgreens, or all the meaty, red sauce pasta fixings we love so much served over quinoa, brown rice, or zoodles rather than white flour pasta. Baby steps Bob ; )
If fresh veggies are not already a part of your daily routine start by incorporating them into your dinners regularly. Once that’s a habit, welcome them into lunch every day, and then maybe snacks and breakfast to follow. So much of learning to love vegetables is in how they’re prepared. I know some of us were ruined by bland, over cooked or canned vegetables in our youth, but it’s never too late! Look for recipes focused on cooking them to perfection and seasoning them to complement their natural flavors. Never underestimate the power of discerning adult palates to overcome ingrained childhood preferences.
Since food is truly our medicine, we can also focus on specific foods that provide the nutrients our immune systems need to thrive! We tend to think of vitamin C at times like these but the naturally occurring, food-sources of vitamin C will always beat the synthesized vitamin C supplements found in capsules or powders. Focus on foods like red bell peppers, kiwi, citrus fruits, strawberries, broccoli, papaya, cooked kale, parsley, pineapple, Brussels sprouts, peas, cauliflower, and mango as natural sources.
Vitamin D is another, very important nutrient in staying healthy. We’re a bit like house plants in that getting some sun exposure each day is pretty helpful. Going outside in spurts at non-peak hours without sunscreen is the best approach for building levels of this essential nutrient. Food sources like seafood, cod liver oil, liver (from healthy, grass-fed animals), duck eggs, and pastured chicken eggs are also vital.
Zinc is a mineral known for its immune supportive qualities. Eating foods like oysters, lamb, pumpkin seeds, grass-fed beef, garbanzo beans, cashews, whole fat yogurt or kefir, cooked mushrooms, cooked spinach, and chicken will help ensure that your zinc levels are optimal.
Let’s not forget that incorporating fresh culinary herbs in our food can make a world of difference, not only in flavor but in the medicinal qualities. For example, garlic lowers blood pressure and is immune supportive, antibacterial, and antiviral! The fresher the better! Sounds like it’s time to get over smelling like garlic folks : )
Ginger is anti-inflammatory and supports healthy digestion. Rosemary helps us digest and utilize our healthy fats, is cardioprotective, and a potent antioxidant that protects our cells from damage. Thyme is a decongestant and expectorant in addition to being antibacterial and antifungal.
These examples merely give you a taste of the healing powers of medicinal herbs. I could go on for days!
In addition to our locally owned and operated grocery stores, our farmer’s markets are some of our best resources right now! Not only can we stock up on local eggs, meat, dairy, fish, and beautiful produce at its peak nutritional value in an outdoor venue that provides a plethora of vitamin D and fresh air, we get to support local farmers and food producers at the same time! Keeping our money in our community and contributing to family owned businesses (that are probably stressed and possibly struggling just like we may be) creates a sense of connection and purpose that will continue to serve us in these uncertain times. We all win!
Subscribing to receive food boxes regularly from a local farm is another great way to support community agriculture without having to go out and procure it ourselves. Simply do an online search for “CSA near me” to find your local options.
Is cooking just not your jam and you don’t see that changing any time soon? Support local catering companies, restaurants, AND your health by ordering meals to go that are focused on fresh, whole foods!
Hopefully these ideas and tips have been helpful in gaining the big picture perspective about building and maintaining wellness in these challenging times. We have numerous health promoting tools at our fingertips if we chose to be proactive & implement them!
In addition to these foundational tools there’s a lot of opportunity for customization when it comes to optimizing our health. Since each of us is biochemically unique and comes to the table with different health histories, dietary habits, stress handling methods, current states of health, pharmaceutical medications, and self-care regimens there is no way to generalize which foods or holistic tools would be best for ALL of us.
If you are interested in feeling even more empowered in your healthcare and creating a personal wellness strategy to bolster your defenses, you can schedule a discovery session with me via phone or Zoom from anywhere in the world by contacting us. Also follow our China Rose Wellness Instagram and Facebook pages for additional holistic health tips, strategies, meal ideas, and ongoing support ♥
“Food and medicine are not two different things: they are the front and back of the same body.”
~ Masanovu Fukuoka
China Rose Zamora is a functional nutritional therapist, clinical herbalist, and yoga teacher who has worked in the holistic health field since 1998 and has proudly served her community as China Rose Wellness since 2009. When she’s not coaching women to rise to their health potential, practicing herbal alchemy, traveling the country via mobile tiny house teaching inspirational workshops to demystify wellness, or co-facilitating transformational retreats with AJ, her-eco warrior partner in adventure, you can find her meandering on the nearest hiking trail or jammin’ at a local, live music venue. China Rose is a firm believer that wellness encompasses everything that nourishes us, body & soul!