Trust Your Gut for Health and Wellness

September 1st, 2018

By Sumer Dene

Your intuition communicates to all the nerve cells in your body, that ‘gut feeling’ you get is your subconscious mind sending you signals. The secret is learning how to listen to these instinctive feelings and trust your gut. America spends more money on healthcare than any other nation yet has the highest disease rate. In a land of opportunity, when did we put a price tag on our health and wellness? Food stripped of nutritional value is more convenient, easily accessible and affordable in our fast-paced society. We are conditioned to compartmentalize things we don’t see and can’t name, creating a detachment to the food we eat and how it got to our plate. How can consumers dictate their health in a world conflicted with dietary fads, advertising campaigns and misleading health claims? The public becomes confused when given small amounts of truth within a large amount of misinformation. In a society where we cannot seem to unite as a whole, have we lost connection with ourselves and our planet along the way?

Our body is an ecosystem. The protective microbiome in our gut is a community of like-minded organisms. This diverse population has a common goal: to get the most nutrients out of food so we can get the most out of life. A central philosophy of well-being is to eat high fiber, nutrient-dense foods. Our friendly gut bacteria thrive on fiber to promote glucose homeostasis, weight loss, and absorption of important nutrients. Fiber naturally detoxes the body and is essential for mental and emotional health. According to the ‘National Institutes of Health,’ integrated evidence concludes that metabolism of a high fiber diet can alter gene expression in the brain to prevent neurodegeneration and promote regeneration. Our relationship with food is much deeper than we thought. The gut sends unconscious signals to our brain via the vagus nerve, 50% of dopamine and 90% of serotonin is made in the digestive tract. These are the ‘drugs’ that make us feel happy and content. The stomach directly communicates to our brain to ‘manipulate’ behavior, it’s a self-reinforcing cycle. Processed foods high in saturated fats and artificial ingredients fool your brain to consume more calories because it doesn’t contain the nutrients your body needs. The good news is you can gradually change the community of organisms within you to impact your quality of life and boost energy. Increase fiber intake slowly and drink plenty of water. This allows the natural bacteria in your digestive system to adjust to the change.

Combine a legume with a whole-grain or nut and seed to create a complete protein. According to the ‘US National Library of Medicine,’ a diet rich in legumes is a predictor of survival of older people in different ethnicities. Legumes deliver a wide range of nutrients, including lean protein, fiber and antioxidants with relatively few calories. Soak legumes overnight before cooking. It is simple to prepare with layers of flavor and texture. Start with a neutral oil like sunflower, make a paste with vegetable stock, curry, garlic and your choice of vegetables. Legumes are a great addition to soups. It is delicious pureed in dips, dressings and spreads.

Healthy fats are essential to absorb nutrients, achieve optimal body composition and balance hormones. Research published in the “Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine,’ states a handful of nuts a day lowers the risks of many diseases and reduces weight gain. Nuts are packed with protein and fat. They help you age gracefully, improve memory function and maintain a strong, lively heart. Eliminating a macronutrient from your diet creates a calorie deficit which is a short-term fix with long-term adverse effects on mood and health. Balance and enjoy an assortment of whole-foods, be active in mind and body, enjoy life and drink plenty of water. This is the most promising way to live a healthful, happy life.

Truly Care
There are many advantages to a whole-foods lifestyle. It can simplify your life and protect our land, water and energy sources. The hardest part is knowing where to begin, with time and preparation it can be effortless and affordable to your specific needs. You as a citizen have a choice and a vote with your dollar. Knowledgeable consumers can change the economy as we know it. Declaration of mental and physical strength is the ultimate independence from society. The answer comes from honesty and integrity by evaluating scientific information without bias or corporate agenda. A food labeled ‘vegan,’ ‘organic’ or ‘all-natural’ doesn’t necessarily mean that it is good for you. It can still be processed, high in sugars, and lacking nutrients. Don’t let yourself be consumed by a deceitful and saturated market. Educate yourself.

Have Fun & Be Creative 🙂
A whole-foods lifestyle includes thousands of possibilities from a diverse array of flavors, colors, aromas and textures. It’s not a strict regimen, its liberating. Let it be unique to your taste buds and personality. If you have concerns, ask your doctor for a blood test, evaluate results and adjust habits accordingly. Trust your gut.

Feel free to contact me at Sumerdene@gmail.com

Whole-foods Lifestyle

August 1st, 2018

Sumer Dene

I am honored to be Bay Area Houston’s new featured writer!

A little about me; I grew up in Atlanta, New Jersey, Houston and Los Angeles. I graduated with a degree in Animal Science from Rutgers University. In an active research environment, we ask important questions like how and why.

I was a model in New York City and Los Angeles. I did runway and editorial modeling and a national broadcast commercial.

The industry taught me how to be professional, poised and confident.

However, the demands took a toll and I felt stripped of my identity. Beauty is supposed to be unique, kind, graceful, natural and full of life. Why alter and idealize it? It was difficult to be myself and live up to unrealistic measurements and standards.

After college, I was a law intern at the Superior courts in Washington, D.C. I discovered the importance of finding fact to represent important truths. Change is inevitable and so is growth- if you are willing. Laws change over time based on the wants and needs of the people.

After my internship I moved to Austin, TX. Here I discovered eccentric art, music, culture and a variety of whole-foods available anywhere at any time of day.

I couldn’t believe my eyes, all of the versatile, quality, affordable fresh foods made convenient to order. How did people not know about this? More importantly, why are whole-foods normally so difficult to find in our daily, multi-faceted life?

Why?
Through knowledge and pertinent information we can share common goals to find solutions to major problems in our society. Our food system is complex, and it doesn’t have to be. Food connects us, brings us together and fuels us. Nutrition plays an important role in how we look, feel, think and interpret information. How we choose to nurture ourselves is a decision we make every day for the rest of our lives. We can inspire loved ones to make healthier choices from living by example and becoming informed. The main reason people don’t give a whole-foods lifestyle a try is because of lack of information, pressure from advertisements, family and friends.

Over time I learned to be aware of what I put in my body and things started to change.

How?
A whole-foods lifestyle first begins with a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes. Everyone does it differently- it’s a learning experience to find out what is best suited for you.

There’s no need to limit or restrict yourself. This is a long-term goal to improve health and quality of life. You’ll learn each step is easier than the next. It’s supposed to be fun, simple and easy. It’s about exploring healthful foods and sharing that joy with the world, and that is why I developed a versatile, efficient guide to help others begin their personal journey with food.

Ingredients
It’s amazing what you can do with a few simple ingredients to combine into something delicious and nutritious. The less ingredients, the better.

Avoid words like high fructose corn syrup, gelatin, caraganeen, palm oil, white (refined), hydrogenated oils (trans fats), sodium nitrates, sodium benzoate, red 40, yellow 5 or any type of artificial color or taste used for marketing purposes. If you can’t pronounce it, you probably shouldn’t eat it. Check servings sizes and percent daily values to calculate specific nutritional needs.

Processed and refined foods are stripped of valuable nutrients. These are “empty” calories high in saturated fats with no nutritional value. To make things worse, many low-fat items are high in sugars while concentrated juices lack the essential fiber you need. This leaves you in a destructive pattern feeling unsatisfied and hungry for more.

1. Purchase fruits and vegetables in season and legumes, oats, seeds, teas, herbs and spices in bulk. You can maintain freshness in sealed glass jars. Also at many stores they offer freshly ground peanut or almond butter.

2. Stay hydrated. Drink at least 2 liters or more a day. Tal has amazing stainless steel water bottles that keep your water fresh and cool all day. You can find many sizes and colors at Walmart.

3. Make shopping simple. Reusable bags can hold many more items without tear and make grocery shopping so much more convenient.

4. Pot some plants, grow some trees. Look for a local nursery near you. Also Walmart and Home Depot have a variety of non-gmo organic seeds. You’ll grow much more than you need so make sure to share with family, friends and your community. There’s numerous therapeutic benefits to gardening plus it’s highly cost-effective.

Do your research – get the most out of your calories

Next month I will share some whole-foods recipes and suggestions. Feel free to contact me at SumerDene@gmail.com

I value your input and suggestions, all ideas are welcome.