The Best Diet for Optimal Health & Well-being

Before I go any deeper into this topic, I want to clarify what diet means in the context of this blog post and also my coaching practice. Diet comprises all the foods we eat on a daily and regular basis. It’s about the kind of food and drinks we ingest rather than the act of restricting or cutting down calories. There are many types of diets out there, and it is likely one of the most researched health topics. Nonetheless, it is also one of the areas we might slack and struggle with the most. The information available to the public is also often confusing and contradictory.

Throughout the years, I have battled and punched myself a lot because of food and how I relate to it. Food is a central pillar of health and well-being. Whether our goal is to live healthily or improve our mental health, many solutions to our problems come from managing and learning about what we eat. Should you do keto? What about the Mediterranean diet? Or raw food? There is a plethora of different diets, each one of them linked to specific goals and outcomes. I believe, however, that if your goal is to live healthily and look after your well-being, then the whole-foods diet is the best path to take.

The whole-food approach to diet is simple and natural. It is based on fresh, whole ingredients that cover different groups of food. This is a diet that can be adapted to any culture because its principles are common to all traditional diets. These include:

  • high intake and high variety of plant-based foods
  • moderate intake of protein of quality
  • low intake of highly processed foods

Most traditional cuisines respect these principles but people worldwide have fallen for microwaveable meals and ingredients that are very far away from their natural state. These ingredients include added sugar, salt, and trans fat among other food additives and preservatives. Opposed to this is the whole-foods approach because it is focused on high-quality and nutrient-dense foods. It promotes healing and fights inflammation, one of the common factors of diseases such as diabetes, mental disorders, and cancer.

High intakeModerate intakeMinimal intake
Plant-based foodsQuality proteinProcessed foods
vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seedsSea-food, lean meats, dairybreakfast cereals, crisps, sausage rolls, pies, pastries, bacon, microwave meals, cakes, cookies, biscuits, soft drinks
Examples of plant-based, quality protein, and processed foods

By prioritizing foods such as fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and legumes, the whole-foods diet contributes to our gut mucosal immunity. A healthy gut is crucial for a healthy brain and good mental health. Our body requires greater doses of minerals and vitamins to work properly and be able to transform the food we eat into energy. If you are having protein, carbs, and fat but you are not replenishing your body with the necessary micronutrients provided by vegetables and fruits, you won’t feel and be at your best. That’s mainly where the whole-food diet will help you the most.

Concluding Thoughts

Although I’ve tried different approaches to diet, I have always thought that balance is key and that’s what we find in the whole-foods approach to diet. We don’t have to ban processed foods forever but we need to be more conscious of the frequency we consume them. Many of my snacks were based on cookies, biscuits, and breakfast cereals. These contain a lot of added sugar and they were responsible for aggravated mental health issues and physical problems. Replacing these foods with fruits and whole grains has been a huge game-changer.

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3 Lifestyle Changes That Improve Sleep

Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.

Mahatma Gandhi

According to the Sleep Foundation, half of the American population says feeling sleepy throughout the day at least three times a week. Around 35% of all US adults report sleeping less than seven hours per night, with the recommended amount being of nine hours for adults between 18 and 65 years old. A global survey recently pointed out that 62% of adults admit not sleeping as well as they would like and, although they would like to sleep better, the majority don’t seek help to do so. It would be interesting if these surveys explored people’s attitudes toward sleep, and sleep education to better understand the context of these statistics.

Besides what we think and feel about sleep, there are lifestyle factors that can either hinder or promote a good night’s rest. Sleep plays a valuable role in our health and well-being. The lack of sleep can aggravate mental health problems and create an unwanted feedback loop. I know people who have slept poorly for years and see positive changes in their mood once they restore a natural sleeping cycle. Although we can’t change certain aspects that affect sleep, there are lifestyle factors that we can work with to improve sleep and repair not only our body but also our mind. Here are three changes that will help you restore sleep.

Avoid Caffeine After 2PM

This can be a hard one for those of us who love coffee or tea, but reducing caffeine after 2PM can help you benefit from greater sleep at night. Caffeine has the inconvenience of making our sleep shorter and lighter. It also seems to block adenosine, a neurotransmitter thought to promote sleep. If you are highly sensitive, especially avoid caffeine after 12PM.

Avoid Alcohol

In a similar fashion, alcohol also decreases the quality of sleep. Although some people may find it easier to fall asleep after a drink, the truth is that alcohol’s soporific effect is short-lived. It also suppresses REM sleep and it can cause us to wake up several times during the night.

Exercise More

Exercising during the day, and especially aerobic exercise (e.g. walking), helps us fall asleep faster and experience a greater amount of deep sleep. Practicing exercise regularly also decreases the chance of waking up in the middle of the night. Just avoid it 2h before bedtime since exercising activates and stimulates the nervous system, making it harder to fall asleep.

Tools to Help You Sleep Better

Concluding Thoughts

Sleep has a great impact on our health and well-being. A good night’s sleep means we give time to our body and mind repair and recover from the day’s activities. Although each person’s sleeping needs are individual, the average recommended amount of sleep is 9h for working adults. To make sure you stay asleep throughout this time, it’s good to rethink your lifestyle habits and change what you can. Eliminating caffeine after 2PM, avoiding alcohol, and exercising more are some of the lifestyle factors that impact sleep and which are under your control.

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A Stoic Evening Routine For Success

Stoics seem to give great lifestyle advice. In a quick recent research, I discovered that Marcus Aurelius used to follow and suggest a set of behaviours and activities that are meant to generate stillness and promote both body and mind awareness. Altogether, these aspects contribute to a greater capacity to be virtuous and act accordingly. Below, you will find seven of Marcus Aurelius’ routine recommendations to achieve success.

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