What you eat and drink, coupled with your exercise routine, affects your body condition. Regardless of your basic shape, your proportions and your scale, you will look your best when you take care of your body from within as well as from out, and learn to view food and drink as fuel for your health and beauty.
The Eight Essentials
- Eat five portions of fresh fruit and/or vegetables a day. This will get you the essential nutrients (vitamins and minerals ) you need to keep fit, keep cool and fight disease. Plus the fibre from the freshies helps you clear out waste and absorb the benefits from other foods. Keep the refrigerator and fruit bowl stocked. Either eat them as snacks or discipline yourself to eating one meal a day of just veggies or fruit.
- Drink at least 1 litre of water a day. Water is beneficial to your health and to your looks. It flushes the system of toxins and waste by preventing constipation, and it therefore helps protect against bowel cancer too. Plus, water moisturizes the skin from the inside out. You can cut down on expensive creams by upping your intake of water. Guzzle your litres for a week and you’ll see the difference in your skin. You’ll notice it not only on your face but also on your legs!
- Get fat wise. Fat is essential to your daily diet but we eat fat too much, often without even knowing it (it’s hidden in lots of processed food, for example). You know the damage it does, including clogging your arteries and cutting your life short. Be aware of when you are adding fat into your diet via cooking, spreads and dressings. We can get what fat we need from lean meat and fish, whole grain starches and vegetables. Limit saturated animal fats (butter, cheese, cream) and opt for vegetable oils in cooking such as olive, sunflower, linseed, soya and hazelnut. However, fat restrictions taken to extremes will jeopardize your health and beauty. If you have gone overboard with ‘fat-freeness’, ask yourself if your hair is as shiny as it used to be. Is your skin noticeably drier? If so, introduce some natural fats (preferably unsaturated) back into your diet.
- Stock up on antioxidants. These are the super-vitamins of our age, known to gobble up nasty free radicals (internal pollutants) in our bodies. Free radicals, if left unchecked, can weaken our DNA and cause heart disease and cancer. By eating your daily fruit and vegetables you are getting what you need. But if you are bombarded with added external pollution from smoking, bad air, radiation and stress, consider a supplement. Beta-carotene in the form of vitamins A, C and E and the mineral selenium, are the prime antioxidants. Red wines (especially young ones) are also a good source of antioxidants, but a glass or two is all you can justify as medicinal!
- Limit caffeine to the morning and to three cups max. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea and many cola drinks. It makes you jittery, inhibits the flushing out of toxins (allowing cellulite to build up) and causes headaches. As with most dietary dangers, it comes down to discipline and learning to enjoy it in moderation. If you haven’t discovered the delights of herbal teas (peppermint after a meal, chamomile after a hard day and lemon and ginger to cleanse the system any time). Why not try them now?
- Restrict alcohol to four days a week, max. For those of us who love a drink, it is all too easy to find ourselves in the routine of drinking daily. This is when the alcohol can control you, not the other way round. The limit for women is 21 units a week (a small glass of wine being a unit), but women of slight build should aim lower before signs of liver damage set in. Like caffeine, alcohol is a toxin, but alcohol is also a source of unwanted, often uncounted, calories. So those sprawling hips or jelly thighs might be down to drink rather than food. Dependency can creep in unwittingly, resulting in mood swings, plunging energy levels and a weaker immune system. By all means, relax and enjoy a drink. Just keep it in control and detox your system three or four days a week with other beverages.
- Graze! If you suffer from energy highs and lows or have an irregular system, eating small meals throughout the day will help you to metabolize food more effectively and keep you feeling energized all day long. High-energy natural snacks, such as dried apricots and prunes, bananas, fruit breads (e.g. date and walnut) and oatcakes, are filling and clear the head faster than anything. Even if you have a big, night out planed, better eat something beforehand rather than gorging yourself all at once later. Overstuffing your gut means a restless night and days of trying to get back on an even keel.
- Know your Body Mass Index (BMI) and keep it in check. Your BMI accounts for your weight (in kilos) in relation to your height. The ideal index is between 20 and 25. Below 20 could be worryingly underweight and should be watched. If your index is over 35 you need to do something about the excess kilos before you develop serious health problems.