Food: eating for wellbeing

Food: eating for wellbeing

Hello All. I hope that you have been having a good week. As those who are following my weekly blogs may recall, last week ( ) I reflected on looking after your wellbeing, both physically and mentally. How did you do with that? What did you do? Did you put down the phone and read a book on the train? Did you call a friend? Let me know in the comments what you did and whether you felt that the experience enhanced your week? Alternatively, what did you learn from the experience?

I am following on from last week about looking at ways of looking after your emotional wellbeing by looking at physical wellbeing. Now as you know, looking after your physical wellbeing can be done through exercise and activity. What is also arguably more important is how you fuel your body between your exercise sessions. Like with many of the blogs, this week’s blog has also been motivated by lived experience. Over the past weekend I went to the opera with my girlfriend Lana and watched the spellbinding  ‘Magic Flute’ (using the music of Mozart). If you ever get the chance, I would highly recommend it. After the show we went to a Chinese restaurant for a bite and then for the rest of the weekend we had a relaxed approach to diet. During the course of the weekend I felt my gut to be a bit off, and I also developed a bit of a cold (perhaps from walking in cold London for a few hours after the show). This made me have a think about my gut, my health, my immunity, how my body responds to food and what I can do help my gut respond better to the foods that I eat.

While it is not uncommon to read posts about eating for weight loss and muscle gain, I think what is probably even more important than that is to have an idea in your mind about eating for wellbeing. With that said, I am going to look at eating for: supporting a healthy gut; supporting the body’s immunity, and supporting the body’s recovery between exercises.

Eating to support a healthy gut 


The gut, or the gastrointestinal tract, is a complex intestinal system whose purpose it is to digest food and to distribute the nutrients obtained from food into the blood stream, to the organs and the muscles.

Here are some tips for healthy eating for gut health.

  • Eat a wide range of plant-based foods. A healthy gut has a diverse community of microbes, each of which prefers different foods.
  • Eat more fibre. Most people eat less than they should. Fruit, vegetables, pulses, nuts and wholegrains feed healthy bacteria.
  • Avoid highly processed foods. They often contain ingredients that either suppress ‘good’ bacteria or increase ‘bad’ bacteria.
  • Probiotic foods, such as live yoghurt, might encourage more microbes to grow. Eat them if you enjoy them.
  • Choose extra-virgin olive oil over other fats when you can. It contains the highest number of microbe-friendly polyphenols.
  • Antibiotics kill ‘good’ bacteria as well as ‘bad’. If you need antibiotics, make sure you eat lots of foods that boost your microbes afterwards.
  • If your diet is low in fibre, a sudden increase can cause wind and bloating. This is less likely if you make gradual changes and drink extra water.
  • Have prebiotics and prebiotics. Prebiotics are foods that ‘fertilise’ our existing gut bacteria and encourage the development of a diverse community of microbes. These foods are complex carbohydrates, such as vegetables and wholegrains. Probiotics are foods, or food supplements, that contain live bacteria thought to be beneficial to us. This includes live yoghurt, some cheeses and fermented foods.

Eating to support the body’s immunity

Eating a healthy balanced diet is the best long-term help you can give your immune system. Here are some tips for eating to keep your immune system strong.

  • Eat brightly coloured fruit. Fruit is full of important vitamins and minerals that keep your immune system happy and healthy. Kiwi fruits, strawberries and oranges are high in vitamin C for example, which helps to protect and maintain healthy cells and tissues. As a result of this your body will be more able to defend itself from colds and flu, plus eating more of these things could actually reduce the length of a cold should one take hold.
  • Eat brightly coloured vegetables. If colourful fruits help the immune system it probably comes as no surprise that colourful vegetables are beneficial too. These are another great source of vitamin C and antioxidants.
  • Eat green, leafy vegetables. The likes of broccoli, spinach  and kale  are a fantastic source of vitamins and minerals so should definitely be part of your diet. These three foods are particularly rich in vitamins A, E  and that all-important C. Remember though, these things are lost if the veg is cooked too much so keep your greens firm in order to retain as much goodness as possible!
  • Nuts and seeds make a tasty and healthy snack but they are also important for the immune system. The likes of almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts and walnuts are rich in minerals such as zinc which is vital for maintaining the normal function of cells within the immune system. A zinc deficiency can therefore reduce the effectiveness of the immune system so it’s crucial to keep your levels of this mineral up.
  • Yoghurt is full of probiotics, that is, live cultured bacteria or ‘friendly bacteria’. This helps your digestive system absorb as many nutrients as possible and therefore gives your immune system the energy it needs to fight off bugs. 
  • Garlic and ginger add a distinctive flavour to meals but are also beneficial for your immune system. There’s lots of research to back up the claim that garlic and ginger are brimming with antioxidants which help to fight infection and support the immune system. 
  • Tea has antioxidant effects but even more promising for the immune system is the fact that green tea has health protective properties in the form of chemicals called phytochemicals.

Eating for recovery 

Here are some tips for eating to recover.

  • Protein. Focusing on high-quality protein foods aids wound healing and keeps your immune system strong. Try eating a small amount of protein at each snack and meal. Eggs, low-fat cheese or cottage cheese, yogurt and plain baked chicken all provide quality protein and are usually well-tolerated in the early days after injury or surgery. Vegetarians can get high-quality protein from soy-based foods. Almond milk is popular, but it is low in protein compared to cow or soy milk. Protein is not just for muscle-building; it is a key nutrient in bone building. So, if you have a fracture, make sure to include protein with every meal and snack.
  • Vitamin C and Zinc. While all nutrients are important in healing, vitamin C and zinc are superstars for their roles in healing. Vitamin C is needed to make a protein called collagen and is needed for repairing tendons, ligaments and healing surgical wounds. Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C; however, don’t overlook other sources of vitamin C, such as strawberries, kiwi fruit, baked potatoes, broccoli and bell peppers. Zinc is a mineral found mostly in animal foods — meat, fish, poultry and dairy foods — but it also is present in whole-grain breads and cereals, dried beans and peas (legumes) and nuts and seeds. It is better to get zinc from foods than supplements, especially because high-dose zinc supplements can cause nausea and vomiting.
  • Vitamin D and Calcium. Calcium and vitamin D are nutrients associated with healthy bones. So, if you have a stress fracture, make sure to get plenty of these two nutrients to strengthen your bones. Milk and fortified soy milk are good choices. Yogurt, also a good source of calcium, is not always fortified with vitamin D so check the nutrition label of your favorite yogurt to make sure you are getting vitamin D.
  • Fiber. It may sound odd to mention fiber with healing foods, but pain medications commonly prescribed after injury or surgery can cause constipation. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds contain fiber. Prunes or prune juice (along with drinking plenty of water) have a natural laxative effect that can alleviate constipation while on pain medications.

In summary, it may be possible to support the wellbeing of the body in terms of the gut, the immune system, and in terms of supporting the body’s recovery between workouts by making a few eating choice changes. 

I hope you have found the mentions of some help. Remember: it’s a journey. It will take time. Have patience in the process. You will get there. Until then, stay happy, stay healthy, and have a lovely weekend wherever you are on the planet.

Also: next week I shall be looking at setting future goals. Until then, have an awesome time 🙂 

A bit about the author:I am a guy who is (nearly) 40, who is sharing a journey of weight management and wellbeing.I am also a mental health professional with a wealth of years of experience in supporting individuals who have challenging mental illnesses and personality disorders. Prior to my current professional role, I spent several years supporting members of the community as a fitness professional, assisting individuals with weight loss and health improvement programmes.I completed a PGDip in Mental Health Nursing in 2013, and an MSc in Advanced Practice in 2016 in which I looked at improving nurses’ level of engagement with patients with challenging personality disorders. In 2018 I successfully undertook a Clinical reasoning in Physical Assessments course with the view to start studying toward becoming an Advanced Nurse Practitioner in late 2019.In 2015 I also undertook a Mentorship for practice (BSc Hons) course and have been supporting future nurses with their training and development. I have also recently supported a Healthcare Assistant Staff toward training in and successfully passing and achieving a Foundation Degree in Mental Health Nursing.In my current role I am a person looking to support the physical and mental health and wellbeing of the individual. As part of my role within the health services in supporting individuals with mental health care needs, I am also currently looking to develop myself as a Wellness Coach, to support the individual with weekly wellness blogs, with the view to support individuals on a 1:1 basis as well as holding motivational lectures and seminars. 

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