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Optimal Health Essentials


Food provides calories that are metabolized into energy and offers the nutrients required as cellular building blocks. Food in its natural, unrefined state contains valuable healing qualities. Nature has a unique means of providing the correct balance of nutrients in foods.


Food provides calories that are metabolized into energy and offers the nutrients required as cellular building blocks. Food in its natural, unrefined state contains valuable healing qualities. Nature has a unique means of providing the correct balance of nutrients in foods. The most nourishing foods are those fresh from the garden. The more a food is altered, processed or packaged, the less nourishment it contains. Today, foods that have been robbed of their vital nutrients, such as refined flour, preserved and canned goods, ready-made sauces and TV dinners have lost most of their nourishing qualities. They merely offer empty calories and a load of additives. Yet these foods are heralded for their taste, convenience and long shelf-life. Even most of the fruits and vegetables in the supermarkets contain harsh pesticides. Meats contain residues of hormones and medications which are fed to the animals.

The poor quality of food, combined with improper eating habits, lead to disease. In earlier centuries, most people suffered from lack of food, while today people suffer from eating too much food that is refined and high in protein. The diet in the Western world is full of trans-fatty acids, sugar and salt, and significantly lacking in fiber and enzymes. It is well known that heart disease, arteriosclerosis, strokes, high blood pressure and obesity result from a poor diet. Even illnesses that are not directly caused by improper nutrition such as cancer and multiple sclerosis are affected by dietary changes. Maintaining a nutritious, simple diet is an integral part of preventing disease and maintaining health.

Physical Activity

Look at the body and observe the way the muscles, joints and bones are built. It is obvious that the human body is made for physical activity, just as the mind is made for mental activity. Because of our stressful, busy lifestyles, many people will drive instead of walk, run or cycle to their destination. Instead of getting out for a walk after a full day indoors, people drive to the pharmacy and pick up drugs for tense stomachs, aching heads or poorly conditioned hearts. Even though computers, cars and modern medicine are powerful tools, they cannot offer the light of the sun, fill the lungs with fresh air or stimulate a poor appetite. Modern technology cannot restore circulation to the sedentary body or strengthen flabby muscles. Physical activity can do all these things and more.

To work optimally, the body needs to be challenged and used to its full capacity. A sedentary lifestyle is the cause, wholly or in part, of many illnesses. Heart and circulatory disorders, excess weight, constipation, muscle stiffness and fatigue are all related in one way or another to a lack of activity. Regular exercise not only stimulates the heart, increases oxygen supply to the deepest part of the lungs and restores circulation to cold feet and fingertips, but also restores balance to the body and the mind. Even a brisk walk increases circulation to the muscles and heart, releases stress and lifts the spirits. It is becoming increasingly accepted that physical exercise and mental achievements go hand-in-hand. Exercise helps to relieve anxiety and maximize thinking.

Finding a form of physical activity that suits you is paramount to actually changing your sedentary habits. For example, swimming is a healthy form of exercise for anyone with a physical disability: it supports the weight of the body, easing any burden on ligaments, joints and the skeletal system. Replace a bad habit with a healthy one by walking to the corner store instead of driving the car. Walking, cycling and hiking are easy on under-used, stiff muscles and rarely cause the strains or injuries which are more common to other types of exercises, like racketball and jogging. Work toward intense physical exercise to push your physical limits and attain new goals. Physical activity in any form will produce sensations of confidence, fulfillment and achievement.

Sleep and Relaxation

Sleep and rest serve to balance the activities of a full day and provide nourishment to the nervous system. For centuries, human activities were ruled by the passage of day, night and the seasons. Only recently has technology provided the freedom to live without these constraints. The harnessing of electricity and the invention of the light bulb no longer mean going to bed and waking up with the sun. Yet the need for the body and mind to replenish themselves during sleep has not changed with this technological revolution. The muscles and the mind need rest as well as exercise to maintain health.

For the overactive mind, sleeping can be difficult. Resorting to sleeping pills is an extremely unhealthy habit because it removes the body's coping mechanism and offers a crutch that can make sleeping naturally even more difficult in the future. Resolving nagging thoughts not only improves sleep quality, but also increases self-awareness, which is important for maintaining emotional well-being. In the meantime, both physical exercise and hydrotherapy can help sleeplessness by improving circulation. Deep-breathing techniques can be used to relieve tension, encouraging sleep. Be aware of what relaxes you. People who spend their time sitting indoors and thinking might want to play a sport or pick up a hobby like gardening, tennis or hiking. People who engage in hard physical labor may prefer to relax through reading a magazine or book, sitting out in the garden or starting a stamp or art collection. Without proper rest, physical and mental work suffer, but without sufficient stimulation, relaxation is not fulfilling either. Finding and maintaining this balance between mental and physical work will naturally promote good health.

Deep Breathing

Breathing comes naturally at birth to serve the vital purpose of exchanging carbon dioxide with oxygen, which is needed for all body functions. Proper breathing can also be used to purposefully relax and calm the body. Keeping the respiratory organs healthy is an important function of overall well-being. Weakness and poor resistance in the mucous membranes of the nose, throat and bronchial tubes, down to the smallest alveola in the lungs, lead to recurring colds and flus. Chronically poor oxygen intake affects every organ in the body, including the brain. Weak respiration is often caused by smoking, but can also be due to a lack of exercise. Proper breathing and adequate exercise are paramount. Just as other parts of the body need to be used and challenged daily to function optimally, so do the respiratory organs. Daily physical activity in the fresh air allows the natural act of breathing to ventilate and restore circulation to every last lung pocket.

Breathing begins with the nose, which filters and warms the air for the lungs. The diaphragm, which divides the chest from the abdomen, ensures the full use of the lungs. Singers and public speakers use this technique of breathing consciously through the abdomen into the lower belly because it provides the voice with a full tone that carries and shows confidence. While physical activity, laughing and singing make breathing occur more naturally, most other times breathing is superficial and shallow and does not ventilate the entire lung, particularly when anxious or fearful, and when experiencing pain.

Learning proper breathing techniques is vital to the health of those suffering from bronchitis, asthma and emphysema. It helps to relieve anxiety, insomnia, heart problems, circulatory disturbances and the effects of old age. Smokers have problems with deep breathing because they will cough. Smoking is a terrible burden on the respiratory system. Those who smoke should make an extra effort to maintain the health of this system by both quitting smoking and adopting deep breathing techniques in their daily routine. Breathing is a vital ingredient for health, as a preventive against disease and as a means of using the body's natural powers to restore health.

Sunshine, Fresh Air and Clean Water

The most abundant substances on earth are also those most essential to life. Sunlight, fresh air and water provide the body with the most basic and essential ingredients to preserve health. Without the sun's light and warmth, life would not exist. Sunlight also has incredible healing powers. Sunlight has been used for decades as a treatment for many illnesses, including tuberculosis. Studies show that sunlight kills bacteria, alleviates depression, heals skin conditions and improves the constitution of the entire organism. The sun's ultraviolet rays also help the skin manufacture vitamin D, which prevents osteomalacia (bone decalcification). Overexposure to the sun can cause burns, cataracts, unsightly pigment changes and cancer. With conscien-tious exposure, sunshine provides truly amazing healing properties.

Fresh air is another essential substance. Every cell in the body requires oxygen. Without it, the body could not survive more than a few minutes. Unfortunately, environmental pollution poisons the air, resulting in cities filled with smog. Spending most of the day indoors in air-conditioned rooms with closed windows deprives the body of fresh air and sufficient oxygen. The mind becomes tired and unfocused when the brain is deprived of fresh air. A walk in the park or garden can offer some quick relief. Nothing beats the fresh air of a forest and the outdoors. Breathing in the aromas of essential oils found in forests is healing to the respiratory organs.

Clean water is another vital element in life. While it replenishes the body with fluid and minerals, it provides us with the chief tool for keeping ourselves and our environment clean. For centuries, this abundant substance has been used for its capacity to heal. Water is used internally to detoxify and cleanse the body. Externally, baths can relieve cramps, strengthen weak organs and relieve inflammation. The Greeks and Romans knew the value of hot and cold baths as
prevention and therapy for all kinds of illnesses. Hot and cold baths restore circulation to tense muscles, invigorate skin cells and tone the entire nervous system. Saunas are an excellent way to use heat. Alternate saunas with cold baths to cleanse the body and skin of toxins, improve skin conditions and build the body's overall resistance to infections.

Unfortunately, the earth's water supply has been used as a dumping ground for waste. Even though the amount of water on earth is limited, it is commonly perceived as infinite and renewable.

Cleanliness is a powerful tool for disease prevention. By washing, disinfecting and sterilizing, even highly contagious illnesses can be contained. Proper personal hygiene and clean water can prevent illnesses, minimize food poisoning, and restrict parasitic and bacterial infection. Water provides enormous healing power, but its purity must be protected.

Emotional Well-being

Emotional well-being is intricately linked to physical health. Just as it is essential for the body to be challenged and replenished, it is vital for the mind and spirit to attain health and achieve fulfillment. Providing the body with nutritious food, sunlight and fresh air, engaging in regular physical activity and taking sufficient rest provide the basis for emotional well-being.

Some emotional problems have their roots in physical complaints. Pain can stir anger or depression, a flu can bring on emotional exhaustion and irritability, or an excessive fluctuation of hormones can cause moodiness.

Another part of achieving and maintaining emotional well-being is attitude. For example, the root of many illnesses lies not in stress, but in the reaction to stressful situations. Some degree of stress is essential. Suffering setbacks and conquering hurdles are necessary to gain a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment when a goal is reached. The difficulty occurs when the challenge becomes overwhelming. Setting practical, attainable goals is a good first step toward dealing with stress. Believe in yourself and what you can do, and look on setbacks as challenges and opportunities for personal growth as opposed to defeats. If something is repeatedly getting you down, try to look at it from another perspective. There is something to be learned from each hardship.



10 Quick and Healthy Plant-Based Lunch Recipes

10 Quick and Healthy Plant-Based Lunch Recipes

Make your mid-day meal veggie forward and filling

Michelle von Hahn

Michelle von Hahn