Water: the most valuable substance of all

One can endure only a few days without water. Although very often forgotten, providing the body with the fluids it needs is vital to life itself and to proper performance.

 

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The value of hydration

Water represents 75% of body weight in infants and 55% in elderly, being essential for cellular homeostasis and life. Staying hydrated is crucial to the body’s ability to control temperature.

Adults are recommended to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day, although it also depends on the person and each individual’s characteristics, including their diet, gender (since men generally sweat more than women), and body size (larger people are more prone to sweating than thinner people). Environmental conditions are also an influencing factor: the higher is the temperature, the higher is the risk of dehydrating.

The intensity of exercise and its duration affects as well the loss of fluid. Those who enjoy physical activity should drink before, during and after exercise. Dehydration can occur in every physical activity setting, even if the temperature is not high. Well-trained athletes need to be even extra-cautious. Their bodies are used to additional stress and perspire much more than less fit people, so they are able to stay cool more efficiently than most of us.

Dehydration: know the signs

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, we should be aware of a few signs of dehydration.

First, the colour of the morning’s first urine is an overall indicator of hydration status.

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 14.43.45  Straw or lemonade coloured urine is a sign of appropriate hydration.

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 14.55.38 Bright urine often is produced soon after consuming vitamin supplements.

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 14.56.16 Dark coloured urine, the colour of apple juice, indicates dehydration.

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 14.56.59Colourless urine means overhydration (happens when the body takes in or holds on to more fluid than the kidneys can remove).

Also, early signs of dehydration are thirst, flushed skin, premature fatigue, increased body temperature, faster breathing and pulse rate, increased perception of effort and decreased exercise capacity.

Later signs include dizziness, increased weakness and laboured breathing with exercise.

Don’t wait to feel thirsty

For some of us, the practice of drinking water regularly can be a tedious task and is often forgotten. Oblivious to the fact that we are not taking the necessary amount of water, symptoms of dehydration may appear.

To make drinking water a habit is extremely important. Having a glass with water at the same time each day could facilitate the adoption of the routine. You may also carry a bottle of water on the morning commute or keep a cup of water on the desk. Waiting for thirst to replenish your body’s water levels may not be the best strategy: by the time you become thirsty, you have already lost two or more cups of water from your physical structure.

 

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Mindful Eating: a new commitment to food

Nowadays, we are always rushing into something or somewhere. When it is time to pause for having a meal, our brain keeps connected to everything around us: we constantly check our phones, we are absorbed by social media news, and stressed by work and life issues. Amidst such turbulence, how can we be aware of the compromises made in our relationship with food?

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Inverting old and bad eating habits

Cultural, economic and marketing practices affect the way we buy and use food. Labour, leisure, preferences and lifestyle changes have made us increasingly sedentary also jeopardizing our eating habits. In the hope of contradicting these paths, many new diets have emerged, offering a range of ways to lose weight and improve our health. All these new solutions are nonetheless focused on cutting and adding nutrients to our meals, forgetting an essential part of the process: our eating behaviour.

Mindful eating cuts across this boom of trendy diets to alert us that healthy eating also included rethinking our eating habits and our relationship with food. This bond with what we eat derives from the awareness taste, smell, colour and texture of food. According to the Centre for Mindful Eating, “pausing and becoming curious focuses the mind. Mindful Eating cultivates becoming grounded in the present moment’s awareness of eating.”

This complete awareness helps us to focus or thoughts and feelings in those physical sensations related to eating, and to identify the true origin of hunger – whether if it is a physical hunger or if it is a consequence of an emotional cause.

Mindful Eating has been helpful in treating many conditions, including eating disorders – like binge eating -, depression or anxiety, and addressing various erroneous food-related behaviours.

How to practise Mindful Eating

Practising Mindful Eating may not be an easy task since it usually contradicts our normal eating habits, simultaneously demanding total concentration. According to the Harvard Health Publishing, there are a few steps that can help us improve our Mindful Eating.

First, the shopping list. We should consider the health value of every item added, preventing us from impulse buying at the supermarket. A second step is discipline.  We should avoid skipping meals and thus prevent seating at the table with excessive hunger. Meals should be taken with an appetite but in appropriate portions.

The third step involves the essence of Mindful Eating. “Appreciate your food. Pause for a minute or two before you begin eating to contemplate everything it took to bring the meal to your table. Silently express your gratitude for the opportunity to enjoy delicious food and the companions you’re enjoying it with.

Bring all your senses to the meal. When you’re cooking, serving, and eating your food, be attentive to colour, texture, aroma, and even the sounds different foods make as you prepare them. As you chew, try identifying all the ingredients, especially seasonings” as advised by Harvard Health Publishing.

The following steps involve taste and chewing. It’s easier to taste food completely when our mouth isn’t full. So taking small bites and putting down utensils between bites could help. Chewing thoroughly and eating slowly are other techniques that improve our experience in tasting all the flavours that are released.

Final advice: “Devote at least five minutes to Mindful Eating before you chat with your tablemates.”

 

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New trends increasing childhood obesity

Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the current century. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2016, the number of overweight children under the age of 5 worldwide, is estimated to be over 41 million. Almost half of all overweight children under this age lived in Asia and one quarter lived in Africa.

Societal trends and food marketing are the guilty ones

WHO recognized that the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity results from changes in society. These comprise social and economic development and policies in the areas of agriculture, transport, urban planning, the environment, food processing, distribution and marketing, as well as education.

As stated by the Childhood Obesity Foundation, “societal trends have dramatically altered the nature of play and the way children interact with their environment”. Nowadays, they are exposed to marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages high in fat, sugar and/or sodium. A study made by WHO adds that “researchers examining food brand websites have found that child-oriented webpages frequently promote unhealthy products with dynamic, engaging, persuasive techniques”. A lack of access to physical activity opportunities and a sedentary “screen time” habit are also contributors to this scenario.

Prevention through a healthy diet

A healthy diet is crucial to prevent malnutrition in all forms as well as a range of noncommunicable diseases and conditions. There isn’t a unique formula to everyone since each individual has his own needs, there are nevertheless basic principles to follow (according to Eatwell Guide):

– Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day;- Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, choosing wholegrain versions where possible;

– Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks), choosing lower fat and lower sugar options;

– Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily);

– Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and eat in small amounts;

– Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of fluid a day;

– If consuming foods and drinks high in fat, salt or sugar have these less often and in small amounts.

In case of infants, WHO adds:

– They should be breastfed exclusively during the first 6 months of life.

–  From 6 months of age, breast milk should be complemented with a variety of adequate, safe and nutrient dense complementary foods. Salt and sugars should not be added to complementary foods.

Keep your child healthy

 

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