Feeling connected is something that every human being craves. Some think we are more connected than ever these days with social media, cell phones and Skype. But to most that seems like a superficial connection. Not the deep, meaningful connection of speaking to a close friend over a simple dinner and a glass of wine.
Overall, we are missing this deep connection. We have lost the connection to our bodies, our food, and other people.
The Mediterranean diet it very popular, and with good reason. It is a very healthy way to eat, with lots of plants, whole grains, and fish. But there is one component of the Mediterranean diet that we never speak about here in the US. Imagine eating a meal in Italy. Are you eating sitting on your computer? Driving in your car? Probably not. More likely you are picturing eating outside in nature with loved ones. There is the disconnect in this country. We can change the food we are eating, but until we change HOW we are eating it, we may not see a real resolution of health issues. How can you be stressed when you are eating outside with good friends? The setting of your meal can put you in a state of relaxation, where your cortisol doesn’t rise and your body is ready to receive food. In a relaxed setting you are in the “rest and digest” state. And because you are not in a rush to shovel food in, you chew your food better, you eat slower, eat less but enjoy more.
Did you know that slowing down and chewing more actually helps you digest your food better, and helps to balance your gut microbiome? The microbiome is a critical part of our wellbeing. If we have unbalanced gut bacteria we can experience gastrointestinal issues, depression, and even insulin resistance. It is important to feed the healthy gut bacteria supportive foods such as probiotic-rich ferments (sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha) and plenty of fiber from fruits and vegetables to feed on. And a part of that is making sure the food we eat is properly digested by the saliva, stomach and by pancreatic enzymes and bile before it reaches the gut. This will prevent fermentation of undigested food particles that can cause uncomfortable gas and bloating, as well as keep the lining of your intestines healthy and reduce intestinal permeability.
Whatever diet you may follow, be it the Mediterranean diet or another whole foods approach, aim to adopt the community connection part of the Mediterranean diet for better overall health.