Choosing the right shoes and exercising on a regular basis are two great approaches for optimal foot health, but don’t underestimate the importance of the food you eat. Nutritional choices profoundly affect your overall wellness, including the health of your lower limbs.
We may focus mainly on the lower body at Foot & Ankle Associates of Florida, but eating nutritionally-balanced meals affects many different areas. It can lead to weight loss, increased energy, and even have an effect on your mood. Clean eating is a practice that can provide these benefits by making your food choices easier.
Clean eating is essentially avoiding processed foods—anything altered from its natural state—and preparing your own meals made from natural foods. (So no Twinkies!) Additionally, the goal is to eliminate any refined sugars and eat meals that are balanced with lean protein and healthy carbohydrates.
Why Eating Clean Makes Sense
Some of the key benefits of clean eating include:
- Greater energy. Nutrients found in vegetables, whole grains, and other staples of a clean diet—like iron and B-complex vitamins—help your cells utilize food so they can function at optimal levels. This makes your body feel great and ready to tackle any challenges in front of you.
- Improved cardiovascular health. This benefit is long-term, since your heart and lungs are essential for keeping you alive! Diets rich in fruits and veggies are proven to lower risk for heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.
- Cancer prevention. Highly-processed foods (the opposite of clean eating) increase cancer risk, but the phytonutrients and antioxidants in natural foods fight cancer growth. Tomatoes, kale, and broccoli are especially beneficial in this regard.
- Improved mood and brain function. Foods containing nutrients like vitamin B-6 and omega-3 fatty acids support good mental health and lead to increased production of dopamine – a natural chemical that plays a role in feeling good.
- Lower bodyweight. Filling up on veggies provides fewer calories than eating junk food devoid of nutritional benefit. Additionally, healthy proteins keep you fuller for longer, which means less snacking on empty calories!
- Better sleep. The benefits of sleep are numerous, and you can have better sleep when you adhere to a clean diet. Specifically, cherry juice and kiwi fruit are quite beneficial.
With regards to foot health, more specifically, benefits for your lower limbs include:
- Strong bones. With a total of 52 bones in your feet, your lower limbs are designed to carry the weight of your body. Help them stay strong by consuming plenty of calcium and vitamin D in your daily diet.
- Strong muscles. When people think about strong muscles, they might be quick to picture bulging biceps or broad shoulders, but the ones in the lower body are important too! In addition to enabling movement and mobility, they also take some of the burden off of the bones in your lower body. If you keep them strong by eating enough protein, they can provide steady support.
- Fewer pounds. We don’t often consider how much force we place upon our feet – unless there’s a problem down there! The fact of the matter, however, is that we all place as much as twice our bodyweight on a foot when it lands while taking a step. Give that an average person on an average day takes approximately 10,000 steps, that adds up quite a bit.
You can help lighten the load placed on your feet, literally, by shedding excess pounds though smart dietary choices.
- Improved circulation. The feet and toes are farther from the heart than any other point on your body, so oxygenated blood from the heart already has to make quite the trip to deliver essential nutrients to your lower extremities. You can make it easier by choosing foods that do not clog up blood vessels, like whole grains, legumes, fruits, and veggies.
- Diabetes prevention. Diabetes can put feet at risk for serious medical issues like Charcot foot and dangerous foot ulcers. The disease is a growing threat, but you can take measures to reduce your diabetes risk by eating a healthy, well-balanced diet.
One of the best ways to contribute to your health—both for your feet and whole body—in this regard is to follow clean eating practices.
Now, some people have been quick to dismiss clean eating as “just a fad,” but this couldn’t be further from the truth – a diet based on natural food options will never go out of style!
How to Eat Clean for Optimal Health
Clean eating is sensible, scientifically-sound, and not nearly as difficult as you might think. In fact, some of the allure of this practice is its simplicity. As long as you consume plenty of whole grains, legumes, dairy products, and fresh veggies and fruit, you’re good to go.
Here are few easy-to-follow guidelines that will get you started down the right path:
- Limit the amount of processed foods in your diet. This can be considered “the golden rule” of eating clean. Your goal should be to eat food as close to its natural state as possible.
Sure, a Hostess fruit pie has real, actual cherries in it, but how many steps were needed to produce it? A lot, because this is an example of a highly-processed food. A bowl full of cherries, on the other hand, are in their original form.
- Eat more fruits and veggies. Keeping the above rule in mind, consume these natural dietary wonders in their raw form as often as possible. You can certainly prepare fruits and vegetables on your own in different ways and have it still be considered as clean eating, but treat yourself to a fresh apple or some raw carrots every once in a while too.
- Opt for whole grains. Included in this tip is to eliminate refined grains. Why? Well, it comes back to the golden rule of eating food in its most natural state. When companies process grain and flour, they strip them of essential nutrients. Also, white flour and grains are often found in junk foods.
Something else to consider in this regard is that white flour causes spikes in blood glucose levels, which is a concerning situation for those who have diabetes.
- Eat less meat. We aren’t saying to eliminate meat from your diet completely—in its simplest form, meat is often served in a fairly “clean” state—but keep in mind that a serving should be 3 ounces, which is roughly the size of a deck of cards.
You can make clean eating really easy on yourself by following this simple trick – buy as much of the food you need for your weekly meals at one of our local farmers markets!
Farm Fresh – Good for You, Good for Our Community!
We have several different local farmers markets in our greater Orlando community. These include:
- Orlando Farmers Market – Sundays from 10am – 4pm
- Kissimmee Valley Farmers Market – Tuesdays 3pm – 7pm
- Lake Mary Farmers Market – Saturdays from 9am – 1:30pm
- Market at Mills – Wednesdays from 6pm – 10pm
- Maitland Farmer’s Market – Sundays from 9am – 2pm
- Lake Nona Farmers Market – Saturdays from 9am – 2pm
- Oviedo Farmers Market – Saturdays from 8am – 1pm
- Winter Park Farmers Market – Saturdays from 7am – 1pm
- Sweetwater Wekiva Farmers Market – Sundays from 10am – 3pm
- Sanford Farmers Market – Wednesdays from noon – 4pm and Saturdays from 8am to noon
- The Market at Edgewood – Thursdays from 5:30 to 8:30pm
Clearly, there are many opportunities to purchase the foods you need for you and your family to eat clean and reap the health benefits from doing so.
Of course, there are benefits beyond simply health ones. As one example, most farmers markets are held outdoors, so this constitutes a great opportunity to get some fresh air, enjoy a little sunshine (make sure you use appropriate skin protection, though!), and walk around a bit while shopping. Further, you can get some actual, face-to-face social interaction at them – something we all could probably use a bit more of nowadays.
Shopping at a farmers market also have environmental benefits as well. Whereas our area farmers do still need to drive their produce and goods to the marketplace, it only requires a fraction of the energy and petroleum it takes to shop food halfway around the world – which is just wasteful when you consider how much we have right here at home.
At the same time, you can benefit your own financial situation as well. Fresh, organic produce at farmers markets are simply more affordable than the same options you would find in a supermarket.
Better Lower Limb Health for You and Your Family
Eating well is important for your foot health, but you also need to engage in physical activity on a regular basis, wear appropriate shoes, and make sure to seek professional care at the earliest opportunity when problems arise.
If you—or any of your loved ones—develop a foot or ankle problem, our team at Foot & Ankle Associates of Florida is here for you.We are staffed with podiatrists who are highly experienced and have been able to help many patients just like you overcome pain and difficulty in their lower limbs. For expert foot care, contact us by calling 407-339-7759 or 352-589-9550 (if calling from Lake County) and request an appointment at any of our greater Orlando offices today!