A Look Back As We Look Ahead by Jeanne Rosner, MD
As we begin to turn the page on another year, I thought it would be fun to share many of the teachings and lessons we have presented about wellness since SOUL Food Salon began eight years ago. There has been so much we have learned, and they follow a few key themes:
Maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system translates to better vascular brain health and overall brain health.
Reducing chronic inflammation is crucial; we are learning it is the reason for many chronic diseases.
Having good metabolic health reduces your risk of obesity, stroke, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Creating and maintaining a resilient microbiome is crucial to prevent chronic disease.
Practicing a healthy lifestyle that includes proper nutrition, restorative sleep, stress reduction, exercise and self-care is of paramount importance to help reduce the risk of chronic disease. When I was a medical student, we had no lessons on lifestyle strategies as a preventive way to combat disease. We’ve now learned how much was missing from our education.
Let’s dive deeper into these important lessons so we can be our healthiest selves—it's true preventive medicine!
Sleep more and sleep better. Sleep impacts every aspect of our health, including heart health, brain health, immune function and memory, to name a few. Make sleep a priority whenever possible, and aim to maintain a regular sleep schedule.
Quantity and quality matter. For adults: 7–8 hours is ideal; however, the reality is that you need enough sleep so that you're not tired the next day.
Optimize your sleep hygiene.
Start a wind-down routine every night 30–60 minutes before your bedtime.
Dim the lights in the evening.
Remove electronics/phones from the bedroom. Electronics emit blue light, which prevents the natural release of melatonin.
Keep the room temperature on the cool side (65–70 degrees).
Maintain an overall positive attitude toward sleep.
Keep your bedroom dark. If needed, try a face mask.
If you have insomnia, try focusing on your breath.
Limit afternoon naps to no more than 30 minutes.
Avoid caffeine six hours before bed.
Avoid alcohol within 3–4 hours of bedtime. Alcohol prevents the deeper stages of sleep that are more restorative. One ounce of alcohol can take 5–10 hours to leave the body, resulting in lighter sleep (less restorative).
Reducing stress leads to a decrease in cortisol levels, a decrease in sympathetic nervous system activity and an increase in parasympathetic nervous system activity. Together, they indicate a relaxed state.
Nature. Studies have shown that spending time outside is relaxing. Try to spend time in nature every day. Take time to listen to the birds singing, notice the leaves changing colors, view how the sunlight sparkles on the trees and note the natural beauty around you.
Sleep. Aim for good quality and quantity sleep.
Gratitude: Start a gratitude practice by consciously noticing small things that bring you joy: a clear sky or a flower in bloom. Perhaps, keep a journal of these observations.
Social connection/community. There is a strong need for humans to have social connection; our physiology demands human contact. Oxytocin is released through physical touch, and that hormone release has been shown to reduce the stress response.
Mindfulness/meditation. Mindfulness is being present and aware with kindness and compassion. It is about being in the here and now. Below are some suggestions on ways to incorporate the practice of mindfulness:
Take 10 deep breaths when you are in the car at a red light or stop sign or in line waiting. Pay attention to your breath—both the inhale and the exhale.
Try a breathing meditation—Inhale for a count of three or four, pause, exhale for a count of five or six, and pause. The count does not matter as long as the out-breath is significantly longer than the in-breath. The longer exhale activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which leads to relaxation.
Most of the leading causes of death in the US are preventable and related to what we eat. Proper nutrition is essential for overall health and to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and dementia. A diet that prioritizes health should be nutritionally adequate, meeting our macro- and micro-nutrient needs and reducing the risk of diet-associated disease.
Cooking at home is the surest way to eat more of the good stuff and less of the bad stuff. You know exactly what you are putting into your food.
Increase the following in your food:
Fiber. Fiber is found in all plant foods and provides numerous health benefits, including aiding in blood sugar stabilization, healthy digestion and weight control, and lowering cholesterol. In addition, eating high-fiber foods helps ensure we are feeding our microbial partners, known as the microbiome. We are learning more every day about its key role in regulating and maintaining our overall health. The FDA recommends consuming at least 30–38 grams of dietary fiber daily.
Plants. Aim for most of your plate to be full of a variety of different colored fresh plants.
Fermented foods. Studies have found a correlation between consuming fermented foods containing live microorganisms and better health outcomes.
Add fermented foods (kimchi, active culture yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, miso soup, tempeh, fermented vegetables) to your diet daily.
Look for live and active cultures listed on the ingredients label.
Shop in the refrigerator aisle: fermented foods that are shelf-stable (in unrefrigerated jars or cans) likely do not have active cultures.
Whole foods. Eat foods in their most natural form.
Water. Water should be your drink of choice. Flavor it with citrus fruit and/or cucumber if you like.
Decrease the following in your food:
Sugar and sugar-sweetened drinks. A diet high in sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages can lead to insulin resistance, inflammation, type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis and cancer.
Saturated fat. Fat that is solid at room temperature is saturated. High saturated fat can lead to elevated LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). Saturated fat is found in cheese, red meat, convenience foods (e.g., take-out, fast food or frozen foods), pizza, desserts (especially ice cream), bacon, salami and other processed meats.
Avoid processed meats (classified as carcinogenic) and limit red meat (probably carcinogenic) to 1–2 x/week. Move meat from its starring role at the center of the plate to a smaller portion on the side.
Alcohol. The current 2020–2025 dietary guidelines for Americans recommend limiting your alcohol intake to fewer than two drinks a day for men or one drink a day for women.
Exercise I Movement
Regular exercise imparts tremendous health benefits, including better vascular health (which leads to a lowering of blood pressure), reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, improved lung function, strengthened bones and muscles, lowered risk of some cancers, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and improvement in metabolism.
Adults should aim for at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week. They should also engage in muscle-strengthening activities at least two days a week.
Older adults should incorporate balance training.
As with virtually everything, moderation is key. Movement is critical, but too much exercise can be harmful.
Focusing on your mental, physical and emotional health is a priority, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Treat yourself with care. Allow yourself time to unplug, recharge and refuel. Be intentional about tuning in to what you need to nourish yourself.
I am passionate about living the healthiest version of myself, and I love that you are sharing this journey with me. If you’re just beginning on this path to better health, create an environment of success. Start with some small and simple changes, realizing these small adaptations can grow into significant changes that will result in better long-term health. Remember to take time for yourself because self-care is essential to overall wellness. And, remember, enjoy the journey!
Jeanne Rosner, MD
Jeanne Rosner is a board-certified anesthesiologist who practiced pediatric anesthesia at Stanford Medical Center for nearly 20 years. In 2011, she began teaching nutrition classes in her son's 5th-grade science class. It was an "aha" moment for her. She realized that learning and teaching about nutrition, health and wellness in her community was her destiny.
Since retiring from anesthesia, she has been a nutrition educator at local middle and high schools throughout the Bay Area. She teaches students about the importance of eating food closest to the source, making good food choices and eating in a balanced and moderate way.
Jeanne started SOUL (seasonal, organic, unprocessed, local) Food Salon in 2014. SOUL Food Salon's mission is to educate and empower people to be healthier. She holds events (salons) at which experts in the health and wellness community share their knowledge on how to lead a healthier life.