5 Essential Keys to Wellness
Spa experts share their tips for reaching your health potential—and getting there might be easier than you think.
by Isabelle Gullo
Photo by: Marili Forastier/Getty Images
A healthy diet not only boosts overall wellness but also helps prevent disease. According to physician and alternative health proponent Andrew Weil (who regularly holds wellness-related seminars at Miraval Arizona and is the mind behind the anti-inflammatory diet), a range of illnesses—including heart disease, arthritis, and some cancers—are partly caused by chronic inflammation in the body.
“While genetic predisposition and lifestyle factors like stress and lack of exercise promote inflammation, poor diet is the main contributor,” stresses Weil. Consequently, he recommends consuming foods that help reduce inflammation and improve immune function. For instance, berries, oranges, tomatoes, kale, and spinach contain disease-fighting antioxidants. Slow-to-digest, whole-grain carbohydrates like oats, whole wheat, barley, and brown rice are also on his list of ideal foods because they provide essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. In addition, Weil suggests eating cold-water fish—which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that lower risk of heart disease, hypertension, and joint pain—as well as vegetable proteins like beans, nuts, lentils, and fermented whole soy products. “These contain healthier fats and fewer toxins than most animal proteins,” he says.
2. Choose the Right Beverages
Registered dietitian Wendy Bazilian, head of the nutrition program at Golden Door in Escondido, California, and author of The SuperFoodsRx Diet, notes that hydration is vital for most bodily functions. Although water is best, for more flavorful options she suggests all-natural beverages that are largely water-based and free of artificial sweeteners to avoid drinking empty calories.
Those with a sweet tooth should skip sodas in favor of organic juices or fruit smoothies, which are ripe with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. For everyday refreshment, Bazilian likes a mocktail with coconut water, tart cherry juice, sparkling water, and a squeeze of lime. “It’s all-natural, low in calories, less sweet than juices or sodas, and even comes with some electrolytes,” she says.
Low-fat and nonfat milk also get Bazilian’s thumbs up because they pack essential nutrients, protein, and carbs to provide energy; potassium to balance blood pressure; and calcium and vitamin D to strengthen bones. Unsweetened almond milk, though not as nutrient-rich as regular milk, is a good nondairy, low-calorie alternative.
3. Boost Health With Essential Nutrients
Even if the majority of foods you eat are unprocessed or certified organic, you’re probably not getting all you need from your diet. Supplements and medicinal plant ingredients can help bridge the gap.
Leslee Vogal, nutritionist and herbalist at Mii amo, a destination spa at Enchantment, suggests taking a high-quality, food-based multivitamin daily. In addition, she recommends that healthy adults get at least 1,000 to 2,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids for brain and heart health; 2,000 to 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 to improve bone strength, mood, cognitive function, and endocrine balance; and 200 to 400 mg of magnesium to support the nervous system and promote muscle relaxation.
Botanicals and spices also offer healing benefits. For example, numerous studies on echinacea have shown it helps alleviate cold symptoms and respiratory infections, while ginger has been proved to significantly reduce nausea, especially in pregnant women. And antioxidant-loaded rosemary, turmeric, thyme, garlic, and ginger come with endless wellness perks, from enhancing memory to balancing blood glucose levels to increasing heart health.
Adaptogens are among Vogal’s herbal musts; these plants build the body’s resistance to stress, trauma, anxiety, and fatigue. Her favorites: ashwagandha, astragalus, and reishi and miatake mushrooms. Still, before deciding what supplements to take, consult a registered dietitian or a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to find out what works best for you.
4. Work Out for Multiple Payoffs
No health regimen is complete without exercise. A good workout—whether it’s a power walk through the park, an uphill bike ride, or an elliptical session at the gym—can improve mood, strengthen the heart and lungs, reduce stress, and promote weight loss, to name a few perks.
“Do cardio for at least forty minutes three days a week at sixty-five to eighty-five percent of your maximum heart rate,” recommends Kirkland Shave, program director, life coach, and trainer at Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat & Health Spa in British Columbia. For a balanced routine, include 20 minutes of resistance training twice a week, doing pushups, squats, and core work such as Pilates to build muscle, maintain bone density, and promote good posture.
To reap additional benefits, exercise outdoors: The fresh air cleanses your lungs by bringing more oxygen into the body, which helps to improve energy and bring clarity. Plus, notes Shave, “The natural beauty will inspire you to stick to your routine.”
5. Calm the Mind With Meditation
Spiritual health is just as important as diet and exercise. Meditation in particular can lower stress and help regulate emotions. It has also been proved to restore brain synapses, as happens naturally during sleep.
Anne Irving, a yoga therapist and wellness consultant at Lake Austin Spa Resort, suggests exploring different types of meditation, including seated meditation for those who prefer to practice alone, moving meditation like yoga and tai chi for active people in search of stress relief, or guided meditation for beginners and those who thrive in a group setting.
Irving adds that like choosing healthy foods or working out at the gym, meditation should be a daily practice. “Every single day we can tone our bodies, train our brains, and stretch our self-awareness,” she says