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Sickle cell and enhancing your health (I)



Sickle cell and enhancing your health (I)

Tola Dehinde

Due to the complex nature of sickle cell, anyone living with it or anyone who looks after someone with the condition knows that health is paramount. Among the many things you can do to improve your health is what you eat. I am going to talk about different things you can embrace as a lifestyle moving forward.

 Embrace a plant-based diet

The advice that experts give is one should find ways of including more plant ingredients in one’s diet. These include nuts, seeds, beans, pulses, whole grains, herbs, spices, milk, as well as fruits and vegetables. Eating a plant-based diet helps one’s gut system.

One way to do this is to eat a lot of vegetables; this means filling your plate with vegetables at lunch and dinner. Let your plate be filled with more vegetables than proteins or carbohydrates. You could also eat vegetables as snacks, for example, carrots. Changing your diet might equally mean changing the way you think about meat. Instead of eating big pieces of meat, have them cut into smaller amounts by eating less meat. Poultry or fish is also an alternative protein, and it’s good.

When it comes to fat such as the oil that you use for cooking, choose good fats such as olive oil, fat in nuts or nut butter, and fat in seeds, like rapeseed oil. If you can, eat a vegetarian meal at least twice a week. Such a meal would include beans, whole grains, and vegetables only; no animal-based food. For breakfast, for example, you could eat oatmeal, buckwheat or barley. You could add some nuts, dried fruits or fresh fruits to your oats.

Another way of looking at changing your diet is to include a lot of greens in it. By this I mean trying various green leafy vegetables that are available in countries all over the world. I’m talking about kale, spinach, collard greens, and so many more. You can steam them, cook them in stews or soups, or stir-fry them in order to preserve their flavour and nutrients.

Another way is to build a meal around your salad. As you know, most people eat salad as a side meal, but you could have a salad as a main meal and this means filling your plate or bowl with lots of greens, such as lettuce, spinach, and other leafy greens, and adding assortments of sliced bell peppers, sweet corn, carrots, boiled eggs, beetroot, cucumber, beans or peas and other vegetables that you enjoy eating. You could then add some oily fish-like sardines to it.

How about eating fruits for dessert instead of a pie or an ice cream? This could be sliced oranges or pineapples, a juicy peach, a refreshing slice of watermelon, a crispy apple, a sweet banana, etc. Eating a plant-based diet means that you will gradually reduce animal-based foods, especially meat. A plant-based diet offers all the necessary protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and they are often higher in fibre and all the nutrients; this is because these are all present in fruits and vegetables, including folate, vitamin C, and potassium, all of which are important for good health.

Only eat when you are hungry

We have been taught to have breakfast, lunch and supper and most people religiously maintain that routine. But what about avoiding consuming food on autopilot? By that I mean eating a lot; what if one learned to listen to one’s body hunger prompting and this is a positive way to help one’s metabolism? I am not someone who would wake up first thing in the morning and eat breakfast and my body is okay with that provided I am drinking during that time. So, this idea of asking myself the question of whether I’m actually hungry before I start eating is a vital one. This practice is known as intuitive eating and was developed over three decades ago. It’s about relying on feelings of hunger and fullness to decide when and how much to eat. By doing this, one would not over-eat but instead eat small portions.

Walk for an extra 10 minutes

A lack of time is the most common excuse that people give when asked why they do not exercise. We do not need a lot of time to exercise. Walking is the best way to get started. We know that strenuous exercise is not recommended for someone with sickle cell, even though I’m not speaking about everybody because some people might have conditioned themselves to do such exercises. I’m talking about those of us who know we should do some form of exercise but aren’t really doing it. Going for a 10-minute walk a day does not require any gym membership and it has been shown that it is enough for one to feel the benefits of going to the gym and this also boosts mental health. Research shows that something as simple as walking can make a difference. My take on this is to start small and build up your stamina gradually. If you start with a 10-minute exercise after a couple of weeks, you could increase it to 15 and after that to 20 until you are able to walk from anything between 40 minutes to an hour on a regular basis. Doing something is better than doing nothing.

Seven different benefits of walking are that it promotes heart health, improves brain function, eases depression, improves bone health, burns calories, helps you breathe easier, and increases mindfulness.

If you would like to get in touch with me about sickle cell, do so via email: [email protected] And do check out my blog: My book on sickle cell – HOW TO LIVE WITH SICKLE CELL and my other books are available for purchase on

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