Healthy eating has become a huge concern for everyone around the world. Obesity rates are increasing in many parts of the world, and even childhood obesity is increasing. This alarming statistic has people looking for ways to improve their health.
Every day we hear that we should be eating healthier, exercising, and sleeping more. But what does that mean? Where do you start? And, What are the benefits to your health?
These are some really big questions, and the answers can be long and sometimes complicated. So to keep things focused, this article covers healthy eating and its benefits.
You constantly hear that you should be looking to improve your diet, add more healthy foods each day, and do away with sweets, snacks, and other things that just aren’t good for your bodies. On top of that, the information is always changing - keto, intermittent fasting, low carb, low fat, high protein, and the list of experts touting the health benefits of these diets goes on.
Let's not get caught up in all this. The key to healthy eating is understanding what nutrients we get from our food while maintaining a reasonable amount of calories. You need food to get energy, but you also need to make sure that food is packed with healthy nutrients your body can use to perform at its best. When you look at the nutritional value of a food, you can break it into Macro and Micro nutrients. Macro nutrients are - carbs, fats, and proteins. Micro nutrients are - vitamins and minerals.
You also want to limit empty calories. Empty calories are foods that have low nutrient value, but often time taste great - think cake, donuts, alcohol, sugary drinks, etc..
By limiting empty calories and building a balanced diet focused on macro and micro nutrients, you will begin to see some of the healthy benefits in a short amount of time.
So what exactly can you expect to see or experience after switching to a healthier diet? Let’s take a look.
1. A Healthy Heart
Most people tend to ignore their heart health until they get a wake up call physically or from their doctor. But did you know that heart issues start many years before you start to see the warning signs. Making positive changes to your exercise and diet at any time in your life is always good. And even young people should make these changes to lower their chances for issues as they age.
Exercising regularly is a great way to strengthen your heart. Get your heart pumping for at least 30 minutes a day and make sure to move around (think 10,000 steps per day) every day. Staying active and exercising can really help lower your chances of cardiovascular disease, but only part of the process to a healthy heart.
One of the best ways to ensure that your heart is healthy is to practice healthy eating habits. You’d be surprised at how easy it can be to switch to a diet that is better for your heart. It’s all about controlling the sizes of your portions and getting a few more vegetables and fruits into your diet. You also want to incorporate lean proteins and healthy fats to balance out your meals. It can also help to avoid processed carbs like biscuits and bread. Instead, you should be choosing the whole grain options whenever possible. All it takes is a few changes to your weekly shopping trip!
Want to learn more about healthy eating? Check out Lose Weight Without Being Hungry
2. Stronger Bones
A healthy diet can help reinforce your bones and ensure that they’re strong enough to withstand daily wear and tear, help prevent osteoporosis, and help prevent brakes for athletes competing in sports. Osteoporosis is a growing concern for many people as they age - especially women. This is partially caused by ageing, but it’s also a problem due to common vitamin and mineral deficiencies which can lower bone density and eventually cause weakness.
Like, heart health - managing your bone health should start at an early age. And, stronger bones are one of the biggest benefits of a healthy diet. If you take part in sports or just want to ensure that your bones are strong for many years to come, then it’s vital that you switch to a healthy diet that has plenty of calcium, vitamin D3, and even magnesium. Additionally, calcium is lost when you sweat, so if you are an athlete or tend to sweat a lot, then you need even more calcium.
Lastly, many think that dairy is the best source of calcium. Dairy is a great source of calcium, but so are many green leafy vegetable. So if dairy doesn't sit well with your stomach or you are lactose intolerant, then you can get all the calcium you need from vegetables.
3. Reduced Weight
Perhaps one of the most alluring benefits of healthy eating is to reduce your weight. Eating healthy means that you’re consuming fewer empty calories and instead, switching to calories that provide nutrients, minerals, and vitamins your body needs. Whole foods are nutrient dense foods - some whole foods are vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats, and nuts and seeds.
The key to losing weight the healthy way when it comes to nutrition is to eat nutrient dense whole foods, and limit empty calorie snacks and treats. Whole foods will fill you up and provide your body what it needs to thrive. Empty calories will taste great when you are eating them, but will not provide your body much nutrition and will quickly have you craving more - leading to over eating and weight gain.
Cleaning up your diet doesn't have to happen all at once. You can do it step by step over time by switching unhealthy choices for healthier ones. For example, you can switch soda for water, tea, or black coffee one month. Then the next month you can remove fried foods for grilled. Over two months, you will have made two big improvements to your diet just by switching one thing each month and building on it every month. You will be amazed at how much progress you have made in 6-12 months!
4. Improved Mood
One of the lesser-known advantages of healthy eating is an improved mood. A healthy and balanced diet can help boost your mental health and even reduce feelings of depression. This is because sugary and processed foods can actually lead to inflammation all over the body and even in the brain. This causes mood swings and potentially even anxiety and stress.
There is emerging science linking gut health to brain health and mood. Further, it is known that many of your hormones (including the ones regulating mood) are produced in the gut. Inflammation lowers your body's ability to produce these needed hormones, so reducing inflammation from your diet will be great for your mood!
To learn more about ways to heal your gut, read our blog, "Gut Health 101: 7 Ways to Fix an Unhealthy Gut"
5. Higher Energy Levels
One thing is for certain, our lives are getting busier and busier, and the need for more energy is ever present. Energy drink and coffee tend to be the quick and easy way to get that much needed boost of energy. But did you know eating healthy gives you an even better source of energy to tackle your day?
Eating a balanced and healthy diet provides your body all the nutrients it needs and lowers inflammation. This leads to higher energy levels all the time. Caffeine and sugary foods and drinks give you a burst of energy, but then you crash and crave more. It is a vicious cycle.
If you eat healthy whole foods and avoid too much caffeine and sugary foods and drinks, then you’ll feel a lot more energetic throughout your day.
A healthy heart, stronger bones, reduced weight, improved mood, and higher energy levels are just a couple of great benefits that come with healthy eating. Whether you pick up some healthier recipes, limit your portions, or just avoid processed junk food altogether, there are many different ways to switch to a healthier diet. It all starts with you being more aware of what you eat and how large your portions are. By limiting access to sugary and processed foods, you’ll find it much easier to adopt a healthier lifestyle, and will notice all of these benefits.