Veggies, fruits, beans, and lean meat might come to mind when you think about what healthy eating is. Yet, it seems that for every expert who tells you a certain food is good for you, you’ll find another saying exactly the opposite. So what do most doctors and nutritionists mean? How should you be eating?
What does eating “healthy” really mean?
Eat foods packed with nutrients
Eating food with little nutritional value – or junk food – is the number one sin against healthy eating. Even if you restrict your caloric intake, it still doesn’t make eating junk food healthy. Instead, you should eat fresh and whole foods that are dense in nutrition.
If you’re craving a little snack, here are some healthy ideas.
Remember, “low calorie” isn’t the same thing as healthy.
Egg whites, for example, have fewer calories than whole eggs, but they only contain 1% of the Daily Value for iron, phosphorus, zinc, and vitamins A and B12. In contrast, a whole egg contains around 5-21% of the Daily Value of these nutrients. So, it is healthier than just consuming egg whites even though it has more calories.
Make sure you’re eating all the nutrients you need
Just eating a narrow range of nutritious foods isn’t enough. To maintain a healthy body, you must eat a diverse diet containing all macro and micronutrients.
To begin with, you need to meet your macronutrient requirements, which are mainly carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Usually, you can get them from meat and fish, but nuts and tempeh are also good sources for vegans and vegetarians. Other macronutrients include amino acids, fiber, and water.
Micronutrients consist of vitamins and minerals, and they’re just as important as macronutrients. The only difference is we need them in smaller amounts which is obviously why they’re called micro. Vitamins and minerals can be acquired from all types of food including meat, but vegetables and fruits pack more of them.
Don’t Eat too much of one nutrient
Too much of anything is bad, including the nutrients that your body needs. When you eat too much fat, you run the risk of becoming overweight and are more likely to develop heart disease. When you eat too much protein, you run the risk of elevating your blood lipids and getting heart disease. Many high-protein foods are also high in saturated fat. The bottom line is you should eat everything in moderation in accordance with your body’s needs.
Why should you eat healthy?
Reduce your risk of diseases
A healthy diet has been shown to be directly related to the reduced risk of many non-communicable diseases. One of the highlighted points is that the antioxidants contained in fruits & vegetables are highly effective in fighting off free radicals before they cause detrimental health effects.
Lower your cholesterol and blood pressure
Antioxidants in fruits & vegetables are also strongly associated with lower cardiovascular risk factors including lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and triacylglycerol.
Strengthen your bones
Eating many fruits and vegetables strengthens the bones, preventing osteoporosis. This is because they contain calcium and other vitamins which are vital to bone health.
Improve your metabolism
A diet high in fiber has long been associated with healthy bowel. Fibers reduce intestinal passage rates by inducing gradual nutrient absorption. Thus, it prevents constipation and maintains gut health.
Maintain a healthy weight
Because it boosts metabolism, healthy eating also helps in losing weight. A high intake of fruit and vegetables assists in weight management because they are low in calories but high in fiber and water. This way you eat fewer calories and feel full for a longer time.
Improve your mood
A 2016 study showed that a high intake of refined carbohydrates increases symptoms of depression and fatigue. This comes from food like cakes, soft drinks, white bread, etc. Blood sugar levels and gut microbiome have also been found to be able to affect mood. Healthier diets showed positive effects on mental health.
On top of that, a better mood is strongly connected with higher productivity. Therefore, eating healthy will also improve your productivity and help you procrastinate less.
Sleep much better
High carbohydrate intake has been linked with poor sleep quality. It reduces the amount of deep sleep by increasing the number of awakenings at night. On the flip side, diets high in fiber have been proven to improve sleep quality.
Get better skin (without acne or inflammation)
One study revealed that when you eat healthier food with more vegetables, fish, and beans, it reduces wrinkling and loss of elasticity. Eating less processed foods is also highly associated with better skin conditions. It particularly reduces acne.
All in all, eating healthy makes sure your body gets all the nutrients it needs to function. Healthy eating promotes good overall health, both physically and mentally.
The Bottom Line
Eating healthy means consuming a nutritious and balanced diet that provides your body with the energy and nutrients it needs to function properly.
Healthy eating has many benefits. It reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. It can also improve mental health, boost energy levels, and promote a healthy weight.