By Okoronjama Ifunanyachukwu
Originally a French phrase by Lawyer Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, the phrase “you are what you eat” is the notion that to be fit and healthy, you need to eat good food.
Everything you eat becomes part of your body and whole-being. The healthier the food you consume the better you will look and feel, so healthy eating is important.
Healthy eating or eating healthy means following a pattern that includes a variety of nutritious foods and drinks. It means eating a variety of foods that give you the nutrients that you need to maintain your health, feel good and have energy.
A healthy diet helps to protect oneself against malnutrition in all its forms as well as non-communicable disease. Healthy eating also means replacing food that contains trans-fat, added salt and sugar with more nutritious options.
Benefits of healthy eating
A healthy diet should include nutrient dense foods from all major food groups and a little of the minor food groups including whole grains, lean proteins, whey protein, healthy fat, fruits and vegetables.
Health eating has lot of benefits including boosting mood and immune system, string bones and teeth and gives you energy you need to be active throughout the day.
Here are 5 benefits of healthy eating:
- Heart health: A healthy diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, low fat, whole grains can help reduce your risk of getting a heart disease by maintaining blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Eating a portion of oily-fish as salmon each week helps to lower the risk of developing heart disease; the Omega-3 fatty acids in fish are good for the heart.
- Strong teeth and bones: A calcium rich diet keeps your teeth and bones strong and helps to slow osteoporosis—a condition in which bones become weak and brittle. Calcium is mainly found in dairy products but it can also be gotten from sardines, tinned salmon, dark green vegetables like kale, calcium fortified foods like cereals and soya products. Since Vitamin D from the sun helps your body absorb calcium, go outside regularly and have plenty foods containing Vitamin D.
- Better mood: There is a close knit relationship between a good diet and mood. Researchers found that diets with high glycemic load may trigger increased symptoms of fatigue and depression. High glycemic load can be found in foods with refined carbohydrates like soft drink, cakes, white bread, etc. so it advisable to avoid those kind of foods.
- Improved memory: A healthy diet helps to maintain cognition and brain health. A 2015 study identified nutrients and foods that protect against cognitive decline and dementia and those nutrients were identified as vitamins D, C and E, Omega-3 fatty acids, fish, flavonoids (any of many compounds that are plant metabolites) and polyphenois (any large class of organic compounds of plant origin that has more than one phenol group).
- Better sleep: Many factors including sleep apnea can disrupt sleep patterns. Sleep apnea occurs when the airways repeatedly becomes blocked during sleep. Reducing alcohol and caffeine intake can help a person gain restful sleep, whether they have apnea or not.
Five simple tips to make your diet healthier
Making major changes to one’s diet can be overwhelming and a bit difficult. So instead of making those major changes, it is better to start with a few minor ones which will make it more manageable.
Here are a few changes that you can take:
- Slowdown: The pace at which you eat influences how much you eat, so the faster you eat and the more you eat, the more likely you are to gain weight. How much you eat and how full you get is controlled by hormones which signals to the brain whether you are hungry or full. However, it takes 20minutes for your brain to receive these messages; so eating slowly gives your brain the time it needs to perceive that you are full. Studies confirmed that eating slowly may reduce the number of calories you consume at meals and help you lose weight.
- Don’t shop without a list: Make sure that you have your shopping list ahead of time and never go the store hungry. Not knowing exactly what you need makes room for buying on impulse and hunger can cause you to add even more low nutrients foods to your shopping cart. When you stick to your list you will end up buying healthier items and save money.
- Drink enough water: Drinking enough water is very important for your health. Drinking water can cause weight loss and promote weight maintenance and it may help increase the number of the calories you burn. Drinking water before meals helps to curb your appetite and food intake during the coming meal which will in turn help you lose weight.
- Replace your favorite fast food restaurant: Eating out does not have to involve unhealthy foods. There are many healthy fast food restaurants that sell foods at a decent prize. So switch that pizza for something healthier.
- Cook at home more often: Form the habit of eating home-made foods. Not only is it easier on your budget when you cook your food, you know exactly what is in and besides cooking at home has been associated with a lower risk of obesity and improved diet quality especially among children.
Here are other positive ways to improve your diet:
- Swap soft drinks for water
- Ensure each meal consists of 50% fresh produce
- Become more active
- Choose healthy oils
Complete changing of your diet all at once can be a huge recipe for disaster, so it is better to change it a little at a time. All the tips above together will make a big impact on your diet and whole being such as reducing the risk of fatigue, obesity, likewise boosting your mood and giving better skin.
For more in-depth information, do not hesitate to visit a doctor or dietitian.