Nobody can choose to be tall, good looking or have a naturally athletic body, but one thing we can choose is what we eat, and a good diet can have amazing benefits for the body over time. Making healthy meals for children and adults doesn’t need to be expensive or take a long time, it’s just a matter of changing shopping habits and gaining some confidence in the kitchen. It could do you good in more ways than you imagine.
The simplest reason to eat a healthy diet is that it increases your life expectancy. There are lots of mechanisms involved in this but the overall difference can be spectacular. Eating a diet that is low in sugar and high in pulses could give you ten years or more of extra life compared with the average American diet. Making vegetables about a third of your total food intake also helps with this. Finally, it’s important to avoid overeating – even if you’re not worried about your weight. Research has shown that people who go through periods of light fasting have longer lives on average.
Look after your heart
Diseases of the heart and circulatory system are the most common cause of death in America, but what you may not know is that the risk of developing them is eight times higher for Americans than for people in some other countries. That appears to be mostly down to diet. High salt consumption in America is part of the problem, but the biggest issue is the amount of saturated fat we eat. Cutting down on foods high in this, such as red meat and dairy produce, reduces your chances of having a heart attack or a stroke. Eating more healthy fats such as those found in fresh fish, walnuts and olive oil helps to clear your arteries and undo past damage.
Maintain a healthy immune system
Your immune system is always having to adapt to fight off new infections, so it depends on a steady supply of vitamins and minerals. You can get those from eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables. Eating some lean meat, fish or mollusks is also helpful. If you are doing this and you’re not suffering from any serious illness, you should have no need to take supplements to make your immune system stronger – as overactive immune systems can be hazardous to health. What you should be aiming for is a healthy balance. It’s worth learning about the intricacies of the immune system; there’s plenty of information online, from health blogs to informative scientific journals, Oncotarget being a particularly good source, to help you understand how your immune system can benefit from making healthy choices.
Smile with confidence
Everybody knows that eating too much sugar can lead to tooth decay, but did you know that acidic foods can also damage your teeth by stripping away the enamel, or that eating foods that are high in fiber can help to keep them clean? Learning to identify good and bad foods for teeth can help you to keep your pearly whites in good shape over the course of your life. Calcium-rich foods like milk, cheese and dark green leafy vegetables help provide the nutrients needed to keep teeth strong, and chewing sugar-free gum helps you produce plenty of saliva to protect them. So love your smile, and show off your healthy glow!
Improve your brain function
A healthy diet is particularly important in childhood because of its role in brain development. Consuming enough iron and iodine, in particular, has been correlated with exam success. Even in adulthood, nutrition matters to the brain. Prisoners given healthy food show an increase in reasoning ability and become less aggressive. Salmon, nuts and seeds, seaweed, avocados and blueberries are all good foods for the brain, but it’s most important simply to get a balanced diet. This also reduces the risk of several common forms of mental illness.
As well as long-term benefits, a healthy diet has some very immediate ones. Most people report that within days of cutting down on unhealthy foods and soda, they start to feel that they have more energy and that it takes less effort to do simple day-to-day things. They often report feeling happier, sleeping better and experiencing less stress. Regular mealtimes and a diet with less sugar and more long chain carbohydrates keeps blood sugar steady, reducing mood swings and feelings of fatigue. Increasing your intake of vitamins and minerals boosts your overall well-being.
With all these benefits and more, eating a healthy diet is well worth your while. It can be a lot more varied than you might think, you can still indulge in the occasional unhealthy treat, and if you approach it in the right spirit, you’re likely to discover delicious new foods along the way.