Think of your health as the amount of money in your bank account. Just as you’d like to have more money and keep growing, it’s also wise to have more health in your body and keep that growing as well. While maintaining a balanced diet may not always be convenient or cheap, it’ll definitely pay off both in the short and long- term health plan you intend to have for your body.
A healthy diet means you’re doing the following on a daily, or in some cases weekly, basis:
- Eating a healthy breakfast
- Eating foods rich in folate, like dark leafy greens, carrots, tomatoes, and bell peppers
- Balancing your intake of lean protein and whole-grain carbohydrates
- Cut back on sugar, salt, fats, and alcohol
- Eat fish 2 or 3 times a week
- 4 to 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day
- Drink caffeine in moderation
“I would say that the most important thing [in keeping one’s heart healthy] is a well-rounded diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables and whole grains and fiber,” says Sally Barclay, a registered dietician at the Nutrition Clinic for Employee Wellness at Iowa State.
A good trick is to divide your plate. Mentally visualize your plate divided into 4 quarters. One quarter should be lean protein the size of your palm is ideal; one quarter should be complex carbohydrates, like brown rice or pasta; the last 2 quarters should be fruits and/or vegetables. Also, a good point to keep in mind is the more colorful your plate, the healthier it is for you. Click here for access to this Perfect Portion Control Tool.
Enhancing your emotional state:
For a quick pick-me-up, the first thing we crave is pastries or some French fries. But the truth is those foods contain refined carbs which even though they may help the brain produce serotonin, they also cause a quick crash. Serotonin is also known as the “feel-good” hormone which your brain secretes when you feel pride after hitting a milestone or reaching a goal. On the healthy side of the spectrum, whole-grain carbohydrates produce a more lasting effect on your mood and sustain the levels of serotonin in your body.
Maintaining a healthy weight:
Staying within your recommended daily caloric intake and eating moderately sized meals are two ways you can be in control of your weight. Having a healthy weight means you’re reducing your risk of chronic diseases, like heart disease and diabetes just to name a couple.
Boosting your energy levels:
Eating foods high in iron sustains your energy levels throughout the day since the mineral iron helps carry oxygen throughout the body. Examples of food sources rich in iron are spinach, Swiss chard, almonds, and quinoa. Also, snacking on nuts and fruits, and drinking water helps maintain your energy levels.
This is what happens to your body when you start eating a healthy, nutritious diet:
After 1 day:
Fewer hunger pangs
Boost in metabolism
Increased focus and clarity
After 1 week:
Increased energy levels
After 1 month:
Eating healthy becomes a lifestyle choice
You save money on soft drinks, fatty junk food, and snacks
After 6 months:
Boost in self-confidence
Lower blood pressure
After 1 year:
You’ve reached your goal weight
You’re smarter about your food choices
You feel stronger and more alive
You get sick less often
Your concentration and memory have increased
In their book Perspectives in Nutrition (1990) by Gordon M. Wardlaw and Paul M. Insel, they state that “…nutrients are the nourishing substances in food that are essential for the growth, development, and maintenance of body functions. The essential meaning is that if a nutrient is not present, aspects of function and therefore human health decline. When nutrient intake does not regularly meet the nutrient needs dictated by the cell activity, the metabolic processes slow down or even stop.”
If you think about it from that perspective, you’ll realize that food is much more than just counting calories or reading food labels. It makes us look at food as the sustenance we need to keep going strong for many years to come.