How To Improve Your Diet
When it comes to healthy eating, most of us have good intentions. We cut back on sugar, stop eating desserts and try to subsist on lettuce leaves and quinoa. But here’s the thing. Improving your diet isn’t about deprivation. It’s all about moderation and variety. A little bit of what you like is not only good for you, but also keeps you motivated.
The human brain is wired to make you crave high calorie and high carb foods. The more of them you eat, the more your body wants. Carbs are not the enemy, and eating the correct type of carbohydrate can improve your diet. It would be easy to think that cutting out fat from your diet would be good for you. However, without dietary fat, vitamins A, D, E and K would not be able to be metabolized. The human body needs fat to function. But again, it’s all about the type of fat that you eat.
In total, there are five different food groups. These include carbohydrates, protein, dairy products, fruits and vegetables and fats and sugars. Fruit and vegetables should make up the bulk of your diet with approximately five to seven servings each day. Carbohydrates and dairy products should consist of three servings a day. Protein should equal 2 servings a day. Fats and sugars can be enjoyed in small amounts and should focus on omega-3, omega-6 and naturally occurring sugars.
Eat The Rainbow
If you want to improve your diet for better health and well being, incorporating as many different fruits and vegetables is the way to go. While you may think that the color of fruits and vegetables is not important, different colors signal different nutrients.
Purple foods, such as blueberries, eggplants and grapes are loaded with antioxidants good for cardiovascular health. Resveratrol found in cranberries, purple grapes and blueberries can inhibit colorectal cancer and induce cell death in various cancers.
Yellow and orange fruits and vegetables contain beta carotene, lycopene vitamin C, potassium and flavonoids. These are great for the immune system, healthy mucous membranes, healthy skin and good eye health.
Red foods, such as rent cherries, tomatoes, bell peppers, raspberries and rhubarb are packed with health-boosting antioxidants, including vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber and manganese. These help fight oxidation from free radicals while improving the health of the heart (1).
Green foods, such as broccoli, peas and leafy greens contain some of the most important essential nutrients. Vitamins B, C, E & K, along with potassium, magnesium and calcium help boost the immune system and cardiovascular health.
White foods, such as cauliflower, garlic, onions and mushrooms contain glucosinolates, polyphenols and lectins. These all possess anti-cancer properties as well as helping to control inflammation. Chronic inflammation is thought to play a role in type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s.
Feast On Fish
Another great way to improve your diet is to consume more oily fish. Oily fish is loaded with ALA, omega-3 fatty acids, an omega 3 fatty acid that the body is unable to produce on its own. When fish eat algae, they also produce DHA and EPA which are also types of body-boosting omega-3 fats. The body needs these essential fatty acids to function correctly.
The fatty acids found in oily fish help reduce elevated triglyceride levels (blood fat), thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease (2). Omega-3 also helps reduce inflammation throughout the body, which can help curb rheumatoid arthritis joint pain and stiffness. Aside from these direct impacts omega-3s have on health, they also help the body absorb fat-soluble nutrients.
The best sources of omega-3 fatty acids come from anchovies, herring, mackerel, wild salmon, sardines and lake trout. Fish is also an excellent source of protein, which are the building blocks of muscle. Protein also takes longer to be digested and metabolized by the body. Eating a meal rich in protein will keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Cut Back On Carbs
When we say cut back on carbs, we are specifically talking about simple carbs. Simple carbohydrates are, in effect, empty calories such as processed sugar, grains and fruit juices. Simple carbohydrates have had all of their fiber goodness stripped away. When looking at the structure of carbohydrates, they consist of sugars, starches and fiber. When eaten, the majority of carbs are metabolized and turned into glucose. Glucose is used as a source of energy and excessive glucose can be turned into body fat.
Fiber plays a vital role within the body, even though it is not digested. When fiber enters the digestive tract, it feeds the friendly bacteria, which in turn uses it to create fatty acids. Simple carbohydrates have been shown to be associated with health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and obesity (3). They also lead to blood sugar level spikes, which can lead to cravings for carb-rich foods when the blood sugar levels begin to drop.
On the other hand, complex carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes contain fiber. This fiber prevents the body from metabolizing carbohydrates too quickly, resulting in a slower release of energy. Studies have also shown that eating complex carbohydrates is able to reduce the risk of certain diseases while improving metabolic health (4). Simple carbohydrates and sugars not only make you feel lethargic. They also provide the body with little to no nutrition.
Don’t Do Diets
While dieting serves a purpose for those with certain health conditions or who are morbidly obese, they can be detrimental to your health. If you truly want to improve your diet, you have to incorporate it as part of your lifestyle. The sad truth is that many diets work by starving the body of essential nutrients. An unbalanced diet leads to an unbalanced body.
There is never any need to completely eliminate any type of food from your daily diet. If you are craving cake, have some. But try to choose one that isn’t full of saturated fats, refined sugars and the size of a small car. When it comes to improving your diet, moderation is key. Even the old saying of too much of a good thing can be bad for you is true.
As an example, many people think that consuming excessive amounts of vitamins and minerals is good for the body. However, the opposite is true. Too much is zinc or vitamin C could cause stomach cramps, diarrhea and nausea (5). Too much selenium can cause nerve damage, fatigue, gastrointestinal upset and hair loss.
A healthy diet leads to a healthy body. By understanding how carbohydrates, protein and fiber affect the body, you can make more informed food choices. Aside from the food that you eat, you should also aim to drink a sufficient amount of water each day to keep your metabolism in order and your body hydrated. Avoid fad diets and enjoy a little bit of what you like every now and then, it really won’t hurt you.