How Does Eating Healthy Affect Your Life?
You already know healthy eating can have a positive impact on your life, but just how far do these benefits extend? Evidence suggests regularly eating healthy, well-balanced meals contributes to sustained weight maintenance, a better mood, increased energy levels, positive inspiration to others and the potential for a heightened quality of life.
A nutritious, well-balanced diet – along with physical activity and refraining from smoking – is the foundation of good health. Healthy eating includes consuming high-quality proteins, carbohydrates, heart-healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and water in the foods you take in while minimizing processed foods, saturated fats and alcohol. Eating in this manner helps you maintain your body’s everyday functions, promotes optimal body weight and can assist in disease prevention.
The nutrients in the foods you eat support the activities of day-to-day living, protect your cells from environmental damage and repair any cellular damage that might occur. Protein rebuilds injured tissue and promotes a healthy immune system. Both carbohydrates and fats fuel your body, while vitamins and minerals function throughout your body in support of your body’s processes. Vitamins A, C and E, for example, act as antioxidants to protect your cells against toxins, and B vitamins help you extract energy from the foods you eat. Calcium and phosphorus keep your bones strong, while sodium and potassium help to transmit nerve signals. Without a healthy diet, you might compromise any of these essential functions.
Following a healthy eating plan — one which emphasizes many fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean proteins, as well as low levels of saturated and trans fats and low cholesterol, sodium and sugar — contributes to weight maintenance. Staying within your recommended daily calorie intake and eating moderately sized meals also helps you maintain a healthy weight throughout your life. A healthy weight is linked to a reduced risk of many debilitating, chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, as well as improved self-esteem and mental state. Maintaining a healthy weight is also linked to a lower incidence of depression, meaning healthy eating can help significantly improve the quality of your life.
Healthy eating can have a positive impact on your life by leading to a more sustained elevated mood. According to Susan Biali, M.D., in “Psychology Today,” a healthy lifestyle — including a regular, healthy breakfast, balancing your lean protein consumption with whole-grain carbohydrates, getting enough folate and omega-3 fatty acids and cutting back on alcohol and simple sugars — has been linked to an improved mood and may even help alleviate depression. Carbohydrates allow the amino acid tryptophan to enter the brain where it produces serotonin — the mood-enhancing neurotransmitter, but whole-grain carbohydrates produce a more lasting effect on mood, while carbohydrates made with refined grains, like white bread, cause a quick crash.
Eating the right nutritive foods can also boost your energy levels, making you prepared to face each day. Sports nutritionist Rebecca Scritchfield noted in “Washington Running Report” in 2009 that adequate levels of the mineral iron, which carries oxygen throughout the body, contribute to sufficient energy levels. Healthy, leafy greens, like spinach, are rich sources of iron. “Arthritis Today” recommends steering clear of fattening, fried foods — which give you a quick burst of energy but leave you feeling depleted soon thereafter — and stocking up on healthy snacks like nuts, fruit, yogurt and low-fat cheese for an energy boost. Drinking enough water and only consuming moderate amounts of caffeine and sugar also help regulate your energy levels.
Obesity is not the only nutrition-related cause of disease onset and progression. Too much or too little of certain nutrients can also contribute to health issues. For instance, a lack of calcium in your diet can predispose you to developing osteoporosis, or weakening of your bones, while too much saturated fat can cause cardiovascular disease, and too few fruits and vegetables in your nutrition plan is associated with an increased incidence of cancer. Consuming foods from a wide variety of sources helps ensure your body has the nutrients it needs to avoid these health problems.