We are what we eat. This age-old saying is particularly relevant when we talk about wellness. Research has shown time and time again that what we ingest has a resounding impact on our physical and mental wellbeing. Today I’d like to explore how healthy eating can impact your quality of life, and how little changes to your diet can be the catalyst for some great changes to your mind and body.
Fuel for your body and soul
Healthy eating isn’t just about avoiding fats and consuming your own body weight in smoothies. Research has shown that a well balanced diet is substantially more beneficial than diets that require dramatic changes or seek to cut out a particular food group. Although we are all aware that some foods are less healthy than others, almost everything we consume has some form of nutritional value for the body.
Many diets will restrict the amount of fats and carbohydrates you consume. Whereas there is a time and place for this, a healthy diet should consist of the right amount of all food groups. So when planning any changes to your diet, don’t feel like you have to cut out everything you enjoy that might not be healthy for you.
The obvious culprits
It will come as no surprise to you that fruit and vegetables should be the cornerstone of any well balanced diet. Full of vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants that are vital to maintaining a healthy body. The vitamins found in fruit such as vitamin C help to maintain the body’s immune system in fighting off disease. Vitamin A, which is abundant in vegetables such as carrots, spinach and sweet potato, is essential for maintaining healthy skin and hair. So it’s important to make sure you are getting a good range of fresh fruit and vegetables to make sure you’re getting all the vitamins you need to support yourself.
The incredible powers of micronutrients
Some aspects of healthy eating are very obvious, others less so. Micronutrients are described by the world health organisation as vitamins and minerals needed by the body in very small amounts. However deficiencies in these micronutrients can lead to serious long term health complications. These micronutrients include Calcium, Iron, Zinc and a range of other vitamins and nutrients.
Each of these nutrients play a vital part in the way our body regulates and repairs itself. Each of these individual nutrients can be broken down into which foods will provide them, but the important thing to note is that with a restricted diet you run the risk of being deficient in one or more micronutrients. Therefore a well balanced diet is your route to absorbing all of the micronutrients your body needs.
The big hitters: Macronutrients
Macronutrients include three important building blocks for your body: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. They are referred to as macronutrients because your body requires them in greater amounts than micronutrients. It’s important to have the right balance of these three macronutrients.
But not all sources of these macronutrients are as beneficial as others. Certain Carbohydrates take a lot longer and more energy for your body to digest, which in turn can promote weight gain, diabetes and heart disease. These carbohydrates are commonly found in more processed foods such as white bread, pastries or soda. The healthiest kinds of carbohydrates usually come from whole grains that have not undergone a heavy amount of processing. So substituting pasta for quinoa, white rice for brown rice or processed white bread for a wholewheat bread can have a big impact.
The wonders of fermented foods
People have fermented food for thousands of years, and with good reason. Not only is it a great way to preserve food and limit waste, but there is a long established correlation between eating fermented foods and good gut health. Our bodies are filled with thousands of microorganisms, and a diverse intestinal biome is great for boosting your immune system and fighting damaging inflammation inside your body.
There are a range of benefits associated with fermented foods, such as lowering blood pressure, combating obesity and lowering your risk of bowel cancer. Fermented foods include yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut and sourdough bread. Incorporating fermented foods into your diet is a great way to improve your gut health which in turn can make some big changes to your health and wellbeing.
Good, old fashioned, hydration
It’s hard to stress how important staying hydrated is for the human body. Over half of our body is composed of water, so keeping yourself regularly hydrated is vital to your body performing its basic functions efficiently. Staying hydrated helps your body’s digestive system work properly ,allowing you to properly process your food which can lead to an increase in energy and focus. Staying hydrated can also decrease your risk of kidney stones, obesity and heart problems.
Knowing how much water to consume is difficult. The Eatwell guide suggests between 6-8 glasses of water a day. The most important thing to be aware of, is to be mindful of signs of dehydration. Dehydration functions as your body’s natural way of letting you know you need more water, with symptoms including headaches or darker urine. Learn to listen to your body and respond when it needs something in particular. Increasing the amount of water you consume is a great way to kickstart a new healthier you.
Eating a healthy diet does not have to be restrictive or boring. Expanding your meal range to include vibrant fruits, whole grains, and nutrient rich foods is a great way of not just enhancing your quality of life but can introduce you to a range of delicious foods. A healthy diet is a great first step towards enabling your body to perform all its vital functions and leave you feeling happier and healthier. So avoid restriction, and embrace balance in your diet. You might just find it makes a big change to your life, and you get to eat some tasty food along the way!