Diet should be one of the first things we look at our overall health. And no, we don’t mean ‘diet’ in the ‘trendy new diet’ way. When we say diet, we simply mean the types of food we use to fuel our bodies. Often, just changing one’s dietary habits may promote better health. Ironically, nutrition is usually the last thing most people consider. For many, those who consume a nutritious diet experience not only positive health, but also the added benefit of a heightened sense of overall well-being. Moreover, you may find a sense of relief or support when diet and lifestyle are changed.
In spite of the profound role nutrients play in maintaining wellness, we are still rather oblivious when it comes to making wise food choices. If you don’t believe that how you choose to satisfy your hunger can have far-reaching health implications, think again. What we nonchalantly pop into our mouths sets off a series of complex chemical reactions that have a serious impact on our body.
The first thing anyone should do who wants to maintain their health is to look at what they’re eating, and checking out the contents of your grocery cart can be very revealing.
Try to avoid or reduce the amount you buy of the following:
- Processed, instant, sugary and fatty snack foods
- Yellow cheeses
- Red meat such as beef and bacon
- High fat dairy such as milk or sour cream
- Hot dogs
- Heavily processed crackers, chips and cookies
- Instant white rice, Jello® and potatoes
- Highly sweetened cereals
Instead, try to fill your cart with the following:
- Fresh fruits
- Fresh vegetables
- Whole grain cereals and flours
- Dried beans of all varieties
- Brown rice
- Lean white meats
- Olive oil
- Semolina pasta
- Part-skim dairy such as mozzarella cheese and low-fat yogurts
While it may take extra work than normal to maintain a healthier cart, making the change from the first cart to the second is in fact possible. To help you understand the necessity for such a change, let’s look at our eating traditions and how they are ruining our health.
Typical American Eating Habits
Over the last three decades, we have witnessed dramatic changes not only in what we eat but also when and how we eat. One of the biggest changes is that modern technology has created new grab-and-go snacks that have undergone countless chemical processes. We also routinely consume new crop varieties that have been genetically engineered (genetically modified organisms or GMOs) and beef, poultry, and pork that are filled with hormones and antibiotics (given to animals to promote rapid growth), and these high-tech processing techniques inhibit the natural deterioration of processed meats like sausage or salami. New foods and synthetic food substitutes are rapidly dominating our selection of grocery store foods and making it that much harder to decipher clean, healthy choices within the aisles.
Another change is that in general, we tend to eat less local, in-season foods than our grandparents did. Fruits and vegetables are shipped internationally and are often packed in dry ice or cold storage for extended periods of time, reducing their flavors, textures, and palatability.
And of course, millions of gallons of sugary or artificially sweetened sodas are consumed annually on top of it all. “Diet” sodas full of synthetic sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose, synthetic colors and flavors are equally as unhealthy as the sweetened ones, despite the tempting zero calorie claims.
In many ways, the diets of our ancestors and of many developing countries far surpass the nutritional value of our own. Indigenous cultures that dine on beans, seeds, fibrous vegetables, brown rice, and smaller portions of meat have had the right idea all along.
We might be able to get away with some of our deplorable eating habits if we exercised the way our great-grandparents did. But the reality is that many (but not all) often eat more refined foods, consume more of the wrong kinds of fat, smoke, use alcohol and caffeine, and sit at a desk all day. While many of us have become more exercise-aware, we are still considered a sedentary society. It’s not all negative though – health consciousness is on the rise, and many are taking the necessary steps to lead a healthier life.
To further enhance this positive change, we might consider the following dietary goals:
- Reduce the amount of animal-based protein we eat and replace it with more plant-sourced protein
- Decrease saturated fats and sugar and substituting them instead fresh fruits, seeds, and nuts
- And eat whole foods that older generations readily recognize— vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
It’s a simple formula that is possible to incorporate into daily life—especially if we recognize its profound health impact. If we become diet-conscious, overall health-consciousness will follow naturally. Overall, simple dietary modifications enhanced by supplement use may end up improving our health.
All this goes to show that you truly “are what you eat” to some degree. If you are feeling empty and tired, take a look at your diet and see just how much of what you eat is empty calories with little nutrition. Once you start to take care when it comes to what you allow into your body, chances are that you may feel more refreshed, awake, and nourished than you would if you continue to consume a fast food diet.
Benefits of Eating Healthy
On a final note: if you eat healthily, good things will follow. Scientific studies show that eating healthy may improve longevity. And along with that longevity, it means that you could have an easier time maintaining a healthy weight goal or that you notice a positive change in your mood, improving your overall quality of life.
In the end, the short of it is that choosing to eat healthily may give you access to preventative measures against diet-related discomfort and the power for support and relief. And on top of the new benefits you receive from a nutrient packed diet, you may find that you have the energy you need to make the best of every single day.