In the past couple of decades, nutritionists and researchers have made it clear that a healthy diet is a key to a good living standard and a long life. It’s difficult to go through an entire day without reading a story, an article, or listening to someone talking about health, nutrition, and weight loss. If you log in to Facebook or any other social media you consume right now, you will probably see such a post. The news that we can improve our lives, limit the chances of getting cancer, lose weight, get ripped, and look younger through a healthy diet is now familiar to all of us. Due to decades of research and study, we now have the knowledge to improve our nutrition without sacrificing the food we love so much.
However, despite the visual bombardment we experience in nutrition and weight loss, people continue to eat what they shouldn’t. Obesity is becoming a bigger problem than before, especially now with teenagers and young adults. So why do people still cling to an unhealthy lifestyle? In most cases the guidelines to a healthy diet are complex. What the government and the universities publish is just too complex for the average reader. Most of us naturally question what we are told, so we tend to ask questions like “why” when it comes to changing the food we love so much. In addition, food is equal to pleasure, and few people are willing to give up on fools that comfort and relieve stress.
With that being said, in this guide we are going to discuss how healthy nutrition can help you with your health and weight loss. You will learn the “why” and by the end you will realize that managing your health through nutrition isn’t such a daunting task after all.
Optimization Is Key
Have you walked past a cake shop recently, looked through the window, and suddenly decided to treat yourself with a lovely slice of cheesecake or a muffin? Have you walked in front of a bakery and the smell of freshly baked croissants lured you in? On a daily basis, we are surrounded by so many choices and options. There is so much food to pick from and it’s all around us. All that it takes is a choice.
We make choices every single day. These decisions depend on our culture, lifestyle, knowledge, goals, moods, and so much more. And every choice has a consequence. Our ancient ancestors didn’t have this luxury. All they had to choose from was food that they could find themselves, that they could hunt or gather. Nowadays, with all of our technological advances and the global migration, we can find pretty much every type of food from any corner of the world. We don’t depend on what we gather. Instead, we get to enjoy our favorite Indian dishes in Canada or an Apple Strudel in South Africa.
There are no limits to food, so making the right choice has become infinitely more difficult. It’s not easy to choose the food that improves our health or offers us the right nutrients we’re missing. This is a problem and we need to overcome it.
Every person in the world needs the same nutrients. Nutrients are fuel for our bodies, for our very lives, they sustain us and it’s up to us to fill the tank the right way. After all, you don’t want to put diesel in a car that runs on gasoline or the engine’s going to die in no time and need some serious “detox” in order to function again. The amounts of each nutrient is what makes us unique because it all depends on our age, sex, current physique, goals, and so on. For instance, pregnant women and bodybuilders need foods that are much richer in nutrients. This is where nutrition optimization comes in.
A general guide for the intake of nutrients was developed by various nutritional scientists. This guide is known as the Dietary Reference Intakes, and it’s important because it specifies the optimal nutritional guidelines based on your sex and age. If you do a quick search you will find that there are detailed DRI for each age group and then further divided for each sex. But how did scientists figure out these optimal nutrition requirements?
This story starts during the Second World War, when nutrition experts were tasked to figure out the dietary necessities of the soldiers so that they could be in an optimal condition. Since then, the guidelines that started with the military kept being updated by new generations of scientists with the help of new technologies and medical progress.
Nowadays, the research about nutrition is focused on preventing a wide variety of diseases, as well as reducing the risk of developing certain illnesses such as various forms of heart diseases and cancer. This is how, in 1997, the Recommended Dietary Allowance came to be. This guideline tells us what we need to eat in order to prevent a wide range of health problems. It’s very detailed and we are not going to dive into it. Otherwise, you might feel overwhelmed and move on. What you need to take from it, however, is the fact that four of the 10 main causes of death in the US are strongly affected, and related to your diet (IHME, 2019). By optimizing your nutrition intake and living healthier overall, you can significantly reduce your chances of suffering from heart diseases, cancer, stroke, and diabetes.
Eating Often and Dietary Education
You already understand the importance of nutrition and why you need to learn how to optimize it. However, the second question is how often should you eat? Many people don’t even ask themselves this question because they eat when they’re hungry. Chances are, you do the same because after all the body screams it’s hungry when it’s looking for more nutrients, right? Well, that is partially true. For instance, think of the time you suddenly get a craving for red meat or spinach. That is often a sign that you lack iron and your body is looking for foods that are rich in that particular nutrient. However, your body is also influenced by your desire to experience pleasure, happiness, and relaxation. Food does that to you. It relieves your anxiety, it gives you a moment of joy, and it generally relaxes you.
Because of the problems mentioned above, we need guidelines. We need information so that we can make the right choice and not just blindly follow our cravings. Our brains get pleasure from fats and sugars because of an ancient instinct to fatten up for our survival, among other things, however, we cannot allow ourselves to follow this instinct anymore. This is one of the reasons why a number of research institutions came up with the five times a day meal plan. The new plan was actually designed to teach people about eating vegetables and fruit more often. In some cases, it was advised to have up to nine meals a day, mostly consisting of fruits and veggies. But, let’s face it, who has the time to each, much less prepare or cook five to nine small meals on a daily basis?
Eating often, especially fruit and vegetables, have improved the overall health statistics. The education efforts of governments have led people to consume a lot less saturated fat, and eat more fruit and vegetables. This alone has shown that eating healthy isn’t just about the number of calories you consume. It’s important to get the right type of nutrients. You can considerably reduce the amount of oil you cook with by using a good air fryer like the Nina Foodi. It’s not the same for your heart and blood vessels if you eat an apple, or its equivalent in potato chips that are soaked in saturated fats.
Brief Guide to a Healthy Diet
Eating the right things is important, but this isn’t THE solution to all of our health problems caused by our eating habits. In order to live healthy, we need to use different tools. To stick with our car analogy from earlier, it’s not enough to keep feeling the car with gas, we also need to take care of it by changing its oil, and making sure everything is according to specs. Our bodies work the same way. So, one of the first things we need to sort out is maintaining a healthy weight through fitness.
We all know by now that being overweight isn’t healthy. No matter what leads a person to be obese, that isn’t good for the heart, and he or she can develop diabetes and other health issues. And if you are overweight, you should combine a healthy eating plan with plenty of physical activity. This can be a problem to many nowadays. Just think of all the office jobs out there. You might be working in an office yourself. What does your day look like? If you get out of bed, shower, eat, drive to work, spend 9 hours at a desk, drive back home, watch Netflix, sleep, and repeat, then chances are your body isn’t fit. Just keep in mind that you can also be skinny, or at a normal body weight, but that doesn’t mean you’re healthy. Too many people think they’re fine just because they aren’t overweight.
Exercising is crucial. Fitness is to nutrition what Yin is to Yang. We need physical activity to keep the heart healthy, to maintain muscle mass, and to get a dose of energy. Not exercising can make us feel constantly tired and lethargic. However, we can easily fix this!
If you see yourself in the image we just discussed, all you need to do is add a 30 min period of physical activity per day. If you are particularly sedentary, then you can start with even less activity and gradually increase it. This isn’t as scary as it sounds though. You don’t necessarily have to pick up jogging at 6 in the morning, and you don’t need to pay for a gym membership either. All you need to do is make small changes throughout your day. For instance, you can walk to the office if you don’t live more than half an hour away. You can also ditch the car for a bicycle. You’d be surprised how much distance you can cover on a bike, and it’s quite a bit less expensive. Burn calories and fat instead of gas. It’s good for you, and nature as well, which is an added bonus.
If walking or cycling is out of the question, you can do numerous exercises at home, or even at the office, with nothing but your own bodyweight. Check out some videos on home fitness on Youtube.
Once you have your fitness routine in check, you need to take a look at your choice in food. Here you can use the food pyramid as a guide , and choose a wide variety of nutritious foods.
Did you know that your body needs at least around 40 nutrients in order to function at optimal level? Sounds like a lot, but if you keep your diet varied, you can gain all of them. In addition, a varied diet will also keep you from getting bored. Normally we associate diets and the word “healthy” with boring. But that’s just because of bad advertising and your parents yelling at you to eat all your food, even if you didn’t like it (my nemesis was broccoli). It doesn’t have to be that way, not today with so many ways of cooking every possible ingredient. Just think of how many cultures there are on Earth and each one has developed a different way of cooking things like broccoli. Exciting!
To quickly gain control over your diet, you should start by selecting a wide variety of whole grains. Grains are rich in fiber, minerals, vitamins, and various other organic compounds that are crucial for minimizing the risk of heart disease and other problems that appear with age. Next, you need fruits and vegetables. They are rich in nutrients and don’t have any fat. Just make sure you eat them instead of drinking them. That orange juice might be tasty, but you’re leaving behind most nutrients that are actually found in the pulp and inner linings of the fruit. When you drink a few oranges for instance, instead of eating one, you might still get some nutrients, but you are actually consuming mostly sugars and empty calories. So, eat your fruits and veggies, or “drink” them whole, not just squeezed.
Finally, you need to make the right choices as with anything in life. You need to start paying close attention to the nutritional content label on the pack of whatever you buy. If you need to learn the nutritional value of various fruits, since they don’t come with a label usually, you are a Google search away from the answer. Simply type something like “nutritional value of an orange.” Other than that, you can stick to things you probably already know, like fats, sugars, salt, and alcohol being usually bad for you if not consumed sparingly