Three reasons to eat a healthy diet
We often associate a “healthy” diet with losing weight. However, eating a nutritious diet can provide many other benefits beyond losing a bit of body fat.
Here are some reasons why eating healthily can benefit not only your body, but also your mind and life in general.
A Healthier Body
Eat a healthy diet to protect your heart
Heart disease is the nation’s biggest killer. Keeping your heart healthy is the most important thing you can do to prevent heart disease. Taking regular exercise is crucial, but so is eating a healthy diet. A healthy diet can help lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce high blood pressure, two major culprits in the development of coronary heart disease.
To look after your heart, it is important to choose the right type of fats. Too much saturated fat can increase blood cholesterol. So replace butter, lard and palm oils with small amounts of mono- and poly-unsaturated fats such as olive, rapeseed or sunflower oils and spreads. Trans-fats can also raise cholesterol levels so cut down on foods containing trans-fats such as biscuits, cakes and pastries and fried foods from restaurants and takeaways.
A high salt intake may raise your blood pressure. So add less salt when cooking, don't add salt to your food at the table, and beware of hidden salt in every day foods. Foods containing high salt include: bread, packet soups, ready meals, crisps and similar salty snacks, and processed meats (cured meats, such as ham and bacon, dried or ground meat and sausages, including salami and other varieties).
Staying active is also great for keeping your heart healthy. And a healthy, balanced diet gives you the required energy to be able to exercise regularly. This means eating plenty of fibre-rich whole grains to provide adequate fuel for your body.
Eat a healthy diet to prevent disease
Nearly one in ten UK cancer cases is caused by unhealthy diets. And 30 to 40 percent of all cancers may be prevented through dietary changes and a healthier lifestyle. Cruciferous vegetables, such as brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower or cabbage, contain a chemical (glucosinolates) that has been shown to have anti-cancer properties, so make sure to include some of these on a regular basis. Vitamins A, C, E and folate are thought to protect against cancer, as is fibre – all of which are easily consumed in a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and pulses.
For women especially, a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D can help protect against osteoporosis, a disease in which the bones become brittle with age. Brittle bones can lead to painful bone fractures. Good sources of calcium include milk, cheese and dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables (such as broccoli and cabbage), soya beans, nuts and small fish with edible bones (such as sardines). For those who are lactose intolerant soya milk with added calcium is a good alternative. Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium in the body. We get most of our vitamin D from sunlight but vitamin D is also present in oily fish, eggs, and fortified spreads and breakfast cereals.
2. A Healthier Mind
Polyphenols, a number of compounds found naturally in foods, have been shown to positively affect mood. One of the most famous examples is dark chocolate which is rich in cacao polyphenols. The bad news is that chocolate is high in calories and can lead to weight gain if you have too much. The good news is that polyphenols can also be found in low calorie foods and drinks such as blueberries, blackberries, grapes, cherries, and green and black teas.
Flavonoids in tea may also have a protective effect against progressive neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.
3. A Better Work-Life Balance
Studies have shown that the healthiest workers are the most productive workers. Workers who consistently eat healthful meals, including 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables, and exercise regularly are likely to be more productive.
If trying to juggle work and home life is getting you down, including foods that are high in certain nutrients in your diet can help you manage stress levels. Studies have found that vitamin C and magnesium can help regulate cortisol levels, the hormone responsible for stress, while omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the effect of stress on the brain by regulating adrenaline levels. To keep stress levels low eat foods such as oily fish, nuts and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
The Bottom Line
In today’s fast-paced world, eating properly and taking regular exercise can seem like luxuries rather than necessities. However, taking the time to eat well-balanced meals, and working out, will pay off in the long run by making you feel good and increasing your chances of a long, healthy life.
You can learn more about eating a healthy diet in our online Nutrition and Weight Management course.
Written by Victoria Trowse
1. Burford 6.