A diet based on the recommended mix of protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals is important to a healthy lifestyle. Whether you’re already sticking to healthy foods and a mix of essential ingredients, or looking to make a lifestyle change, it’s important to understand the positive effects to your mental and physical health that eating healthy can provide.
As a volunteer for OurHarvest, Moira Canty understands the effects of a healthy diet are wide reaching and can positively impact energy levels and improve overall mental and physical health. Since 2017, Moira Canty has been a volunteer ambassador for OurHarvest.com. OurHarvest encourages local, sustainable, healthy eating. This voluntary position works to raise money towards our parish school (St. Agnes in Rockville Centre) and raise high quality food to be distributed through our food pantry to anyone in need. The nutrients in food give cells what they need to perform important functions throughout the body. Without these key ingredients, the body’s outputs suffer. Moira Canty explains that if your diet includes the recommended mix of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, starches, good fats, and lean proteins; while minimizing salt and sugar intake, these are the benefits you can expect:
Healthy eating can increase weight loss and reduce the risk of a variety of chronic health conditions, from diabetes to heart disease. A diet low in processed foods, high in fiber, and that includes a mix of fruits and vegetables is important to maintaining a healthy weight.
Attention to Detail and Memory
Unhealthy eating habits can have negative effects on mood, memory, and focus. For improved cognitive outputs and the prevention of dementia, doctors recommend a healthy mix of foods rich in vitamins D, C, and E; as well as omega-3 fatty acids. One of the best meals to improve memory is fish.
Improved Sleep Habits
A major cause of sleep problems is sleep apnea, occurring when airways are blocked. Moira Canty explains that this blockage can be caused by the effects of obesity, alcohol consumption, and an unhealthy diet. By reducing alcohol and caffeine consumption, improving eating habits, and losing weight; you can minimize the risk of sleep apnea and improve sleeping habits.
There is a strong link between diet and mood, with studies showing that a diet high in refined carbohydrates may cause symptoms found in fatigue and depression. Increasing the amount of vegetables and fruit consumed daily can lower the effects of refined carbohydrates found in sugary drinks, sweets, and white bread. Improving exercise habits can also enhance mood and boost energy.
Colon and Gut Health
Bodies are full of natural bacteria which help digestion, improve metabolism, and fight infection, harmful bacterial, and viruses inside the body. Bacteria that produce vitamins K and B improve colon health. A diet low in fiber and high in sugars and fat increases inflammation in the gut and alters the combination of healthy bacteria. Increasing intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes adds healthy prebiotics and probiotics into the system, allowing good bacteria to thrive.
One positive effect from healthy eating and exercising is the reduction of cardiovascular disease risks through improved heart health. From preventing blood clots that can cause heart attacks to reducing heart-related illnesses, there is a major link between diet and heart health. Moira Canty says that for a healthy heart, add foods high in vitamin E, including nuts and seeds. Reducing trans fats can improve artery functions and reduce stroke risk. Reducing blood pressure is important for heart health and a reduction in salt intake can make a huge different.
Strong Teeth and Bones
As bodies age, teeth and bones can become brittle. A healthy diet that includes foods rich in calcium can reduce the effects of osteoporosis and strengthen bones and teeth. For foods high in calcium, add low-fat dairy products, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, tofu, and legumes. In addition, magnesium from leafy greens, nuts, and seeds can help improve bone healthy.
Reducing Cancer Risk
One effect of an unhealthy diet is obesity, which has been linked to an increased risk of cancer. In addition, adding fruits and vegetables to your diet may reduce the risk of gastrointestinal cancers, liver cancer, and colorectal cancer. Overall, the antioxidants found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts can help protect cells from damage that can cause cancer.
In addition to improving your own diet, eating healthy helps children learn healthy habits. As you work to improve your own mix of healthy ingredients and reduce unhealthy ones, you’ll be modeling behavior that will help your children make healthy eating decision in the future. To begin improving healthy eating habits, instead of making foods off limits, consider moderation in cooking and eating. Reduce foods high in fats, sugar, and salt and increase the amount of fruits and vegetables throughout your diet. Dish out smaller portions and split items when eating out. Finally, Moira Canty recommends slowing down, giving your body time to tell you when it’s full and stopping eating when you feel full, not because your plate is necessarily empty.