Discover the basics of healthy nutrition and tips on making it part of your lifestyle.
Healthy eating, or good nutrition, is simply eating adequate, well-balanced meals to support your body’s needs (World Health Organisation, 2018). At the heart of healthy eating is doing what helps you feel well. A healthy diet does not have to look a particular way and can accommodate many types of palates, dietary restrictions, and lifestyles. What matters is figuring out what foods help you feel like your best self.
Healthy eating can protect you from malnutrition, which is a serious condition that occurs when your body is not getting the nutrients it needs. Many diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, are linked to poor nutrition (World Health Organization, 2022) while healthy eating can help promote both physical and mental wellness.
Here are some more benefits of healthy eating:
Longevity (or living until old age)
Is positively associated with good nutrition, especially diets high in vitamins and minerals (Ahlberg, 2021). People who eat healthily are less likely to suffer from certain diseases which can cause long-term health issues or premature death, such as heart disease. Researchers found that longevity is not associated with specific “fad” diets, such as those that limit all carbohydrates or all fats (Lim, 2018). Rather, following a few basic nutrition principles can help people live longer, healthier lives.
Lower risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes
Is associated with eating a healthy diet (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022). If you are worried about a family history of diabetes or heart disease, or simply want to lower your risk of suffering from illness, you might benefit from speaking to your physician about incorporating healthy eating into your lifestyle.
Healthy Immune Function
Means the ability to fight everyday viruses and bacteria which cause disease. You may have started to pay greater attention to your immunity during the pandemic, and the good news is that it is possible to help your immune system function better through healthy eating. As we age, our bodies inevitably slow down, and immune function decreases, which is why older people are more susceptible to serious complications from diseases like the flu. Eating a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, such as one that has plenty of fruits and vegetables, can help our bodies fight disease (Calder, 2022).
Which reduce the risk of both mothers and babies facing difficult complications or diseases, are strongly correlated with healthy diets (National Institutes of Health, 2022). Eating a healthy diet during pregnancy can promote brain development and healthy birth weight for babies, while simultaneously reducing risks to the mother, such as anemia (iron deficiency), fatigue, and morning sickness (Allen, 2000).
Are a major part of wellness. This is true of children, whose bones are still growing, and adults, who can enjoy activities of daily life more easily when they don’t suffer from painful joints or conditions such as osteoporosis. A healthy diet is a major contributor to strong bones (Abrams, 2021).
Improved Mental Health
Has been linked to eating a healthy diet in many research studies. New research suggests that while we don’t fully understand all the ways in which a healthy diet promotes better mental health, we do know that there is a strong association between poor nutrition and disorders such as anxiety and depression (Adan et al., 2019). On the flip side, improving your diet can benefit your mental health (Adan et al., 2019).
Here are some healthy habits to get you started:
Eat Lots of Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods, such as mushrooms or herbs, are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, plant protein, and antioxidants. Eating five or more portions a day is excellent for your overall health and can help prevent many diseases (World Health Organisation, 2022).
Eat Protein Everyday
Protein helps to build and maintain your bones and muscles. Some foods rich in protein are legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, fish, eggs, chicken, beef, milk, yogurt, and cheese. If you eat seafood, consider having it at least twice a week because it provides many rich vitamins and healthy fats along with protein.
Don't Skip Breakfast
While you might be tempted to skip breakfast because you feel rushed in the morning, aren’t hungry right after you wake up, or think it might help you lose weight, recent research shows that people who skip breakfast as a habit are more likely to miss out on important nutrients and have more health problems than those who make time to eat a well-balanced meal to start their day (Fanelli et al., 2021).
Add Fermented Foods to Your Diet
Fermented foods, like kimchi, sauerkraut, or yogurt with live active cultures are not only delicious additions to your plate, they’re full of probiotics, which keep your gut healthy and happy. Probiotics, or friendly bacteria, have a whole range of health benefits, including better digestion, improved immunity, good skin and hair, and once again, improved mental health (Marco et al., 2017).
Healthy eating might seem daunting at first. But if you make small changes and lead from a place of treating yourself to the health and wellness you deserve, you might find yourself thriving and even enjoying the process. You might even choose to meet with a nutritionist or borrow a healthy cookbook from your library. Remember: even if those options are not available to you right now, it’s okay—a few simple tips can put you on the road to a healthier you.
Pamela (Pami) Parker currently serves as a holistic practitioner, coach and teacher. Her intention is to be a compassionate guide to those who choose to experience a healthier, happier and more peaceful way of life.