A healthy diet is the key to a healthy body. Most of us love to eat but may not always make the best food choices to keep our bodies functioning optimally. Everything you consume is either used nutritionally by the body, stored for energy use in the form of fat or excreted as waste. When you feed your body nutritiously, your body responds by providing energy, balancing your hormones, regulating your blood sugar, optimizing your immune system and lowering your chances of developing diseases. When you pair healthy eating with exercise, your benefits increase exponentially.
Healthy eating is not about adhering to strict nutritional philosophies, depriving yourself of foods you enjoy or being unrealistically thin. It’s about feeling great and staying as healthy as possible. Thinking about eating for a healthy lifestyle rather than about dieting can change your viewpoint about food and nutrition.
- Simplify. Adding color to your diet is one easy step toward changing your mindset that makes an immediate and positive difference.
- Recognize that small steps add up to big changes. Trying to change all your eating habits overnight generally leads to feelings of deprivation and ultimate failure. Once you have established a small change like eating a salad every day, you can begin to add other healthy food choices.
- Aim for balance. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that 15% of your daily calories come from fats, 55% from carbohydrates and 35% from protein.
- Every change counts. No diet is perfect. Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, increasing your energy and reducing your risk of disease is the long term goal.
- Moderation is the key. You do not have to eliminate all the foods you love. Redefine portion size and eat less of the processed foods that are high in sugar, saturated fat and salt. Occasional small indulgences won’t leave you feeling deprived. Your body will respond by gradually reducing your cravings.
- Think of food as nourishment. Reconnect with your joy of eating. Food is not just something to gulp down on the run. Sitting down to meals with family and friends is time well spent that has both social and emotional benefits. Slow down and savor your food.
A lifetime of unhealthy eating habits can lead to a wide range of health problems such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Below is a list of top foods, high in nutritional value, that can support your quest for overall health:
- Almonds: High in fiber, protein, vitamin E, thiamine, riboflavin, copper, iron and zinc; thought to have cholesterol lowering properties.
- Asparagus: Anti-inflammatory properties; folic acid, a B vitamin important for the production of red blood cells.
- Avocados: High in fiber, rich in heart healthy monounsaturated fats thought to improve blood cholesterol levels and benefit blood glucose levels; B vitamins, vitamin K and vitamin E.
- Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries: Fiber rich, with antioxidants, phytonutrients andvitamin C.
- Red, green and yellow peppers: Antioxidant properties, vitamins A, C and E.
- Black beans: Cancer preventing compounds as found in tea and red wine, plus protein and fiber.
- Broccoli: Vitamins C and K, fiber, and phytochemicals with heart healthy and cancer preventing properties; rich in folate, calcium, potassium and phytonutrients.
- Brussels sprouts: Vitamins A, B6, C, E and K; selenium, a free radical fighter and cancer preventer.
- Butternut squash: Vitamin C, beta carotene.
- Boneless, skinless chicken breast: Lean protein, 18 amino acids, no carbohydrates and coenzyme Q10 all make for a great muscle food.
- Edamame: Soybeans with vitamins C and B, and a natural source of vitamin E containing antioxidants and isoflavones.
- Omega-3 eggs from chickens fed a diet of rich in Omega-3’s for optimal brain health and improved cardiovascular health.
- Flax seed: These powerful seeds provide fiber, magnesium, calcium, lignans, micronutrients and omega-3’s.
- Garlic: Reduces cholesterol and triglycerides, helps protect blood cells and vessels from oxidative stress.
- Onions: Sulphur containing compounds, cardio benefits.
- Kale, collards, chard: Nutrient dense with 18 vitamins and minerals including vitamin K and zinc.
- Salmon, anchovies, mackerel, sardines, herring: Lean protein with a hearty dose of heart healthy omega-3’s including EPA and DHA.
- Sweet potatoes: Complex carbohydrates and phytochemicals, fiber, beta-carotene, iron, calcium and vitamins A, C and B6.
- Tomatoes: Antioxidants and lycopene, to support cardio health, prostate health and skin health.
- Greek yogurt: No fat or low fat, great for digestive health and may lower overall body fat percentage.
- Kimchee: Traditional Korean fermented vegetables, mainly cabbage, fosters the growth of probiotics to support healthy digestion and weight loss.
- Cottage cheese: With live cultures, and curds that are high in casein, a dairy protein slowly absorbed by the body fueling muscles; natural probiotics to aid digestion.
- Walnuts: Large amounts of antioxidants and free radical fighters.
- Apples: Antioxidant properties in the form of polyphenols.
- Spinach: Truly a super food, spinach contains selenium, niacin, zinc, phosphorus, calcium, manganese, betaine, iron and vitamins A, B6, C, E and K.
Even with all these nutrient dense food choices, meeting your body’s daily nutritional needs through a balanced diet takes knowledge, time and planning. Although you may attempt to follow sound eating principles, it’s difficult to maintain a truly healthful diet within our hectic lives and routines.
Government reports indicate that Americans do not get the recommended amounts of calcium, fiber, magnesium, potassium, selenium, coenzyme Q10, lycopene, beta-carotene, folate or vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, all crucial to maintaining your health and decreasing your risk of developing chronic diseases.
The best advice is to follow sound eating principles that include a dietary program which limits unhealthy fats, sugar and salt and that emphasizes lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy products. Supplements can round out your nutrient intake. “You may not need supplements if you eat the world’s best diet, ” says Daniel Perry, executive director the Alliance for Aging Research, “but how many of us count the vitamin content of our food?” A daily multivitamin and mineral complex is a great way to fill any nutritional void. As you age and your body is less efficient at processing nutrients, you may need additional supplements. Overall, it’s wise to take a multi-vitamin/multi-mineral supplement throughout our lifetimes.
Multi t/d, by Pure Encapsulations is a twice daily multivitamin/mineral formula that provides a concentrated core of nutrient essentials as well as advanced mineral delivery systems and active vitamin cofactors for optimal bioavailability and utilization.
Minimal and Essential Antioxidant and Multivitamin Formula by Vital Nutrients is a full spectrum once or twice daily multivitamin/mineral formula that provides the minimum daily requirements of vitamins and some essential minerals. This formulation contains a potent antioxidant complex including Vitamins A, C, E, B-complex and the mineral selenium.
Multigenics without Iron by Metagenics is a comprehensive multiple vitamin and mineral formula suitable for adolescents, adults, and seniors that provides a comprehensive nutritional foundation for optimal health.
ProMulti Plus by Biotics Research is a high potency multivitamin/mineral formula that includes essential vitamins and minerals plus important botanical constituents possessing significant antioxidant activity.
Ultra Preventive Kids by Douglas Laboratories is a great tasting, chewable multiple vitamin-mineral-trace element supplement designed for children ages four and up. Ultra Preventive Kids provides important antioxidant vitamins C and E, a complete B vitamin complex, easily absorbable calcium and magnesium, as well as a full spectrum of bioavailable trace elements. Featuring natural orange or grape flavor, Ultra Preventive Kids uses only the purest, most hypoallergenic ingredients and contains no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.