Food is a vital source of energy, nutrients and protein for our bodies. It’s also the fuel that helps our bodies fight off disease and maintain good health.
A variety of foods, including vegetables, fruits, grains and proteins, provide essential nutrients to help us build and maintain our body’s tissues and regulate our vital processes. It’s important to get enough of the right types of food in our diet, as a lack of nutrients can lead to poor health and an increased risk of chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.
Eating well is all about being aware of what you eat, understanding how it affects your body and choosing healthier options over unhealthy ones. When you focus on making the right choices, your dietary habits will improve and you’ll be on your way to optimal health.
How we eat is influenced by many different factors, including culture and environment. For example, people living in cooler regions with shorter growing seasons depend on crops that mature quickly, such as potatoes. However, improved methods of agriculture and transport mean that more types of food can be grown in a wider variety of locations.
Some of the most common and easiest changes to make are to reduce your intake of highly processed foods (fast foods, chips, deli meats) and to increase your consumption of whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fish and poultry. This will not only give your body the energy it needs, but it will help you feel full longer.
It is also important to limit your intake of saturated fats, which can contribute to heart disease and certain cancers. Instead, choose unsaturated fats from sources like nuts, olive oil, and avocados.
Another key aspect of nutrition is what is called glycemic load, or how much sugar your food has. High glycemic load foods (like white breads, cakes and cookies) raise your blood sugar levels and can cause problems with your weight and cholesterol. Conversely, foods with a low glycemic load have less impact on your blood sugar and can help lower your risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.
A good choice of foods is those that contain complex carbohydrates and water-soluble fiber, which can slow down digestion and stabilize blood glucose levels. Oats, barley, wheat berries, amaranth, quinoa and multigrain cereals are good choices.
Plant-based foods are also a good choice, as they provide a range of essential nutrients and fibre. They are rich in antioxidants, which neutralise free radicals that can cause damage to the cells of your body.
Fruits and vegetables are the foundation of a healthy diet. They provide vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to keep your immune system strong and your skin healthy. They can help you feel fuller, control your appetite and prevent obesity.
Meats, eggs and dairy are also important sources of protein. They can help you maintain muscle mass and increase your metabolism, which will improve your energy levels.
Some studies have shown that eating a diet high in whole grains and fruit can boost your mood. These foods are good sources of serotonin and dopamine, which can make you feel happier.