Food: Eating Well
Eating well is an essential part of leading a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Eating healthy food helps you feel better, look better, and perform better in your daily activities. Eating well, therefore, is an easy way to improve your overall quality of life.
In addition to these benefits, healthy eating can help you live longer and reduce your risk of contracting a wide range of diseases.
Why it Matters and How You Can Do it Too
In this article, we take a closer look at how eating well prevents disease and benefits your general health. We also explore examples of healthy foods and what they can do for you, along with a variety of tips to help you include healthy eating in your lifestyle. We then round off the article by looking at how you can combine food and yoga to improve your healthy eating habits further.
Eat well to prevent disease
Eating healthy food boosts your immune system, which protects you against illnesses such as colds and flu. It also helps you maintain a healthy weight, which reduces your risk of illnesses such as the following:
Type 2 diabetes
Too much sugar in the diet and/or being overweight increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is a condition where your blood sugar levels are too high, because your cells have become resistant to insulin and because your pancreas has started producing less insulin. Insulin is the substance that regulates the flow of blood sugar (glucose) to the cells in your body to provide energy.
When the insulin in your body is no longer working effectively, you need to manage your blood sugar levels carefully to avoid further complications. Complications of diabetes include heart disease, eye disease, kidney disease, and nerve damage, among others.
One of the most effective ways to prevent diabetes (or manage it, if you already have this condition) is by following a healthy lifestyle. A balanced diet filled with whole grains, lean proteins, and vegetables will help you keep your blood sugar levels stable, which means that your body needs to produce less insulin and that your cells will not so easily become resistant to insulin. Reducing your consumption of processed foods and refined sugars is also important, for the same reasons.
Heart disease and stroke
Heart disease and stroke are both in the top 10 leading causes of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. And both can, in the majority of cases, be prevented by making healthy lifestyle choices.
Heart disease occurs when the walls of the arteries harden or when they become narrow due to a build-up of plaque. If a piece of this plaque breaks off, it can create a blood clot that can block an artery and cause a stroke. And if the heart does not receive enough blood due to narrowed or blocked arteries, it can lead to a heart attack.
Some of the main dietary causes of heart disease and stroke include:
- Too much salt (sodium) in the diet
- Too much bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) in the diet
- Too much trans fat and saturated fat in the diet
A good way to prevent heart disease and stroke through diet is by maintaining a healthy weight and eating mostly unprocessed foods, since processed foods are often high in sodium and saturated fats. Make sure you include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet and choose healthy fats such as avocados, fatty fish, nuts, and olive oil instead of deep-fried foods, crisps, pastries, and biscuits.
While a healthy diet on its own cannot prevent cancer, it can go a long way towards reducing your risk of getting certain type of cancers.
Obesity, for example, has been linked with a higher risk of the following types of cancers, according to cancer.gov: endometrial, oesophageal, stomach, liver, kidney, pancreatic, colorectal, gallbladder, breast, ovarian, and thyroid cancers, as well as multiple myeloma and meningioma.
Following a balanced diet to maintain a healthy weight can therefore lower the chances that you will get one of these types of cancers.
High consumption of alcohol has also been linked with the development of certain types of cancers, and it is therefore recommended to limit your alcohol intake as well.
Osteoarthritis refers to a condition where the cartilage between your bones has worn out, resulting in pain and stiffness in your joints. Although age, genetics, injuries, and many other factors play a role in developing this disease, being overweight or obese increases your risk. This is because excess weight places more strain on your joints, causing the cartilage to wear out more easily Excess fatty tissue in your body also leads to inflammation around your joints, contributing to the damage.
Maintaining a healthy body weight by eating well can therefore help you prevent or delay the onset of this painful disease.
The liver plays an important role in digesting food, eliminating toxins from the body, and replacing damaged cells. If the functions of the liver are disrupted, it is referred to as liver disease. There are various types of liver disease, and some are easier to treat than others.
Causes of liver disease vary from genetics, viral infections, and medication use to excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, and poor diet.
To reduce your risk of liver disease, it is important to maintain a healthy body weight, eat healthy foods, and avoid drinking too much alcohol.
Your kidneys are responsible for removing waste from your blood and excreting it from the body as urine. If their function is disrupted, it is referred to as kidney disease.
While there are many causes of kidney disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes are important risk factors. You can reduce these risks by maintaining a healthy body weight and limiting your consumption of sugar, sodium, and processed foods in general.
Discover the benefits of eating healthy foods
We’ve already covered one of the major benefits of healthy eating, which is preventing illness and disease. But there are also many other benefits, such as:
When you eat more healthy food and cut out refined sugars and processed foods, you have more energy for your daily activities and to do the things you enjoy. A balanced diet also ensures that you get all the nutrients you need for sustained energy levels.
Eating well helps improve your energy levels and makes you look healthier, which in turn help to improve your self-esteem. If you are overweight, eating nutritious, healthy food to lose weight can also help you to feel better about yourself and to increase your confidence.
If you often feel tired, irritable, sad, or grumpy, then making some healthy changes to your diet could help to relieve these feelings. A diet rich in refined sugars, for example, can cause blood sugar spikes and crashes, which leave you feeling tired and moody. Try replacing sugary snacks with fresh fruits and vegetables to maintain stable blood sugar levels and see how your mood improves.
Better memory and concentration
Eating the right foods helps your brain function optimally. Essential nutrients for the brain include omega-3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish and in nuts such as walnuts and almonds), B-vitamins (found in leafy greens and other vegetables), and antioxidants (found in fruits and vegetables).
Eating a diet high in the foods that promote brain function will help you remember things more easily and will help you concentrate better and for longer periods of time. Drinking plenty of water will also help you concentrate better, think more clearly, and prevent dehydration headaches.
10 examples of healthy foods and why they’re good for you
Salmon is an excellent source of protein, since it is high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in saturated fat. It also contains essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B12 and iron.
2. Leafy Greens (such as spinach and broccoli)
Leafy greens are very low in calories and high in fibre and antioxidants, making them an important part of your daily diet.
Berries contain few calories and are rich in a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, including antioxidants. They are also a good source of fibre. Eating berries regularly as part of a balanced diet can help to keep your blood sugar levels stable and help to prevent diabetes.
Avocados are a good source of monounsaturated fat, which can help to regulate your cholesterol levels. They are also a good source of vitamin E, which is important for keeping your eyes healthy. In addition, they are a good source of fibre and various other vitamins and minerals.
5. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are a great source of protein and unsaturated fats, as well as various vitamins and minerals. Different nuts contain different levels of vitamins and minerals, so it is advisable to eat a variety. Keep in mind that nuts are high in calories, so it is a good idea to eat them in moderation. Also make sure to choose the unsalted variety, so that you do not consume too much sodium.
Legumes (such as lentils, peas, chickpeas, and soybeans) are low in fat, high in fibre, and high in protein. They also contain various essential minerals, such as iron and magnesium. For vegetarians, they also a great meat substitute. For non-vegetarians, adding legumes and using less meat in dishes such as stews and pasta bakes can contribute to creating healthier, lower-fat meals.
7. Whole grains
Whole grains (such as brown rice, oatmeal, barley, bulgur, and whole wheat breads) are full of fibre, protein, minerals, and vitamins. In particular, they are a good source of B-vitamins, which are important for energy levels and brain health, among other things.
Eating whole grains instead of refined grains (such as white bread, cakes, and pastries) also helps to maintain stable blood sugar levels and can help to prevent diabetes.
8. Extra Virgin olive oil
Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fat, vitamin E, and antioxidants. As a result, it promotes heart health, may help to reduce high blood pressure, and may help to fight inflammation in the body. Make sure to choose extra virgin olive oil to get the most benefits, as this is the purest and least processed, and therefore healthiest, form of olive oil.
9. Fermented foods
Fermented foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, kefir, tempeh, miso, and yogurt are high in probiotics (good bacteria), which help improve digestion, boost your immune system, and help reduce inflammation. The probiotics found in these foods also help your body produce and absorb other essential vitamins and minerals, such as the B-vitamins.
Garlic is full of antioxidants and is well-known for its anti-bacterial properties and its ability to boost the immune system. It can also help to reduce blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Some tips for healthy and mindful eating
Now that we’ve covered some examples of healthy foods and how they benefit you, it’s time to consider how to enjoy these foods in a healthy and mindful way.
Here are our tips:
Make it as easy as possible to choose the healthy option
If you have unhealthy snacks on hand, you’re most likely to choose them instead of the healthier options. So make sure that your kitchen is well-stocked with easily accessible healthy snacks such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts, and store them somewhere where they are easily visible. Also try to keep as few unhealthy snacks as possible in the house, and store these somewhere out of sight, so that you don’t reach for them automatically.
Do you feel tired and uninspired to cook a healthy meal at the end of a long day? And do you then feel tempted to choose take-out meals instead? Our tip for dealing with this temptation is to do the grocery shopping for a healthy meal in advance, while you still have some energy and motivation to cook. You then leave yourself little choice but to cook that healthy meal when it comes to dinner time.
Eat until you’re 80% full
Eating well is not only about eating the right foods. It is also about eating enough and not too much. While we mostly feel that we need to keep eating until we feel completely satisfied, this is not the best approach for managing portion sizes.
Our food takes some time to reach our stomachs after we have consumed it, meaning that if we keep eating until we feel full, we will have eaten too much and will feel uncomfortably full within 20 – 30 minutes after finishing our meal. The general rule of thumb here is to eat until you feel around 80% full, and not more.
Avoid distractions and eat mindfully
It might be tempting to eat in front of the television or while playing on your phone or computer after a long day. But if you are distracted while you eat, you don’t notice how much you are eating and you also don’t have a chance to enjoy your food. Rather put the devices away during mealtimes and focus on what you are eating. Take the time to eat slowly and to savour each bite. This way, you are more likely to feel satisfied after your meal without overindulging.
Eat dinner early
Eating a big meal before bedtime can lead to weight gain and can also make it difficult to fall asleep. Ideally, you should aim to eat dinner early and to go for a short walk after dinner to promote digestion.
Combine healthy eating habits with yoga for even better results
Eating well may be challenging, and combining it with yoga may make it easier for you to stay motivated and inspired to follow a healthy diet. Participating in a regular yoga practice may have the following positive effects on eating habits:
It increases mindfulness
Yoga helps you increase your focus and your ability to be in the moment. This increased mindfulness can be transferred to your eating habits, making it easier for you to focus on eating without distractions, tasting your food as you eat it, and paying more attention to how your body responds to the food you eat. In turn, this increases the likelihood that you will make healthy eating choices.
It strengthens your connection with your body and your body’s needs
Along with increasing mindfulness, yoga develops your connection with your body, allowing you to become more aware of your body’s needs. In the context of eating well, this strengthened connection with your body’s needs helps you make the right choices of what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat, based on what’s best for your own body.
It promotes consistency in making healthy choices
As humans, we have an inherent desire to be consistent in our actions and to behave in a way that is consistent with how we perceive ourselves. In the relationship between yoga and food, this is likely to translate into a desire to not undo the healthy benefits of a yoga session by following it up with an unhealthy meal or snack. Doing yoga regularly can therefore make it easier and more natural to make healthy food choices.
It reduces stress-induced or emotional eating
Yoga calms you and reduces stress levels, which leads to a lower likelihood of stress-induced or emotional eating.
It provides a community that supports healthy eating
When you participate in a yoga class, you are surrounded by other people who are also committed to improving their health. This creates a supportive environment in which it is easier to make healthy choices regarding food.
Would you like to learn more about the link between yoga and eating well? Or would you like to join a yoga class? Then click here to contact us.