“Yessss! I completed my target of 10,000 steps today!” exclaimed my friend. “Don’t worry you’ll compensate for it by eating 2 burgers at lunchtime” I giggled. With the advancement in technology in the past few decades, science can do almost everything you could think of. It is no different in the field of fitness and health as well.
Our smartwatches nowadays can tell us almost everything, from our pulse rate to the number of steps we have walked. You would be considered mad if you explained this to someone who slept 3 decades ago and woke up today.
Even with such an advancement in technology, there is something that our fitness trackers have missed and it is of great value for our fitness. Yes, you guessed it correctly, it’s our diet. No fitness tracker can answer questions like what to eat, when to eat, in what quantity to eat, etc.
A proper diet is as important as exercise to maintain good fitness levels. And even if exercise is not your go-to thing, eating the right amount can make sure you remain healthy with just some physical activity like walking, playing an outdoor sport, etc.
Research shows that by avoiding just 100 calories a day, a woman can avoid the 1-2 pound gain most of them take on each year. If you want to lose 500 calories a day you can start by eating 200 calories less and shedding out the other 300 by exercising.
The change may seem small in short term but you’ll start noticing results within weeks of doing this without changing your diet much.
A healthy diet typically consists of nutrition-dense food from all major food groups including lean protein, healthy fats, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables of different types.
Following a healthy diet has several benefits including building strong muscles, protecting our heart health, preventing diseases, etc. Let’s look at some of the health benefits of a balanced diet.
Improved Heart Health
Heart attacks and strokes are some of the major reasons for death around the world. Some reports suggest that 80% of premature heart diseases can be prevented with lifestyle changes can like doing exercise and eating a healthy diet.
Eating a diet that reduces your blood pressure can keep your heart healthy. This dietary approach to decrease hypertension is known as the DASH diet which includes food that is healthy for our diet. The diet includes the following-
- Choosing fat-free or low-fat dairy products and eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Limiting saturated, trans fat and drinks and foods that contain high sugar
- Restricting sodium intake to less than 2300 mg, ideally 1500 mg per day, and increasing the consumption of sodium, magnesium, and calcium
Reduces the risk of cancer.
Eating foods that have antioxidants can reduce the risk of developing cancer. Many chemicals found in fruits, vegetables, and nuts act as antioxidants. Some foods that are high in antioxidants are raspberries, blueberries, dark leafy green vegetables, pumpkin, carrots, and nuts.
Having obesity can increase the risk of cancer and maintaining a moderate weight can help reduce it. A diet rich in fibers reduces the risk of liver cancer and one rich in fruits, vegetables, and fibers reduces the risk of colorectal cancer.
Well, sounds a bit surprising, isn’t it? But evidence suggests there is a close relationship between your diet and mood. A 2016 study found that a diet with a high glycaemic load may trigger depression and fatigue.
Foods like soft drinks, cakes, white bread, and biscuits increase the glycaemic load whereas vegetables, fruits, and whole grains have a lower glycaemic load. Now you know what food you should consume more during mental health problems like depression.
Improved gut health
The colon has plenty of naturally occurring bacteria that play an important role in metabolism and digestion. Certain strains of bacteria are also responsible for producing Vitamin K and B. These strains also help in fighting bacteria and viruses
Food with high sugar and low fibers increases inflammation in the gut. On the other hand food rich in fruit, vegetables, and whole grains helps the growth of good bacteria in the colon region.
Memory is an important part of everything we do around the world, even though much of the load has been shifted to technology, still, a lot of professions and fields require the use of Memory for their day to day work and the right diet can help you improve your memory for sure.
A 2015 study found that Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, flavonoids, polyphenols and fish help to protect against cognitive decline and dementia.
A healthy diet can help a diabetic person in the following manners.
- Managing blood glucose
- Keeping blood pressure and cholesterol within desired limits.
- Preventing complications of diabetes
- Maintaining ideal weight
Stronger teeth and bones
It’s no secret that an increase in calcium and magnesium level can make your teeth and bones stronger. Healthy bones can help you avoid issues like osteoporosis referring to a condition in which the body absorbs more bone tissues than it produces. This increases the risk of fractures, especially in the hips, spinal vertebrae, wrists, etc.
Various foods that are rich in calcium are low-fat dairy products, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, tofu, etc. Magnesium can also be found in various food items including green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
When I talk about the weight I try to be extra careful. Because nowadays in the name of body positivity, people are forgetting the health-related issues that come with obesity. I am in no way in favor of teasing or bullying someone for their weight but on the other hand, it is also necessary to spread awareness about what kind of problems people face because of being overweight.
Being overweight can increase the risk of problems such as heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, poor bone density, some types of cancers, etc. Many healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, and beans are low-calorie food items as compared to processed food. If you are confused about what should be the ideal weight for you, do a BMI or Body Mass Index test which can help you determine the ideal weight range for you.
Good quality sleep
Disturbed sleep patterns and insomnia are some of the most fast-growing problems in the modern world. People often find it difficult to have adequate sleep. Reducing the consumption of caffeine and alcohol can be very helpful in reducing sleep-related problems.
After looking at all the benefits that come along with a balanced diet, I am sure you are very much ready to implement transformational changes in your life so that you have lived a healthier lifestyle.
So here I am with some tips for you so that you know where to start.*
Eat lots of fruits and vegetables
It is recommended to at least add 5 portions of a variety of fruits and vegetables to your diet. It is not as difficult as it may sound. A 150ml glass of fresh fruit juice can be counted as 1 portion. You can add fruits into your cereals or keep your mid-morning snack as fresh fruits.
Cut down saturated fat and sugar
- Saturated fats: There are two types of fats that are saturated and unsaturated fats. On average, a man should consume no more than 30gm of saturated fats a day and a woman should keep it below 20gm. Saturated fats can be found in many food items including cakes, biscuits, cream, pies, butter, hard cheese, sausages, etc.
- Sugar: Regular consumption of food items that contain sugar can lead to problems like obesity, tooth decay, etc. Free sugars are sugars that are added to foods or drinks or are naturally present in honey, syrups, etc. This is the type of sugar you should avoid rather than the one found in fruits and milk. Free sugars are found in food items such as cakes, alcoholic drinks, sweets, chocolates, pastries, puddings, etc. More than 22.5gm of total sugar in 100gm is considered food high in sugar while the one with 5gm or less sugar per 100gm is considered low sugar food.
Don’t skip breakfast
Most people consider skipping breakfast as they think it can help them to lose weight. But it is wiser to take a healthy breakfast that is high in fiber and low in sugar, fat, and salt. A bowl of whole-grain lower-sugar cereal with milk and fruits can be a healthy breakfast.
Drink an adequate amount of water
How often in your busy schedule do you remember to drink water regularly? It is recommended to drink around 8 glasses of water every day in addition to the fluid you get from the fruit you eat. You should be drinking even more if the weather is hot or you exercise in any way.
*If you have any disease or medical condition don’t follow the tips as it is. It is recommended to ask your dietician or any other expert beforehand.