Food fuels our bodies. Everything you eat is digested by your body to extract energy and the required nutrients for optimal bodily functions. It’s therefore a fact that if you do not consume the right amount of the correct nutritional foods, your body might be challenged to do what it was meant to do.
Finding the right balance of foods is thus imperative if you want to take care of your body. It will not only make you feel healthy and energised in the short term, it will also affect your overall emotional well-being and ensure you extend the quality of your life as you grow older.
To completely understand how food impacts your body you’ll have to do a detailed analysis of the macro and micronutrients each food type provides. This can be quite a complex and timely exercise. Luckily, food specialists, healthcare practitioners and dieticians constantly provide insights and guidance online to help people, just like you, follow a healthy, balanced diet.
Here’s your introduction to nutrition, what it can do for you and how you can start living a healthier, happier life by filling your tank with nutritious, uplifting foods.
What is Healthy Eating?
Healthy eating is about eating a variety of foods that provide you with the correct amount of nutrients to ensure you remain healthy, your energy levels remain stable and you feel good. This can only be achieved it you strike the correct balance in proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, vitamins and water.
The right fats form the foundation for healthy brain development and memory, carbohydrates provide energy and fibre while proteins help your tissues repair and aids healthy metabolic and muscular function.
Don’t forget about the essential nutrients called vitamins and minerals. Not only do they help with energy, they are essential ingredients to a healthy nervous system, immune system, skeletal system and brain function. Failing to get all of the required micronutrients could lead to diseases like blindness and scurvy, but be careful of taking too much as this could also have harmful effects.
Following a healthy diet also means you limit the foods that might be detrimental to your health. Feeding your body with toxins and unhealthy take-aways will not only have a long-term effect on your feelings, it will also affect your energy and eventually create problems in your bodily functions.
We all have a relationship with food and if you plan to switch to a healthier diet, it’s important to understand how you view food and how you change that relationship through self-honesty and compassion.
It’s important to realise that the right food will make you feel rejuvenated, but eating the wrong foods can send false signals of short-term comfort to your brain which only leads to long-term weight gains and unhappiness. Sugar, too much salt (sodium), complex carbohydrates and refined foods are all some of the biggest culprits of obesity and disease.
Microwave meals tend to contain high levels of sodium and might include preservatives and chemicals to improve their shelf life.
You can start a nutritional plan today by getting a healthy balance of the right foods in your daily diet. If you are uncertain or have specific dietary challenges it’s always better to consult healthcare and nutrition specialists. They have the qualified knowledge to guide you in addressing your specific dietary needs.
The Benefits of Eating Healthily
Preparing healthy, nutritious meals can be a big ask for those of us with busy lives, but the benefits of eating healthy far outweighs the effort it takes. It is common sense that if you need food for certain bodily functions, being deprived of those could lead to disease.
Modern research and naturopathy also see food as an incredibly effective way of addressing certain ailments and eating yourself healthy. There are hundreds of benefits to healthy eating, but here are the highlights you can enjoy once you start to consistently follow a good nutritional plan:
Better physical health
- You’ll have better heart health as your cardiovascular functions and blood pressure improves
- The right intestinal bacteria help you produce vitamins C and K, but also effectively break-down food to ensure healthy food digestion and absorption
- Vitamin D, vitamin C, Omega-3 fatty acids and fish all aid cognition. Consume them for greater brain health and improved memory
- Getting enough low-fat dairy products, leafy green vegetables, whole grains and nuts will ensure you get a good dose calcium and magnesium which is essential to strengthen your bones and teeth
- Changing your diet can help to reduce the effects of diabetes, reduce your chances of getting cancer, minimize the onset of heart disease and boost your immune system
Improved moods and psychological health
- It is estimated that people who eat fast foods and refined pastries are 51 percent more likely to develop depression
- Healthy foods will make you feel energized, creating an improved view of yourself and the world
- Plant based foods and dietary fibre is important if you want to manage your weight, plus they regulate your hunger and make you feel fuller for longer
Nutritional Needs for Various Life Stages
The importance of good nutrition will remain pertinent, regardless of our age or the stage of life we find ourselves in. It is however important that we keep on fuelling our bodies with food that is relevant to the stage of development we’re in.
Children have different dietary requirements to teenagers, while active adults require a lot more food and nutrition than someone who’s older. A dietician will consider these aspects when they work out a meal plan for you and experienced nutritionists will be able to create meal-plans suited for the whole family.
Parents who want the best nutrition for their kids need to ensure they create meal plans that will provide nutrition for growth & development. Having healthy and tasty snacks around the house will prevent your teenager from grabbing a chocolate and spending time to make the little ones understand aspects around nutrition could help them their entire life.
As people get older they again have to adapt their eating plan. As we get older we become less active and our metabolism also starts to slow down. Keeping your meals the same will thus result in weight gains and the need for certain essential minerals or foods will increase due to the effects of ageing on our bodies.
Lifestyle, Exercise and Different Dietary Requirements
Every single professional who works in fitness, health or nutrition will tell you that continued exercise will ensure you maximize your health transformation plans. Exercise is and will always be fundamental in creating better well-being and starting a fitness regime will not only influence your lifestyle positively, it will also stabilise your hormones, reduce stress, build confidence, lose weight and eliminate the built up toxins.
Someone practicing for a marathon has completely different dietary requirements to an office worker with a light, daily gym routine. Our food programmes and nutritional requirements will not only be dependent on our age, but also in how we live our lives and the amount of physical activity we do.
Expecting mothers will also have completely different dietary needs. The internet is incredibly useful for general research around nutrition, but when it comes to you and your baby’s health we want to encourage you to always consult your healthcare practitioner.
According to internet research, pregnant women should avoid the following foods:
- Cold meats
- Some soft cheeses (like Brie)
- Certain types of fish and sushi
The last group of people with unique requirements around nutrition are those who have hereditary conditions, illnesses or potential risk for chronic disease. Diet and exercise will be definitive areas of your life a doctor will address, but be sure you seek professional advice before you decide to eat yourself healthy. A specialist will also be able to provide you with a meal plan, a list of foods you should avoid and the ones that will give your body a boost.
Screening Food Labels to Decide What You Put In
Knowing what you put in your body is an important part of ensuring you only get the nutrients you need while leaving out unnecessary, harmful elements.
South Africa, like the rest of the world, has strict regulations around how food producers need to label and classify foods. Labelling is a useful tool to protect consumers and ensures that you remain informed about the following details around the product you consume:
- Nutritional value
- Allergens (dairy, gluten, nuts, crustaceans etc.)
- Best before date
Some labels will also include storage instructions and the place of the origin, but it’s great to know that you have the power in your hands to only purchase the products that will be good for your health.
Counting Calories and Weight-Loss
If you want to lose weight, the first and most important part of your lifestyle to address could be your diet. Regular exercise will help your body to burn more fat, but there’s absolutely no point sweating it out if you keep on putting fatty foods, complex carbohydrates and sugar into your body.
There’s a wide variety of diet plans, innovations and interventions available nowadays and it’s important to know what’s involved and the potential risks to following one of these diets. Speaking to a qualified nutritionist will ensure you don’t harm your body in the process and one of the safest ways to start weight loss is to look and revise the amount of calories you consume daily.
Not all calories are good calories, so be sure you fill your diet with healthy calories and consume a variety of vegetables to get rid of that hungry feeling. They provide more nutrients than most salads, low GI energy reserves and good fibre.
A calorie deficient diet is one where you consume slightly less calories to what your body is burning. This way your body taps into its fat reserves for energy.
There are some conflicting views about this approach and sometimes it's better to address your overall eating habits before you decide to try a diet. Diets can make people depressed and a lot of times it's not sustainable as people feel unsatisfied and starved.
Finding Your Optimum Nutrition
Making an important change, like changing your eating patterns might be challenging at first, but once you start to see the effects it has on your life we’re almost certain you would think twice before ordering the next take out.
It’s important to realise that understanding your body is a continuous process. Test certain foods, leave others out, try and find out what works for you and what not. Some people might become miserable when they try a specific approach while others experience success and joy as they use the same process.
Whatever you do, listen to your body and its needs.
We hope you are armed with enough knowledge to start your journey to healthy and joyful living. And when in doubt, don’t hesitate to contact one of the Superprof Nutrition teachers for advice, guidance, and a structured nutritional plan that will suit your personal objectives.