We hear a lot about eating healthy and having the right diet. But there are often lots of different ideas about what this means. In general terms, it is about eating lean meats, eggs, vegetable and fruit as well as whole grain and dairy products. It means keeping high sugar foods to a minimum and watching those saturated fat and sodium levels. But what are the health benefits to having the right diet?
Be more productive
Think of the body as a bit like a car. Put the right fuel in it and it will run all day. Put the wrong fuel in it and it goes nowhere. The same applies to what you eat although not quite as extreme. For example, if you eat a balanced diet containing all the elements your body needs, you will be more productive. You will have the energy you need to get through the day with better focus and mental sharpness.
Your mood will be better
Mood can be connected to your diet because some foods can stimulate parts of the brain. Other situations such as a lack of food or too much sugar can have a negative effect on the brain. This can lower mood and make you feel sluggish and lacking in energy. Foods that have lots of vitamins and minerals such as fruit and vegetables can help to lower the risk of depression. Omega-3 is another nutrient that can help and is found in fish such as salmon as well as nuts.
Help with weight management
Weight issues are something that plagues many people and while diet isn’t the only cause, it can be a big factor. Reducing your body weight by 5-10% can lower the risk of high blood pressure, improve cholesterol and decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes. And there are lots of easy ways that having the right diet can do this. Swap a fizzy drink for a bottle of water. Eat a fruit salad rather than a plate of fried chips. If you are a big eater, try to reduce your portion size.
Overall health improvement
There’s no doubt that diet alone doesn’t cure every health problem. But it can help you feel better overall and therefore mean you are better equipped to deal with other health issues. The key is to get the vitamins and minerals that your body needs in order to keep it working properly. Five portions of fruit and vegetables a day are one way set an aim – this will give you a lot of the nutrients that your body needs to keep healthy.
Again, having a better diet isn’t going to guarantee a longer life but there is evidence that people who eat healthier do stay free of some diseases and therefore live longer. High cholesterol and high blood pressure are two examples. The Mediterranean diet is often used as an example of an approach that lengthens lifespans – it is rich in fruit, vegetables and omega-3 fats from olive oil and fish.
Neal McGaffin is the owner of Reform Studios in Belfast. As well as promoting daily exercise they also promote a healthy and balanced diet.