3 Reasons to Include Nutritious Food in the Diet
Proper nutrition is a major contributor to good health. Good nutrition can boost your strength and energy, improve your quality of life, reduce stress, and extend your lifespan. Here’s why!
1. Eating healthy foods can prevent and manage disease.
- Heart disease
- Foods high in cholesterol, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium such as fast food and baked goods increase risk for heart disease. On the other hand, consuming foods high in fiber like whole grains and vegetables decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol. Lower LDL levels are associated with decreased plaque buildup in the arteries and a decreased risk for cardiovascular disease. Everyone starts to accumulate plaque during adolescence. If too much plaque accumulates, certain parts of your body like your heart and brain may be deprived of important nutrients resulting in a heart attack or stroke. Unsaturated fatty acids called omega-3 found in fish like salmon and tuna also decrease cardiovascular disease risk by decreasing triglyceride levels, blood pressure, and inflammation. Remember to supplement your healthy diet with regular exercise to further decrease risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Alcohol and excessive caffeine (coffee and tea) consumption may lead to increased risk for bone loss and osteoporosis. Alcohol decreases the absorption of vitamin D and calcium, which are nutrients necessary for bone growth. Caffeine has been shown to increase urinary excretion of calcium. Foods high in calcium and vitamin D, such as low or non-fat milk, leafy green vegetables (e.g. spinach, kale), soy beans, or fortified cereals can strengthen your bones.
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Similar to heart disease, foods high in saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, and calories increase one’s risk for Type 2 Diabetes.
- Research has shown that a Mediterranean diet improves insulin sensitivity thereby decreasing one’s risk for Type 2 Diabetes. A Mediterranean diet is high in fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. It also includes healthy fats found in olive oil, nuts, and fish.
- Some types of cancers
- According to the American Cancer Society, one third of all cancer deaths can be attributed to poor diet and physical inactivity.
- Yet again, increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and foods with omega-3 fatty acids (salmon and tuna) have been tied to decreased risk for cancer. The phytonutrients found in fruits and vegetables that give fruits and vegetables their color, texture and taste decrease the formation of carcinogens. A decreased intake of processed meat and red meat (beef, pork) has also been associated with lower cancer risk. So be sure to eat your veggies and get your protein from lean meat and plant-based sources!
2. Eating healthy food can help you maintain a healthy weight.
- Consumption of fruits and vegetables, as well as other foods high in fiber, helps you feel full and therefore can help prevent unhealthy cravings!
- Next time you reach for a snack, consider roasting a sweet potato or grabbing a handful of crunchy carrots instead of other unhealthy snacks like potato chips.
3. Eating healthy food can power your body for daily activities.
- Wholesome food provides vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fiber, proteins, good fats, and phytonutrients.
- Fruits and vegetables are the richest sources of antioxidants and phytonutrients. A variety of phytonutrients can be protective against diseases and give you a healthy boost in all kinds of ways. Check out the color chart to see what different phytonutrients can do for your body!
- The healthy sources of carbohydrates, protein, and fat mentioned above will energize you and give you all of the vitamins and minerals you need to keep your body functioning at an optimal level! If you consume a balanced diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean meat, and low-fat dairy, you may never need to take supplements. So, power your body and start the path to health! See Healthy Family Meals for some ideas to get you started.
Gadgil MD et al. The effects of carbohydrate, unsaturated fat, and protein intake on measures of insulin sensitivity: results from the OmniHeart trial. Diabetes Care. 2013; 36(5): 1132-7.
Liu H et al. Coffee consumption and risk of fractures: a meta-analysis. Arch Med Sci. 2012; 5: 776-83.
Liu RH. Health Benefits of Fruit and Vegetables are from Additive and Synergistic Combinations of Phytochemicals. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2003; 78(3): 5175-5205.
Okarter N & Liu RH. Health Benefits of Whole Grain Phytochemicals. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 2010; 50(3): 193-208.
Rose D & Connolly. Omega-3 Fatty Acids as Cancer Chemopreventative Agents. Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 1999; 83(3): 217-244.
The American Cancer Society, Inc. (2013). Lower Your Cancer Risk by Eating Right.