There is so much emphasis on fad diets nowadays and people are frequently talking about the newest workout trend. These things can be exciting and are fun to try. The trick for maintaining wellness and health, for life, is to find what works best for you. This requires patience because it takes time to have your body adjust to a new diet and workout routine and then it takes time for your body to show the progress of these changes. I encourage you to try different things. Try different workouts. Try different ways of being physically active. Try different diets. This will help you find what is best for you.
However, as far as diet is concerned, adjusting your meal plan too much can cause serious health problems. You see what you eat impacts your body, every single square inch of your body, all the way down to your cells. Let’s discuss a little biology 101. (Don’t worry I am not a biologist, so I will keep this simple). As a living organism we are made up of cells. These tiny little life sources contain many parts, including DNA. DNA, without getting too complicated, is the roadmap that provides the directions to live, to be you, and to be human. DNA, although tiny, is what contains your uniqueness, your ability to breathe, your ability to think, and your ability to live your life. DNA is always replicating and reproducing in our cells to make more cells. As long as we keep making cells then we can continue to live a healthy life. What you eat will contain chemicals, nutrients, and products that will be metabolized down to your DNA. Your DNA needs food and will use these chemicals, nutrients, and products (healthy or not) to continue replicating and reproducing. It has been said before, you are what you eat!
Some foods contain nutrients and products to help DNA continue to grow in healthy manner. However there are also foods that can destroy and damage DNA. Literally there are foods that will change your DNA, and this will increase risk for heart disease, cancer, blood disorders, and speed up the aging process. Cells will be damaged, although cell death and cell damage is a natural process, you do not want to speed up this process. What causes danger is when cells become mutated and rather than die they work to replicate the mutated cells. This may be a slow process in the body, however, in the form of some illnesses and disease the health implications become more evident.
What you eat can slow down the aging process. Food can actually heal the body from illness. What you eat may not cure your illness, but it could improve your health. What you eat can reduce the risk of disease and illness in the future. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring nor does it have to taste bad. Eating healthy is as simple as adding some foods and spices to your diet. Consider adding these things to your diet to help fight aging and improve your health.
- Fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that can slow down cells destruction. They are also associated with reduced heart disease, cancer risk, and disease. Strive for 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Try adding 1/2 of blueberries to cereal or oatmeal for breakfast, a banana mid morning will keep energy levels up, add a cup of broccoli to your lunch, an apple mid afternoon will help avoid that 3:00pm crash, and eat asparagus with your dinner. Sadly french fries are the most consumed “vegetable” by American children. Not knocking potatoes or French fries, but other fruits and vegetables offer better health benefits.
- Fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that only they can provide. They provide the type of nutrition that cannot be obtained from a supplement or vitamin. Try eating orange fruits and vegetables (carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, cantaloupe, and apricots) to improve the health of your eyes. That is not just a myth, carrots contain nutrients that contain the same properties needed for your eyes! Eating green and yellow fruits and vegetables like melon, avocado, kiwi, green beans, and spinach are associated with decreased cancer risks. Onions, mushrooms, potatoes and turnips lowers bad cholesterol. Blueberries, blackberries, and eggplant improve memory and reduce the effects of cell aging. Peppers and apples reduce risk of cancer and improve heart health. Eat a rainbow for wellness and health!
- Rather than cooking with butter try adding olive oil. Do not be dismayed that oil is a fat. We need fat in our diet. Cooking with oil will help protect cells from damage, and oil is associated with decreased heart disease risk.
- Nuts and flaxseed are another great fat source with added health benefits. Walnuts, soy, flaxseeds, and beans contain nutrients to lower heart disease risks.
Perhaps eating vegetables, nuts, and beans is not your favorite thing – never fear there are things you can do to spice up your food that will help decrease adverse health complications.
- Not only will many herbs and spices add a nice flavor to your foods but they offer health benefits as well.
- For example garlic has chemical properties associated with decreased cancer risk. Evidence suggested that properties of garlic fought against tumor growth and lowered risk of heart disease. Garlic is easy to add to most foods. Simply buy a bulb, crush, and add to meats or vegetables for a flavorful and healthy dish.
- If garlic is too overwhelming add onion, chives, or leeks to meats and vegetables. Research has demonstrated these additions can reduce risk of heart disease.
- Another simple spice to add to your diet to improve the health benefits of your food is cinnamon. Cinnamon can be added daily and adding cinnamon has been associated with decreased inflammation and decreased blood clotting. In other words cinnamon will improve your immune system and can help keep the heart healthy by keeping blood clots from developing. Another perk of cinnamon is that it helps with metabolism and research demonstrated it helped the body process carbohydrates. This is important for the risk and management of diabetes because it will help blood sugar levels remain stable. Cinnamon can be added to toast, cereal, oatmeal, coffee, and tea. All that is needed for health benefits is 1/2 tsp.
- Rosemary is an easily found herb that can be quickly added to foods. Rosemary will improve food flavor and is associated with decreased cancer risk. Try seasoning meats with rosemary.
Do not fall for the belief that dairy is bad. Dairy is a fat, but again, fat is needed in the diet. Here are some dairy options to consider adding to your diet for improved health.
- Yogurt contains probiotics and probiotics (a bacteria needed for digestion) helps keep the colon and digestive system healthy and working properly. Many yogurts contain high sugar amounts in order to improve taste. However it is easy to keep a healthier version and still the enjoy the taste. Add peanut butter – peanut butter makes everything better. Or add microwaved frozen cherries, strawberries, or blueberries to a plain non-fat yogurt. Adding granola or nuts will give the yogurt a nice taste and a crunch.
- Drink milk because it contains calcium to keep bones strong.
And if you are still not sure you will enjoy the healthier food options discussed, try eating chocolate.
- Chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, is associated with decreased risk of heart disease. Chocolate contains chemicals and nutrients that helps arteries to improve blood flow and heart strength.
- Chocolate, however, should be eaten with caution. This does not give you permission to binge on chocolate. Eating chocolate in moderation provides a health benefit. It is easy to binge on chocolate due the association of chocolate and the pleasure receptors in the brain. In order to avoid overeating chocolate use mindfulness while eating. Have a seat in a relaxed area with limited distractions. Enjoy the taste of the chocolate as you eat it. Remaining mindful while eating chocolate will decrease the likelihood of overindulging in chocolate. Calories may need to be replaced elsewhere when chocolate is consumed and strive to eat 3-4 oz of chocolate a week.
Carbohydrates are not bad either. Carbohydrates are necessary for metabolizing food and for maintaining and growing muscles. Carbohydrates are helpful for health in the following forms:
- Carbohydrates contain fiber. Look for foods that contain about 2.5 to 4.9 grams of fiber. Fiber helps reduce risk of heart disease, reduces inflammation, and helps with digestion.
- The problem with fiber and carbohydrates is that Americans may be consuming types that are more difficult for the body to process and metabolize and increase blood sugar levels rather than stabilize.
- Oats and beans are high in fiber, have improved health benefits, and will also help you feel fuller longer.
- Quinoa is a grain not only high in fiber but tons of healthy nutrients. Quinoa is easy to eat instead of rice.
- Eat whole grains to reduce the risk of heart disease. There are many foods that claim to contain whole grain. However Americans are still not consuming enough. Look for food products that list “whole wheat flour”, “whole oats”, or “whole grain corn” first. Wheat bread or brown bread may not contain sufficient whole grains so choose breads carefully by reading the ingredients.
You do not have to eat chicken and broccoli at every meal to find health and weight loss. Health and weight loss can happen by simply adding fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, fats, and whole grains to your daily meals. To be healthy does not mean you need to cut out foods you enjoy, to be healthy means to eat various foods, eat more colorful foods, and eat all foods in moderation.