We are constantly bombarded with various information telling us what to eat and what not to eat, but how much does what you eat actually impact your health?
It can be easy to plead ignorance and choose convenience over researching and composing a healthy diet, especially when we lead such busy lives. But it is becoming more and more evident that what we put into our bodies has dramatic effects on every aspect of our wellbeing, from our physical and hormonal health to our life-spans.
Here we explore just how your diet can affect your long-term health.
Avoid serious illness
Eating well can heavily reduce your risk of developing chronic, severe health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes and even some forms of cancer. Aside from helping to prevent obesity, which increases your chances of having health complications in itself, a healthy diet free from sugars and processed foods reduces inflammation in the body – a common risk factor for many undesirable conditions and diseases.
If you already suffer from poor health, focusing on improving your diet is a powerful tool. For some long-term conditions such as gout, switching your diet can significantly reduce your symptoms.
A poor diet can be lacking in vital vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function properly. Without deliberately incorporating fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein sources into your diet it can be easy to become deficient in certain nutrients, such as calcium, iron and immunity preserving vitamins. Without adequate amounts of these essential nutrients, your immune system will be less effective, meaning you will be more susceptible to common illnesses such as colds and flu.
Typically, Western diets are high in red meats and sugar, with less than optimal amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables. This imbalance disturbs the healthy microorganisms in our guts and can lead to an inflammatory response throughout our bodies which actively suppresses our immunity. Eating foods to boost immunity can also help to relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), excess gas and stomach discomfort.
Extend your life
Switching from a typical Western diet to one rich in legumes, whole grains, nuts and fresh fish over red or processed meats has now been proven to be able to increase your life expectancy by up to 13 years.
The Mediterranean diet is considered to be one of the healthiest ways of eating for both optimal health and longevity. By eating unprocessed foods, you allow your body to absorb the maximum amount of beneficial nutrients and avoid the refined sugars, saturated fats, chemicals and preservatives used in processed foods. These are known to be detrimental to health as they are more likely to cause weight gain, increased levels of the bad type of cholesterol and high blood pressure.
In contrast, a mostly plant-based but sometimes pescetarian diet appears to be optimal for delivering a rich supply of nutrients such as iron, zinc, vitamins, calcium and healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
It’s never too late to start living healthier
If you are looking to the future, there’s no time like the present to start making healthy changes to your diet to help prolong your health and vitality long-term. Don’t forget to also include exercise into your lifestyle, which is equally as important as diet for maintaining health.