What Do You Eat and How to Make Your Diet Healthy?
What has the most impact on your health? Is it genetics inherited from your parents or your chosen lifestyle? The experts are unanimous on this point: the more healthy and varied your diet is, the more often you exercise, and the more effort you make for the early prevention of the diseases, the better your health is. And your diet is one of the most critical parts of your self-care. Whether you like it or not, you are what you eat, and the older you become, the more true this statement is. Chronic diseases impacting longevity are affected by your diet in one way or another. Your daily diet can significantly increase or decrease the risk of heart disorders, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. And the issue is not only about maintaining a healthy weight (although it is also vital for preventing deadly diseases). The functioning of all your bodily systems depends on having enough useful proteins and carbs, fresh vegetables and fruits, as well as healthy fats.
What do we eat?
If you live in a developed country, then, most likely, your diet is healthier than the one your parents had. During the last fifty years, steady and consistent economic growth in most countries has provided citizens access to more nutritious and diverse foods. Instead of affordable and satiating but unhealthy quick carbs, today, the central part of the daily ration is proteins (as a rule, at first, it is more affordable and cheaper pork; lately, it is chicken, beef, and fish). The portion of vegetables and fruits increases the percentage of healthy fats with decreased consumption of trans fats. But even in the wealthiest countries, there is too much sugar and salt and not enough fiber, fresh vegetables, fruits, and beneficial fats.
What have you got on your plate?
The recommended dietary standards developed by experts of the World Health Association are pretty simple. To make a long story short, the diet should be not too heavy (the calories consumed should not exceed the calories spent) while remaining diverse. Thus, the number of fats should not exceed 30% of all consumed food. Meanwhile, saturated fats should not exceed 10% of all foods consumed, while trans fats should not exceed 1%.
The percentage of sugar in the diet should not exceed 10% if you just want to maintain your health and less than 5% if you are looking for additional benefits. Simply speaking, if you want to decrease the risks of diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, and Alzheimer’s disease. You should also control your salt consumption. According to the WHO recommendations, the daily salt dosage is 5 grams per day (or 2 grams of pure sodium). Cutting on salt is also beneficial for preventing stroke and heart disorders.
Finally, it is essential to eat enough fresh vegetables and fruits. The recommended daily intake is 400 grams (or five portions) per day. Meanwhile, only those vegetables and fruits low in starch should be counted. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava, and other starch-containing vegetables do not help to replenish fiber deficit. Meanwhile, if you are prone to metabolic syndrome or diabetes, you should control the consumption of these vegetables.
A healthy diet should include proteins, and all the better if represented by fish, poultry, and lean meat. In a nutritious diet, proteins should account for 25% and healthy carbs for 45% of total daily caloric intake.
In praise of fats
Even though people are getting overweight more frequently (the countries, members of the World Health Organization, have even created a strategy to decrease the number of overweight children and adults with disorders induced by extra weight by 2025), most of us are short of fats. First of all, this relates to healthy unsaturated fats. Fatty acids (with Omega-3 being among the most well-known) should account for one-third of our diet. Besides, the most significant part of these fats should be represented by unsaturated fats of vegetable and animal origin in the ideal situation. There are lots of beneficial fats in fatty fish, nuts, vegetable oil (rapeseed, sunflower, olive, and soybean oils), as well as in avocado. Your body also needs saturated fats, found in large quantities in fatty meat, dairy products, palm, and coconut oil but in much lesser amounts. It is recommended to include no more than 10% of these in your daily diet. As to trans fats found in bakery products, processed cheese, margarine, and spreads, it is advisable to consume less than 1%.
These are indications that your diet lacks fats
- You cannot lose weight
To burn fat quickly and efficiently, your body should have enough fat. It may not sound very logical, but this is precisely the case. If you want your diet and workouts to be effective, you must have products rich in unsaturated fats with every meal. Otherwise, your weight will be stuck, and it will be very difficult to lose.
- You are always hungry
Fats help us feel satiated for longer. Besides, your body needs fats for normal functioning. If it doesn’t have enough fats, your body will make you eat, again and again, trying to receive the necessary fats. Don’t be an enemy to yourself and eat enough fatty foods.
- You have a dehydrated skin
Is your skin terribly dry, even when you don’t spend too much time under the sun, have a normal humidity level in your home or office, and do you use lotions and moisturizers regularly? The reason may be the lack of unsaturated fats. The natural fat “bubble” protecting each skin cell prevents it from losing moisture. Naturally, when your body lacks fats, this bubble is destroyed, and the skin becomes dry.
- You are short of energy
You most likely didn’t know that 70% of our heart’s energy is received from fats. If you don’t consume enough of this substance, the heart has no resources to work. The blood flow slows; the body switches into economy mode and can even get sick. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Act now!
- You have issues with concentration
Your brain is another part of your body that depends on fats, and it is 60% fats, which is why your brain needs a portion of unsaturated fats daily for successful and effective work. If you want to stay not only healthy and handsome but also clever and sharp, make sure that your daily diet includes enough products rich in unsaturated fats such as olive oil, nuts, and nut-based oils, as well as fatty fish.
- Vitamins that you take don’t work
Do you take multivitamin supplements but don’t see the results? It could happen if you don’t get enough fats. The thing is that your body cannot absorb the essential A, D, E, and K vitamins without fats. If you want your supplements to work (or your body to absorb enough vitamins from foods), you should eat unsaturated fats.
- You are constantly cold
The thin layer of subcutaneous fat helps your body regulate the internal body temperature and adapt to the changing environment. If your fat layer is not enough, you should increase it with the help of particular products.
- Having enough fiber is essential
Vegetables and fruits are healthy not only because they are rich in vitamins and useful substances, and the insoluble fiber contained in fresh vegetables, fruits, and beans is equally important. Fiber regulates the normal functioning of the gut (literally, making it push the foods, thus maintaining the gut’s health). It also helps to maintain safe blood sugar levels (as it regulates the speed of absorbing sugars from foods) and cholesterol (food fiber binds cholesterol coming into the small intestine from foods and prevents it from getting into the bloodstream).
The recommended daily dosage of food fiber is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. If you aim at fulfilling WHO recommendations by eating 400 grams of vegetables and fruits per day, getting at least half of the recommended portion of carbs from bean vegetables, and eating nuts and seeds, then, most likely, your body will get enough fiber.
You are short of fiber if:
- You have issues with your gut
If you have bowel movements less than three times per week, it may be a symptom of a severe deficit of fiber in your diet. Dietary fiber is not digested and, for this reason, helps transport the food through the gut, stimulating defecation. If you regularly feel heaviness in the stomach and don’t have a regular stool, you should eat more vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, and whole-grain foods.
- You gain weight
Food fiber is a beneficial substance for those concerned about their shape. Foodstuffs rich in fiber need to be chewed more, and you will get the signal that you are full earlier and eat less as a result. Also, fiber literally fills the stomach, helps you feel satiated, and doesn’t let you overeat foods rich in calories. So if you have started gaining weight, you should check if you have enough fiber.
- You are constantly hungry
One of the surest ways to know that your diet is unbalanced is to check if you constantly feel hungry shortly after meals. If you eat enough fiber, it helps you feel satiated for a long time. But if you are always hungry, most likely, you are short of useful substances. Instead of filling your hunger with fatty foods or quick carbs, eat a portion of beans or boiled broccoli.
Is meat your friend or your foe?
As mentioned above, proteins, including animal proteins, should account for not less than a quarter of your food intake. When the chicken, fish, and lean meat are stewed or boiled without large quantities of oils and salt, they are quite safe and healthy. But how much meat can you eat without affecting your health?
Last year, one researcher analyzed more than 800 studies that examined possible links between meat consumption and cancer development. As a result, the research author has concluded that people who eat at least one portion of red meat per day have a higher risk of colorectal cancer of 18% and a higher risk of pancreatic cancer by 17%. Besides, processed meat such as sausages, salami, and bacon were found to be the most dangerous.
Fortunately, experts note that the correlation is not too strong, so you don’t need to quit your morning eggs with bacon once and for all. The key is moderation. Thus, according to the School of Nutrition Science and Policy of Tufts University experts, safe consumption is one to two portions of processed meat per month and one to two portions of fresh meat (which wasn’t frozen, processed, or preserved).
Are all meats equally bad?
Nope, there are practically safe meats, including lean meats and chicken tenders or beef tenders. Meanwhile, more fatty meats, rich in cholesterol, increase the risks of heart disorders or diabetes. Therefore, it is recommended to pick less fatty meat and avoid processed meat, or, at least, decrease its consumption.
The way how meat is cooked is crucial. The higher the cooking temperature, the more the health risks are. When we overcook the meat, burn it on the grill, or open fire, this creates dangerous substances that can change your DNA and cause cancer.
Are we what we eat?
Yes, to a large extent. In the future, science will possibly offer a universal and simple diet that would satiate you, satisfy all your bodily needs, and provide you with a portion of pleasant sensations similar to those you get while eating your favorite food. But before that happens, you should take care of your health by keeping an eye on what and how much you eat. Meanwhile, it is not too difficult. All it takes is changing your diet for a healthy one. To gain an additional ten years of an active and healthy life is definitely worth it.
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