Benefits of a Healthy Diet
Reasons to Eat Your Vegetables
Eating a healthy diet is important. We constantly hear that we should eat more fruits and veggies, and limit our intake of processed foods. We hear that eating clean is good for our health, but we do not always hear the compelling reasons for why we should eat clean. Turns out, a diet that is rich in vegetables, fruit, lean protein, omega fatty acids, and whole grains can be extremely impactful on our health.
How Food Affects Your Body and Mind
Think about your body. Your brain is always running. Helping you breathe, think, and move your body. Even when you are sleeping, your brain is still working. Just like a fine-tuned car, your brain (and the rest of your body) run best when given premium fuel. Food is your body’s fuel. Eating high-quality food rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can help protect your body stressors that can cause cell damage. Unfortunately, the fuel that comes from processed foods and refined sugar and causes damage to your body that is not easily reversible. For example, refined sugar worsens the body’s ability to regulate insulin, promotes inflammation, and oxidative stress. Many studies have found strong correlations between diets that are high in refined sugar and impaired brain function.
Another reason why food is so important is that the stomach plays a huge role in both your physical health as well as your mood. The stomach is an organ that is older than the brain. A common nickname for the stomach is “your second brain” because your gastrointestinal tract is lined with millions of nerve cells, neurons, and neurotransmitters. In fact, 95% of serotonin is produced in the GI tract.
The function of the stomach is highly influenced by the presence of probiotics. Probiotics are the billions of good bacteria that make up your microbiome. Your microbiome helps protect you against harmful bacteria, protect against inflammation, improve nutrient absorption, and activate neural pathways between the brain and stomach. I guess that is why they say to trust your gut reaction. Fermented foods high in probiotics have been shown to improve your gut flora as well as have anxiolytic effects. Studies have shown that people who eat foods high in probiotics have a decrease in anxiety than people who did not consume any additional probiotics.
Take Away Message
There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to diet. Different foods affect people differently, the same way different medications work differently for certain people. Cutting out whole foods groups rarely work, and this is not necessarily the best way to better your health. Instead, pay attention to the way you physically and mentally feel after eating certain foods. The effect of food is not immediate, so try and pay attention the second or third day after trying different foods. Try adding new healthy foods to your diet. Or swapping some of your guilty pleasure foods for a healthier alternative. For example, if you normally pack potato chips for a snack, try swapping them for celery and carrots with hummus. Small changes can be big differences for your mental health and physical health.
To learn more, read this article from the Harvard Health Blog!