Let’s reverse the time clock a little and think about how man matured from being a raw-food-eating beast to being the fast-food maven that he is today. Back then, food was man’s pathway to survival; it satisfied his supreme need to live and flourish. Today, several centuries later, along with the great amount of ecological, technological and economical progress we have made, our palates have also evolved tremendously. The food choices of many of us have diversified beyond merely serving the purpose of nutrition and survival. Flavours and palatableness often take precedence over health benefits and nutritive value in determining the foods we eat. Unsurprisingly, our health suffers a huge blow making us more susceptible to epidemics such as cancer, stroke, cardiovascular diseases, and obesity. If you think your health is at an all time low owing to your poor dietary habits, here are five tips to help you improve your diet:
- Cut Down On The Refined Carbs And Sugar - Did you know that those “comfort foods” you rely on during stressful situations, in fact, do your body more harm than good? Modern diets that are rich in refined carbs and sugar are the underlying cause for many ailments. A high amount of refined sugar in your diet could increase your risk of developing schizophrenia and depression, a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry reports. An overdose of refined sugar in your diet can also put you at an increased risk for cardiometabolic diseases and hypertension. Refined carbs, contained in pasta, white bread, white rice, etc. are also hazardous to your health. They deprive your body of the necessary fiber, vitamins B, E, bran and germ while only providing starch, thus increasing the chances of insulin resistance and obesity. If you have a sweet tooth, try and stick to natural sweeteners like honey and enjoy fresh fruits instead of donuts and pastries. Opt for whole wheat bread, cereals and brown rice.
- Include More Fruits And Veggies In Your Diet – Do you abstain from these natural health boosters because they don’t satisfy your taste buds? It’s time you embrace their goodness and contribute to your overall health and wellbeing! Fruits and vegetables are indeed the best additions to your daily diet owing to their high nutrient content. They help keep you fuller for long periods while aiding your bowel movements, given their high fiber content. They are also rich in antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E that help your body fight oxidative damage thereby protecting you from cancers, cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative disorders, macular degeneration and premature aging. Being low in calories, they provide you with a much healthier meal or snack alternative as compared to fast or processed foods. Fruits and veggies are packed with other essential nutrients like RBC-boosting iron, wear-and-tear-fighting proteins and heart-healthy unsaturated fats. You can season your vegetable recipes with amazing cilantro like herbs and turmeric like spices. Not only do they help improve the flavour of the dish, but also add to its health-boosting properties because of their high antioxidant content.
- Say No To Trans-Fats - If the first thing that you order at the fast-food joint down the street is a plate of fries, you are piling on dangerous trans-fats that increase inflammation and lower good cholesterol. Trans fats are present in many packaged foods as they help increase their shelf-life. Higher intake of trans fat increases susceptibility to all-cause mortality, as per a study conducted by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Unlike trans fat, unsaturated fats like omega-3 and omega-6 improve heart health. Make sure to include healthy-fat-rich nuts, olive oil, fish, seeds, and avocados in your diet.
- Maintain A Nutrition Journal - One of the best ways to monitor your food intake is to maintain a nutrition journal. Prepare an elaborate dietary chart that includes a balanced mix of all essential food sources in their recommended quantities. Reach out to a certified nutritionist to help you devise a diet chart given your age, weight, height, BMI and other health concerns. At the start of each day, refer to the nutrition journal and as far as possible, avoid deviating from it.
- Skim Through The Food Labels Properly - Just because a food brand claims to be healthy doesn’t mean it is healthy indeed. For example, a lot of foods that claim to be low-fat contain excess sugar to make up for their lost flavor. You must make it a regular practice to read the labels of foods before buying them. Check for the amount of calories, dietary fiber, calcium, protein, iron, vitamins and other essential nutrients contained in the foods, and GMO’s. Keep a keen eye on trans-fats, saturated fats, sugar, and sodium content in foods.
Apart from what you eat, how you eat also makes a difference. Ensure that you thoroughly chew your food rather than gulping it down quickly. The digestive process begins right from your mouth, and the enzymes in your saliva aid better digestion, thereby preventing gut problems like gas. Drink plenty of water all through the day as it not only helps keep you hydrated but also helps your body flush out toxins. It’s never too late to adopt a healthy change in your diet and lifestyle.