2020 and 2021 might go down in history as years of inherent contradiction for good nutritional habits. Nearly everyone is more concerned with their health than ever, but dealing with daily pandemic realities has too many relying on processed convenience foods — to their physical and mental detriment.
When life gets busy, it’s natural to look for easy, fast solutions to pressing problems like rumbling stomachs. However, if you want to feel your best physically and even emotionally, you need to fuel your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to function at its peak.
Here are five reasons why practicing good nutritional habits is essential even when things get hectic.
The food you eat can significantly impact your health. After all, everything you digest breaks down to its unique chemical components, including anything from hamburgers to prescription medications.
Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the U.S. and globally, and it draws few distinctions between ethnic and racial groups. It’s brutally indiscriminating.
One way to practice good nutritional habits is by reducing your red and processed meat consumption. A recent article published in JAMA found that a higher intake of either of these, or poultry, correlated to an increased risk of stroke, heart failure, coronary artery disease, and death.
A similar study out of Northwestern and Cornell University associated two servings of processed or red meat a week with a 7% increase in heart disease risk when compared to none at all. However, poultry and fish did not elevate the danger.
The bottom line? You should probably rethink that sandwich shop habit. If brown-bagging doesn’t work for you, opt for a vegetable wrap or a rotisserie chicken version instead of ham or salami.
Another way to practice good nutritional habits is to cut back on your sodium consumption. Salt forces your body to hold on to water to try to dilute it, pulling fluid into your arteries and veins and raising pressure. The increased pounding strains your heart muscle and can lead to ruptured vessels and heart attack.
Even if you avoid the salt shaker, it pays to read labels. Many commercial soup brands contain half or more of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of sodium, and some exceed the limit. Snack foods are apparent hiding places, but many processed TV dinners also add too much to improve the flavor.
Practicing good nutritional habits also reduces your risk of mortality from other causes. Do you still need another reason to opt for shrimp instead of steak on the barbie next time, grillmaster? Consider this: The World Health Organization (WHO) considers processed meats like ham as carcinogens and casts aspersions on red meat.
Sugar is notorious for increasing Type 2 diabetes risk, but white flour may also pose a threat. Many nutritionists refer to the latter as the “glue of the gut” because it slows down digestion without providing any useful nutrients or fiber. This stalled digestive process can lead to weight gain, further increasing risks.
Your body has to manufacture insulin to process sugar. If the amount of sweet stuff you eat exceeds your body’s ability to process it, you may develop insulin resistance, which can progress to full-blown diabetes.
If you have rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis, you might be very aware of the impact the wrong foods have on provoking painful flareups. However, foods that promote inflammation also increase other health risks, so it’s wise even for folks without these conditions to cut back on certain substances.
To practice good nutritional habits, try to cut back on the following inflammatory foods:
When you decrease painful flareups, you can move more freely. Physical activity reduces disease risk further, letting you create a positive, upward spiral of increasingly healthy choices.
Because avoiding the foods listed above helps reduce inflammation, it can also ease any aches and pains resulting from it. Some researchers who explore the gut-pain connection suspect that undiagnosed food allergies might contribute to less-understood ailments like fibromyalgia.
One way you can self-diagnose is to go on an elimination diet. Start by making a list of foods you suspect of causing problems. During the elimination phase, you’ll entirely cut these products out of your diet.
The reintroduction phase lets you know which substances cause the trouble. After two to three weeks, start consuming one of the problematic foods again while watching for signs like rashes and skin changes, joint pain, gastrointestinal upset, headaches, and fatigue. When you get an adverse reaction, you know you’ve found one culprit to eliminate.
If you think your diet can’t boost your mood, think again. Research on magnesium suggests that supplementing with this mineral works as well as a tricyclic antidepressant for easing symptoms in those with a mild to moderate form of the disorder. You can take a supplement or eat more nuts and seeds, which are naturally high in this nutrient.
Conversely, the wrong foods can leave you in a mental fog. When you eat a chicken-fried steak, for example, you create a twofold chore for your gut. Meat is tougher to digest, and flour slows the process. Your body has to direct so many resources to your stomach that your brain power starts to dim like a rolling blackout.
Practicing good nutritional habits is vital for the five reasons listed above. Take sensible measures to adjust your routine today.