It is universally well known that what you put into your body directly affects two things: firstly, how your body looks, and secondly, how well it functions. In today’s society, many people focus solely on the former by agonising endlessly over the appearance of their bodies, when the true importance of diet actually lies with the latter, and the impact of daily food intake on physical health. In the western world, we’re often exposed to a large variety of fast consumables and processed treats that make it all too easy for us to fall prey to the temptation of these delicious, convenient foods. While the majority of us understand that these saturated foods are extremely unhealthy, it can be difficult to consciously make better decisions when it comes to re-evaluating our everyday diets. If you’re seeking a way in which to improve your body’s fitness and wellbeing, understanding the correlation between a good diet and better health is your first step to boosting your physical, mental and even spiritual health.
Diet and Health
As aforementioned, the quality and quantity of your diet will always have a great impact on the way you feel, both physically and emotionally. Unhealthy foods that are high in saturated fats and cholesterol, and low in fibre and nutrients, can often make you feel groggy, irritated and lethargic, after providing you with an initial, short-lived burst of sugar-fuelled vigour. Consuming these foods on a regular basis can result in a much higher risk of a multitude of alarming diseases, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes, as well as certain types of cancer.
Healthy foods, on the other hand, that are chock-full of rich vitamins, minerals and nutrients, will work to boost your immune system, provide you with more energy, help you to deal with stress, and improve your overall mood.
A Better Body
The official dietary guidelines of the Australian Department of Health and Aging provide a helpful and comprehensive model of the ideal dietary standards that should be met. The guidelines declare that, in order for adults to achieve a healthy weight and maintain their body’s overall wellbeing, their daily food consumption should meet certain nutrient requirements, and their total energy intake should not exceed total energy expenditure.
In this way, having a large and varied diet is the best way in which to provide your body with all the natural goodness it needs to function at optimum levels. The key is to ensure that your regular food consumption covers the five major food groups. The foods in each of these five groups are packed with important nutrients and other beneficial dietary components that aid your physical and mental wellbeing in different ways.
- Bread, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles: carbohydrates, iron and thiamine
- Vegetables, legumes: vitamin A (beta-carotene)
- Fruit: a range of vitamins, especially vitamin C
- Milk, yoghurt, cheese: calcium and protein
- Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts: protein, iron and zinc
By eating a range of these foods on an everyday basis, drinking plenty of water and engaging in regular exercise, as well as by abstaining from consuming large amounts of saturated fats, sugars, salt and alcohol, you can ensure that your body stays in tip-top shape both inside and out.
Soothe the Mind, Heal the Soul
It’s not just your physical body that benefits when you actively make better food choices. What you eat can also strongly affect your mental and spiritual health, by influencing your energy levels, your sense of focus and your overall mood, even often dictating how well you handle stressful or difficult situations. Studies have shown that nearly two thirds of people who do not report daily mental health problems eat fresh fruit and/or fresh vegetables every day, while those who do report daily mental health problems tend to gorge on unhealthy foods such as potato crisps, chocolate, fast food and/or takeaway meals.
Our everyday diets have changed dramatically over the last sixty or so years, with researchers observing a far greater amount of fat within our foods due to modern methods of farming, as well as a heavily increased addition of additives and pesticides. Western diets today tend to contain far too many omega-6 fats, which can be found in cereals, eggs and poultry, and far too little omega-3 fats, which can be found in fish and oils. This imbalance has been implicated in several mental health problems, such as depression, schizophrenia and attention hyperactivity disorder.
The Final Word: Be Good to Your Body
Ultimately, people who work to ensure that their bodies are provided with the right balance of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates are likely to feel more calm, content and well-rested in general, as opposed to those who regularly consume fatty and sugary snacks.
All of us, at one point of another, feel those cravings for an instant sugary or salty fix, usually prompting us to reach for the nearest bag of crisps or chocolate bar. The next time the mean munchies set in, however, take a moment to consider if these kinds of foods are really going to make you feel better in the long run. With an informed understanding of how your daily food intake affects your physical and mental health, you can start to turn your unhealthy eating habits around, and restructure your diet to ensure that your body looks and feels its very best. For more information about other actionable health tips, be sure to check out the ever-growing collection of Compare The Market’s health and lifestyle guides.