10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Diet Right Now

by Marixie Ann Obsioma, MT, undergrad MD on August 21, 2019
Last updated on May 23, 2021

Our daily food choices greatly affect our health. A healthy diet is an important part of leading a healthy lifestyle. Along with exercise, it can help you reach and keep a good weight, reduce your risk of chronic conditions, and promote overall health. In this article, we’ll look at the top benefits of a healthful diet and the best tips to promote it.

fruits and smoothies

The Impact of A Healthy Diet on Health

Unhealthy eating patterns have contributed to the obesity epidemic in the US. Approximately 33.8% of adults and 17% of kids and teens aged 2-19 are obese (1). Even for people who have a healthy weight, an unhealthy diet is often associated with major health risks like hypertension, heart disease, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer. By making smart food choices, you can help protect yourself. Eating healthy can help you get enough nutrients to keep your body active, strong, and healthy.

Benefits of A Healthful Diet

There are several benefits to eating healthfully:

1. Weight Loss

Losing weight can help decrease your risk of chronic illnesses. If someone is overweight or obese, he or she has a higher risk of developing heart disease, poor bone density, type 2 DM, and some cancer. If you would want to lose weight, you must reduce your daily calorie intake. Keeping a healthful diet free from processed foods can help.

Fiber is one element that is very important for managing weight. Plant-based foods are rich in dietary fiber, which helps people feel full longer. One study found that a fiber-rich diet and lean proteins can help in weight loss without the need to count for calories (2).

2. Decreased Cancer Risk

Unhealthy eating habits can cause obesity, which increases your risk of developing cancer. Weighing within a healthy range may help reduce this risk. The American Society of Clinical Oncology said that obesity contributed to a worse outlook for cancer patients (3).

Fruits and vegetables can help! Experts found that a diet rich in fruits decreased the risks of cancers of the upper gastrointestinal tract (4). A fiber-rich diet has helped patients with liver cancer (5). Fiber, fruits, and vegetables can help prevent colorectal cancer (6).

Several phytochemicals present in vegetables, fruits, nuts, and legumes work as antioxidants, which help prevent cell damage that may lead to cancer. Through trials in humans were not conclusive, results in animal studies showed that some antioxidants can decrease the incidence of free radical damage linked with cancer (7).

3. DM Management

Eating a healthy diet can help diabetics to lose weight, manage blood sugar levels, keep cholesterol and blood pressure within normal limits, and prevent possible complications. It is very important for diabetics to control foods high in salt and sugar. Avoid fried foods rich in trans and saturated fats.

4. Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention

Over 92 million people in the US are affected with at least one type of cardiovascular disease (8). It has been said that as much as 80% of cases of premature heart disease and stroke is preventable through lifestyle changes, which includes exercise and a healthy diet (9).

Vitamin E has also been found to be helpful in preventing blood clots, which is a cause of heart attack (10). You can get high levels of vitamin E from vegetables, peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and sunflower seeds.

Removing trans fat from the diet will also reduce the levels of your LDL or “bad” cholesterol. Lowering blood pressure is also essential for the heart. Limit your salt intake to 1,500 mg daily. Salt is present in many processed foods. These products must be avoided to help lower your blood pressure.

5. Healthy Bones and Teeth

A healthy diet with adequate amounts of calcium and magnesium is necessary to keep your bones and teeth strong. This is vital in preventing osteoarthritis and osteoporosis during aging.

Include calcium-rich foods like low-fat dairy products, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, legumes, tofu, cereals, and canned fish with bones in your regular diet. Magnesium is abundant in leafy green vegetables, whole grains, seeds, and nuts.

6. Enhanced Mood

Evidence suggests that a healthy diet can uplift one’s mood. Researchers found that a diet with a high glycemic load, which often includes refined sugars found in cakes and sodas, may worsen symptoms of fatigue and depression (11). Lowering glycemic load by switching to a healthy diet consisting of whole fruits, vegetables, and grains may greatly help.

7. Better Memory

A healthy diet may help prevent cognitive problems and dementia. One study named nutrients and foods that can help protect against these conditions. Vitamins C, D, E, flavonoids, polyphenols, omega-3 fatty acids, and fish were found to be very beneficial (12).

8. Improved Gut Health

There are naturally occurring bacteria in the gut that fights harmful microorganisms and helps in digestion, metabolism, and production of vitamins B and K. A diet high in fat and sugar and low in fiber will alter these gut microbiome, causing inflammation.

To maintain gut health, one must switch to a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. These provide a mixture of prebiotics and probiotics that will support the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Fiber also facilitates regular bowel movements, which can help prevent diverticulitis and bowel cancer.

9. Enough Rest and Sleep

Several risk factors like alcohol, obesity, and eating an unhealthy diet, can disrupt a good sleeping pattern. Limiting alcohol and caffeine intake can help promote a night of restful sleep.

10. Early Exposure to Good Food Inspires Healthy Eating in the Future

Kids learn from the adults around them, and parents who model good eating habits tend to pass these on. Experts found that kids who regularly eat with their families tend to eat more vegetables and less sugary foods (13). Also, kids who help in home cooking are more likely to make healthful dietary and lifestyle choices.

Switching to a healthy diet can go a long way and it is easier than you think. There are several quick, positive ways to improve your diet.

Quick Tips to Help Improve Your Diet

1. Create A Meal Plan

Before the week starts, make a sample menu for your breakfast, lunch, and dinner for each day. A list of healthy snack options would be great too! Having a written plan will help you buy more efficiently, enjoy more variety, and lose or maintain a healthy weight.

2. Track Your Consumption

To avoid consuming more energy than you expend and becoming obese, it is very important to know how much you eat on a daily basis. The use of a calorie counter can be helpful.

3. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

You surely have heard this a thousand times, but eating more fruits and vegetables daily is indeed one of the most valuable dietary habits one must practice. These natural products contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. You’ll get a wide variety of nutrients for optimum health. Make your plate as colorful as possible by adding more varieties. If you cannot eat them straight, try them in salads, smoothies, soups, and desserts.

4. Avoid Saturated Fat

Saturated fats are greatly associated with the development of heart diseases. They increase bad cholesterol levels. Avoid saturated fats by getting lean cuts of meat, removing visible fats, and forgoing high-fat dairy products. Also, instead of adding meat as the main constituent of your meals, try other healthy sources of protein.

5. Say No to Trans Fat

These chemically altered fats are abundant in processed and fast food products. Avoiding fast foods and pre-packed foods like cookies and cakes can go a long way.

6. Invest in Omega-3 Oil

Omega-3 oils are effective anti-inflammatory agents which help protect the heart, lubricate joints, and maintain good mental health. These are abundant in seed oils and oily fish like mackerel, sardines, and herring. Include two portions per week of food rich in omega-3 oils.

7. Hydrate

Water is vital for good health. It is needed in most metabolic reactions in the body. Dehydration causes fatigue and poor concentration. Aim for at least 8 glasses of water per day. Increase your water intake by re-filling bottles several times daily, drinking herbal teas, and eating juicy fruits like watermelon.

8. Limit Your Salt Intake

Too much salt can cause high blood pressure and eventually, blood clots. Most salts are hidden in processed foods like ready to eat meals and canned soups. Cut down on these products to lower your salt intake.

9. Go Wholegrain

Whole grains contain more nutrients than refined grains because they have bran and germ. They contain phytonutrients, vitamins B and E, and both soluble and insoluble fibers. People with healthier hearts tend to eat more whole grains.

10. Eat More Fiber

Ideally, you must eat 18 grams of fiber daily. You can do so by eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, pulses, and legumes. Fiber helps protect against constipation, diverticulosis, and bowel cancer. Just make sure to drink plenty of water too for better bowel movement and metabolism.

Bottom Line

Whether your goal is to simply lose weight or to improve systematic health to avoid chronic diseases, it is very important to invest in a healthy diet. It is not as hard as you think. Small changes on a regular basis can go a long way! Start with the tips mentioned above!

References

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