Think that eating is a way of nourishing your body.
Food is our “fuel”. If you want your body to function well, feel less tired, less anxious, less stressed, less sick, and more energized and healthy, you should start being conscious of the foods that you eat. Every time you eat is an opportunity to nourish your body and feel good. Before you eat, think, is this food going to satisfy my needs at this time?
Eating healthy means having a balanced diet with all foods from different groups on the right proportions, including a variety of fruit and vegetables daily; wholegrain cereals; lean meat or fish or soya (proteins); less saturated fats (butter, ghee) and instead having unsaturated fats, like olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocado and oily fish); drinking plenty of water and avoiding high sugar, high fat and salty foods.
We all know that eating healthy is good for us, for our health. But we often forget the reasons or ignore them and we always come back to the old bad eating habits.
In this post, I will give you the 8 top health benefits of eating healthy. And I hope by the end of this article you will feel empowered to start taking daily action towards healthy eating.
Looking after your physical health is key to support your overall health and wellbeing, including your mental health.
To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep the mind strong and clear.”
The eight top health benefits of eating healthy
1. To prevent chronic diseases
Adults who eat a healthy diet live longer and have a lower risk of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. Healthy eating can help people with chronic diseases manage these conditions and prevent complications. (1)
Obesity is a health condition manifested when one has excessive body fat accumulated. Usually, it is caused by unhealthy eating habits, high consumption of high sugar and high fat products (calorie dense foods) and lack of physical activity. Obesity increases the risk of other chronic diseases, like hypertension and cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and certain cancers.
Hypertension is a condition where the blood pressure is higher than normal and that can cause stress on the veins and cardiovascular diseases. This is often caused by excessive abdominal fat and a diet high in salt. This can be reversed, by losing weight and reducing salt intake.
Diabetes is a condition where the body is resistant to the action of insulin, the hormone responsible for taking the sugar from the blood to the cells. Obesity can cause resistance to insulin and diabetes. A healthy eating diet can prevent and reverse diabetes.
Cancer, including endometrial (uterine) cancer, breast cancer in postmenopausal women, and colorectal cancer are related to diet. Obesity and an unhealthy diet can increase the risk of cancer. Some foods have antioxidants properties, meaning they are capable of combating free radicals, molecules that have the potential of interacting with our cells and causing damage, originating from cancer. Foods with the benefits of antioxidants are: berries such as blueberries and raspberries, dark leafy greens, pumpkin and carrots, nuts and seeds.
2. To keep a healthy weight
As we get older, our metabolism slows down. This means we spend less energy than we spent before (when we were younger). This is due to the loss of muscle mass that naturally occurs with aging. “After age 30, you begin to lose as much as 3% to 5% per decade. Most men will lose about 30% of their muscle mass during their lifetimes.” (2)
Some people start watching their weight go up as they get older and don’t know why.
To revert this situation, we should keep active, doing some resistance training exercises and also maintain a healthy diet.
3. To have an immune system functioning well
A health balanced diet with a variety of foods is supportive of a normal function of the immune system (3).
There isn’t any food that can “boost” immunity but there are many nutrients that can help support your immune system including copper, folate, iron, selenium, zinc and vitamins A, B6, B12, C and D (3). All these vitamins and minerals can be obtained from a healthy diet, with foods from all groups. Vitamin D is the only one that apart from the food we need solar exposure to activate it, at least 20 min a day during mid-morning / afternoon.
4. To have a healthy gut
One of the reasons we should eat healthy is to have a healthy gut.
Our gut is home to millions and millions of bacteria. There is a balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria that is important to maintain in order to have a healthy gut. High fat, high sugar foods will feed the “bad” bacteria, they will increase in number (more than that “good” bacteria) causing imbalance in the gut and inflammation in the area, increasing the risk of certain conditions, like cancer.
Fruit, vegetables, pulses and wholegrains, are rich in fiber, and will feed the “good” bacteria and these, in return, will produce some metabolites important for our health, like vitamin K, vitamin B and short chain fatty acids. These components can help fight against some viruses and harmful bacteria.
Other way of improving gut health is consuming probiotics, fermentable foods or drinks, like These fermented foods are rich in probiotics: yogurt, Kimchi, sauerkraut, miso and kefir.
5. To have strong bones
Bones are made of protein fibers filled in with calcium and other minerals to create a hard structure. Bones are always changing in response to our lifestyle. During childhood and early adulthood they develop their strength but from our mid-30s onwards our bones start to lose calcium slowly, causing bone thinning. (4)
A bone-friendly diet and lifestyle is useful at any age to strengthen bone, or minimize age-related bone loss. (4)
To protect your bones, make sure you consume calcium and vitamin D foods (dairy foods, eggs, healthy fats and daily sun-exposure); eat a healthy balanced diet including at least 5-a-day fruit and vegetables; eat enough protein - aim for meat, fish, dairy or vegetarian alternatives (like tofu or pulses) twice a day.
6. To have a better memory
A Mediterranean diet, which is characterized by healthy unsaturated fats (olive oil, fish, and nuts) has been linked to lower rates of both dementia due to Alzheimer's disease.
The Mediterranean diet includes fruits and vegetables, whole-grain bread and cereal, beans and nuts, olive oil, very limited red meat and consumption of fish high in Omega-3. These foods help improve the health of blood vessels, reducing the risk for a memory-damaging stroke.
7. To sleep well
Some people experience sleep apnoea which occurs when the airways repeatedly become blocked during sleep.
Some of the risk factors are obesity, drinking alcohol, and eating an unhealthy diet.
Reducing alcohol and caffeine intake can help a person gain restful sleep, whether they have sleep apnoea or not.
8. To the good health of the next generation
We as adults have a great influence on the health of the next generation. A lot more than we think. It all starts before conception. The diet of future parents can influence the development of a baby in the uterus. Also, when the baby growns up, he will imitate the behaviour of his parents. If a family has a healthy environment at home, cooking healthy balanced meals and eating together, they will set up the example of healthy eating habits to the children, and more likely they will maintain those healthy eating habits in adult life.
A study found that children who regularly ate meals with their families consumed more vegetables and fewer sugary foods than their peers who ate at home less frequently.
In addition, children who participate in cooking at home may be more likely to make healthful dietary and lifestyle choices. (5)
Eating healthy can reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, certain cancer, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases, but if you already suffer from any of these conditions, eating healthy can help manage these conditions and in some cases, reverse them.
Eating healthy can also improve your bone health, gut health, immune system, your sleep and prevent memory loss.
We can all live healthier, with better quality life, if we eat healthier. Furthermore, we can influence each other by creating healthy environments at home, by buying healthy foods, and cooking balanced meals together.
Where do you start? In the next blog post I will give you a plan of action to start your healthy eating journey.
If you need help with your diet, book now a free consultation with me, by clicking here.
Joana Jardim, UK Registered Dietitian, MSc Clinical Nutrition, Mom of a baby boy
(3) British Dietetic Association, accessed March 2020 https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/covid-19-corona-virus-advice-for-the-general-public.html
Hi, I'm Joana, a Portuguese registered dietitian in the UK. I am passionate about helping others achieving their health goals.