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Healthier Food Choices Reduce Risk of Disease

04/12/2022

Turns out that daily piece of chocolate may not have been good for you after all. There has been mounting research that shows that when it comes to our daily diets, the food we consume has a more impact on our physical and mental health than we originally thought.  

And yet, the modern diet of most Americans is overloaded with far-from-healthy ingredients including saturated fats, partially hydrogenated oils, refined carbohydrates, and highly processed foods. When combined with a sedentary lifestyle, large portions, and high stress, this diet directly contributes to the escalation in obesity and conditions like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, gall bladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, respiratory problems, and certain cancers1. 

Our dietary habits can also contribute to mental health issues and eating disorders, including depression, anxiety, anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating. The National Eating Disorder Association estimates that 20 million women and 10 million men in the U.S. have suffered from an eating disorder at some point1. These disorders are often chronic and can have a serious impact on physical health. 

Adopting healthy nutritional habits, on the other hand, is shown to have a significant positive effect on our physical and mental wellbeing. Research supports that Americans whose daily diets include fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, beans, lean meats and omega-3-rich fish have a lower occurrence of major chronic and diet-related diseases including heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes2. 

 

How to Eat Healthier 

Embracing good nutritional habits, however, does not mean following a fad diet. Rather, it requires an approach that includes making healthier choices you can maintain for life. Start by taking steps to reduce your consumption of unhealthy and harmful foods and ingredients including fats, sodium and sugar, and replacing those items with healthy options. Here are a few tips to follow. 

  • Minimize your intake of saturated fats and industrially-produced trans-fat by steaming or boiling instead of frying your food, choosing lean meats, and avoiding pre-packaged baked and fried foods. 
  • Choose unsaturated fats found in fish, avocado and nuts, and in sunflower, soybean, canola and olive oils as a healthier alternative to saturated fats. 
  • Limit the amount of salt and high-sodium condiments you use when cooking, take the saltshaker off the table, eat fewer salty snacks, and choose food items with lower salt content. 
  • Avoid sugary snacks and drinks, including sodas, fruit juices and sport drinks. 
  • Replace unhealthy food choices in between meals with snacks like fresh fruit, raw vegetables, seeds and nuts. 
  • Aim for at least five portions and a wide variety of fiber-rich fruit and vegetables per day by serving them with every meal. 

 

Mindful Eating Makes a Difference 

There’s also a growing body of research suggesting that mindful eating can be an effective tool in reducing emotional and binge eating, as well as well as making healthier food choices3.  When we eat mindfully, we make a conscious decision to be present for every meal, and aware of all the physical and emotional senses we experience when enjoying our food. Tips for mindful eating include eating slower, putting away screens and distractions to focus on the meal, and paying attention to when we feel satisfied and full to avoid overeating. 

If you’re ready to adopt a healthier diet, your provider may be able to help you create a nutrition plan to support your success. Your health plan may also offer tools and resources for choosing, planning and preparing healthy meals as well as building healthy eating habits.  

For help in finding the right plan to support your nutrition and health goals, give us a call at (800) 467-4898. 

 

  1. https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/how-does-diet-impact-health
  2. https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2017/05/how-your-eating-habits-affect-your-health
  3. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/mindful-eating/

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