That “we are what we eat” works in more ways than one. The way we eat is not only reflected in the health we carry, but it also shows how much we really know about healthy eating.
In fact, food and health are full of myths and half-truths that we often can not distinguish due to lack of experience or knowledge.
A first cause of this ignorance is the amount of improvised diets that tend to proliferate. There are so many who announce surprising methods to lose weight but with so little scientific support, that they end up imposing ideas that go against the basic principles of a good diet.
Get to know this simple guide with all the options to eat healthy, backed by science.
Why is there something to eat healthy?
This question seems simple logic, but it does not hurt to dwell on it a little to strengthen our awareness about it.
There are many benefits of a healthy diet, and everything seems to indicate that science discovers more and more each time. These are some of the most common, backed by scientific research:
- Decreased risk of serious diseases, such as cancer or heart conditions.
- Improve physical and brain functions.
- Develop performance in sports activities.
- Protect cellular function at all levels.
Basically, eating well affects all aspects of our life.
What are the keys to healthy eating?
1. Balance calories to get enough energy
Properly balancing calories for energy and not gaining weight is one of the most difficult topics for beginners.
Diets have followed an exaggerated tendency to belittle calories, reaching daily calorie counts, useful but sometimes exaggerated. As if staying below the average consumption will automatically guarantee us to be healthy.
The truth is that calories should not be eradicated from the diet. There is only what to play with them.
Do you want to lose weight? Reduce consumption by consuming more protein and vegetables, so you burn more calories than you consume regularly. If instead you want to gain some weight, increase calorie consumption, but never eliminate them. Losing weight just to eradicate calories is risky and counterproductive.
2. Familiarize yourself with macronutrients
The priority macronutrients for humans are carbohydrates, fat and protein. These are some things you should know about them:
- Carbohydrates: provide 4 calories per gram. We find them in starchy foods like potatoes, pasta or bread. Also in sugar, juices, legumes and dairy products.
- Proteins: provide 4 calories per gram. Fish, beef, chicken, dairy and eggs are some traditional sources, although there are also vegan options such as tofu.
- Fats: provide 9 calories per gram. Some sources are oils, butter, cheese, nuts and certain seeds.
3. Know the basic micronutrients that you need
The micronutrients are foods that need smaller doses, but are also necessary. Some of them are:
- Magnesium: affects about 600 cellular functions, among which are the production of energy, cellular functions and muscle contractions
- Potassium: controls the blood pressure, fluid balance and the function of the muscles and nerves.
- Iron: besides taking oxygen to the blood, iron has other benefits such as improving brain functions.
- Calcium: it is the key component in the formation of teeth and bones. It also brings contributions for the heart, muscles and nervous system.
- All the vitamins from A to K have contributions for every cell and human organ.
Although we need different doses of each micronutrient, a balanced diet, with complete and varied foods, should ensure a healthy intake of all the micronutrients we need.
What foods should we eat to eat healthily?
The term “complete foods” encompasses all natural, unprocessed foods that contain a single ingredient.
It is advisable to consume this type of food 80% and 90% of the time we eat, since they are rich in nutrients and low in calories, in relation to their overall nutritional contribution.
The opposite of these foods is processed food, artificially processed foods, without real nutritional values and full of empty calories.
Which foods are the most healthy?
Based on everything said so far, we suggest some foods that you should base your diet on:
- Vegetables: they are low in calories and provide important micronutrients and fiber.
- Fruits: natural candies, full of micronutrients and antioxidants.
- Meat and fish: are the largest sources of protein for humans.
- Nuts and seeds: are the healthiest sources of fat you can get, and provide several important micronutrients.
- Eggs: they are an incredible cocktail of protein, healthy fat and micronutrients.
- Certain dairy products: milk and yogurt provide protein and calcium, essential at any age.
- Beans and legumes: they contain fiber, protein and micronutrients.
- Drinks: hydration is important, especially when it comes from natural water.
- Herbs and spices: very varied and high in nutrients.
What foods should we avoid?
It is not necessary to eliminate any food from our diet; however, there are some that it is better to avoid most of the time:
- Sugar-based products: these products, especially some sugary drinks, are linked to type 2 diabetes.
- Trans fats: trans fats or hydrogenated fats cause diseases of any kind, for example, heart disease.
- Refined carbohydrates: white bread and other refined carbohydrates artificially open the appetite, generating obesity and metabolic disorders.
- Vegetable oils: despite the general belief, these oils are harmful and reduce the levels of omega 3 and omega 6 , causing multiple problems.
- Processed low fat food: these products are usually sold as “healthy alternatives”, when in reality they usually contain sugar in piles to make them know better.
How to control the portions of what we eat?
Not exceeding the number of calories is a basic factor to eat and live in a healthy way. The following are just some practical methods to control our food portions:
- Use visual strategies, such as smaller plates, to reduce appetite.
- Measure the portions of what you eat according to the size of your hand.
- Concentrate on minimizing portions of foods such as cheese, nuts or fatty foods.
In food as in life, we usually assume commitments for which we are not truly fit. It follows that many times we end up abandoning our diets to be too “extreme” in practice.
Here are some ideas for prolonging a healthy diet for longer:
- Before going on a diet or changing your diet, ask yourself if you are able to maintain it for at least two or three years.
- Allow yourself some candy or other. Provided you base 90% of your food on whole foods and eat small portions, there is no need to completely eradicate any type of food.
- Stay away from extreme diets that are risky and difficult to follow, because they prevent you from generating healthy eating habits in the long term.
- Supplements of vitamin D, omega 3 or beta alanine are particularly useful to keep the body in tune while changing eating habits.
One last tip is to implement healthier complementary habits, such as exercising regularly and improving sleep habits. If you want to make a change in your health, this must be integral to be able to prolong it for a longer time.