Have you ever wondered? How do healthy foods affect my body? What do they do to my body? Why are they important? Well, you answer is right here! In this article, I will explain how healthy foods affect your well being! Most people know the benefits of healthy foods and healthy eating. However, only a few know how healthy foods can affect their health.
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Do we really need healthy foods?
Healthy foods can improve your health, its not a lie! The benefits are higher with moderate consumption of healthy foods. And also if they part of a balanced diet. Why? Because a balanced diet provides all essential nutrients needed for optimal health. These nutrients create a synergy between each other. And this synergy enables crucial nutrient-nutrient interaction. This interaction drives a healthy body.
You can use healthy foods to balance your diet easily. But its very difficult to balance a diet with unhealthy foods.
Yes! Healthy foods have an essential contribution to human wellness. However, no individual food works best alone. Why? Because no single food provides all the nutrients required by the body. For optimum health, healthy foods need to be incorporated into a healthy diet. And this healthy diet must be balanced. Balancing the diet alone is not enough. Because this diet should be supplemented with healthy eating habits, consistency and exercising. Without this combination all the benefits of healthy foods cease to exist!
Healthy eating habits and healthy foods
Healthy eating habits ensure that healthy foods are eaten correctly. Too little of dietary healthy foods can result in malnutrition. It can also cause nutrient deficiency. And all this negatively affects overall health. That’s not all. Too much of healthy foods also have negative effects on health. Healthy foods eaten incorrectly can easily become harmful to the body. Practicing healthy eating habits provides a balance. This balance ensures that only the correct amount and type of food is eaten.
Also read: 13 Healthy eating habits for your family
It must be understood that the effects of healthy diets are not instant. It takes time for your body to respond and reach optimal health. In this article we discuss how healthy foods can affect your health.
How healthy foods affect your health
Consumption of healthy foods affect our health in several ways. That is if the foods are eaten correctly in a healthy balanced diet. But, how exactly?
1. Eating healthy foods can improve your overall immunity and resistance to diseases
The body needs adequate and appropriate nutrition for it’s immune function. This can only be achieved through healthy eating.
The activation of the immune system requires energy. This energy is obtained from the diet or from within the body stores. The diet must provide 65% energy from healthy carbohydrates. Also 25% and 10% of the energy must come from proteins and fats respectively. The body must also build healthy energy stores as glycogen and healthy fats (brown fat?).
Also read: Why is weight loss slow?
Whole grains like whole wheat, oats rice and corn provide healthy carbohydrates. Also fruits and vegetables rich in dietary fibres can provide healthy carbohydrates. Healthy protein sources like nuts, legumes, fish and lean meat are also needed. The same for healthy fats.
Other nutrients needed
The amino acid arginine found in meat, nuts and seeds is needed for immune function. Essential amino acids are also important in optimal immune function.
Healthy foods rich in vitamin A and provitamin A are also important. These include the liver, fish, and yellow fruits and vegetables. Vitamin A and zinc help in proliferation and activities of cells of the immune system. Beans, nuts, whole grains and dairy products are rich in zinc.
Vitamin E offers antioxidant protection against oxidative damage. Immune responses produce oxidative free radicals that damage the body. Sources include wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds and oil, soybean oil, spinach and pumpkin.
Breastfeeding enhances the immune system of infants. Also vitamin D has a role in strengthening the body’s defence against infection. Because it acts as a hormone that stimulate immune cells. It also ensures proper differentiation of immune cells. Adequate sunlight is needed to produce enough vitamin D.
Micronutrient deficiencies can cause inflammation and accelarate aging. They are essential for a functional immune system. Fruits, vegetables and nuts are rich in micronutrients.
Fish oils, nuts, chia seeds, flax seeds and fish are rich in omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties. They also modulate activation of cells of the immune system.
To function properly the body needs healthy foods. These foods must at least provide essential amino acids, healthy carbohydrates and healthy fats. They must also provide vitamin A, vitamin E, Vitamin C and be vitamins. The minerals zinc, copper, iron and selenium. Deficiency in any of these nutrients weakens the immune system.
2. Healthy foods can ensure efficient healing and tissue repair
Healthy diets ensure healthier tissue repair and wound healing. Malnourishment results in slower wound healing and tissue repair. This reinforces the importance of the diet in healthy healing.
The amino acids arginine and glutamine are essential in wound healing. Healthy food sources of the amino acids include nuts, seeds, lean meat, fish and seaweeds. Arginine reduces the development of pressure ulcers. It also improves healing in the elderly. Glutamine is important in wound repair and immunity.
Vitamin C is also important in the wound healing and tissue repair processes. It is essential as an antioxidant to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. It is also important in the function of the muscle protein collagen. This makes it an essential part of the healing process. Rich sources of vitamin C include green leafy vegetables, citrus, red bell peppers etc.
The wound healing and tissue repair process also requires the amino acids proline and lysine. These are found in most healthy protein sources including lean meat, milk and sardines.
Adequate energy from healthy carbohydrates is required for wound healing and tissue repair. A healthy diet must provide adequate hydration. Water is an essential part of wound healing processes.
Healthy foods provide adequate nutrition for effective tissue repair and wound healing. Malnourished people take long to heal from injuries.
3. They improve heart health
Heart health has been a topic of interest to many in recent years. There are a lot of processed foods carrying heart health claims. But do they offer the benefits they claim?
The best way to improve heart health is through a healthy diet. Healthy foods consumed in moderation can be beneficial to health.
The Mediterranean diet is rich in healthy oils (olive), nuts and vegetables. It has been shown to reduce strokes in Caucasian males. Vegan inclined diets also have beneficial effects to heart health. Diets low in refined and animal foods reduce cardiovascular health risks. Whole grain diets also reduce cardiovascular health risks. The effects are dose dependent. Meaning the more whole grains consumed in balanced diet, the higher the benefits.
Cardiovascular health can be ensured by healthy foods. These include whole grain cereals, fruits, non starchy vegetables and legumes. Legumes and tree nuts are good for heart health. Avocado is also beneficial to cardiovascular health. This is because it is rich in healthy fats. Diets rich in omega 3 fatty acids have shown beneficial effects to heart health.
Heart healthy diets must be low in trans and saturated fats. They must also be low in sodium, sugars and refined carbohydrates. Diets rich in meat, sugar sweetened beverages and refined foods are also bad for heart health. High consumption of corn syrup increases LDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
Several diets can help prevent cardiovascular diseases. These include the dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH), vegan diets, and the Mediterranean diet.
4. Improving brain health
Healthy foods can influence mechanisms that maintain mental functions and health.
Healthy foods like chia and flax seeds, nuts, cold water fish and fish oils are rich in omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids help in supporting cognitive processes in the body. They also upregulate genes that maintain synaptic functions. Synaptic functions are responsible for reflex actions. Docosahexanoic acid (DHA) is the most abundant omega fatty acid in the brain. It is essential for normal brain functions. It’s sources are marine based foods. These include fish and shellfish.
Unhealthy foods rich in saturated fats can reduce cognitive processing. They also reduce risks of neurological dysfunctions. Saturated fats also play an important in onset of depression.
The flavonol quercetin is found in healthy foods. These foods include apples, honey, onion, green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits. Quercetin reduces learning and memory impairments.
Folate is an essential vitamin found in vegetables such as spinach. It is essential for brain functions. It protects against cognitive decline and dementia during aging. Folate deficiency in pregnant women results in an incomplete development of the nervous system.
The Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Vegetables and fruits can improve cognitive function in the body. A diet rich in vegetables and berries has neuroprotective effects.
Also read : Reasons why vegetables are good for you!
5. Healthy diets in disease prevention.
There is no doubt that a healthy diet as well as healthy foods help prevent diseases. Whole grain foods reduce risks for diabetes and obesity. This is because they have a low glycemic index. Which means they have a low impact on blood sugar and insulin levels.
Diets rich in unprocessed foods, whole grains, fruits, non starchy vegetables, nuts, legumes, plant based fats and proteins have beneficial effects in disease prevention. Such diets reduce risks of obesity and type 2 diabetes. They also reduce risks of cancers and cardiovascular diseases.
Consumption of healthy foods enables better disease prevention. Non starchy vegetables and fruits should make ½ of every meal. Added sugars must between 5 and 10% of total energy. Also the primary sources of carbohydrates must exclude refined foods. They should include healthy nutrient sources such as beans/legumes, vegetables and fruits. And also include whole grains.
A healthy diet for disease prevention should also include sources of healthy fats. These include sources of monounsaturated fats. Which include avocados, olive oil (extra virgin), and nuts. Healthy diets should also include sources of omega 3 fatty acids. These include chia seeds, flax seeds, cold water fish, fish oils and nuts. Omega 3 fatty acids help prevent cardiovascular disorders. They also help reduce cognitive decline and type 2 diabetes.
Plant based foods contain a lot of beneficial non nutrient phytochemicals. These help reduce risks of several diseases.
6. They can help improve your gut health
Healthy foods are good for gut health. They help improve beneficial bacteria populations.
Probiotics are live microorganisms consumed as food. These provide healthy benefits to the host. They also reduce inflammation in the gut. Examples of probiotics include those found in fermented foods, cultured milk and infant foods. They also improve gut health.
Prebiotics are substances consumed as or with food. These are usually in the form of indigestible oligosaccharides. Gut microorganisms utilise these oligosaccharides as food. They enhance barrier properties of gut. Also they improve the beneficial gut microbes of the consumer.
Plant based foods are also beneficial to gut health. The indigestible dietary fibres speed up the transit time of food through the gut. This enhances the diversity of nutrients that rich the lower gut (colon). This allows nutrients that would have been absorbed in the upper gut to rich the colon. These can then be used for nutrition by the gut microbes.
Healthy meals must be rich in dietary fibre. Fermentable dietary fibres can be fermented by gut bacteria. The fermentation produces short chain fatty acids. The short chain fatty acids have several health benefits. These include improving the epithelial integrity of the gut. They also have anticancer properties.
Plant based proteins sources like legumes, nuts and whole grains also improves gut health.
In addition non starch polysaccharides in healthy foods reduce risks of gut problems. They reduce risks of inflammation, diverticulosis, cancers, constipation and ulcers.
High intake of animal based foods increases risks of irritable bowel disorders. High salt diets are also not good for gut health.
7. Healthy foods can improve weight management
Extreme weight increases risks of death from chronic diseases. Healthy foods in a balanced diet help in weight management.
Being overweight is linked with increased risk diabetes. It also increases the risk for coronary heart disease and kidney problems.
Healthy foods like whole grains and non starchy vegetables can help in weight management. They can also ensure the maintenance of a healthy body weight. Healthy diets rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts and whole grains are low in fat. Some of them are rich in healthy fats. This lowers the risks of high blood pressure.
Healthy foods can ensure healthier weight gain in underweight individuals. Healthier weight gain can be done through fat free mass gain.
A healthy diet also helps in safe weight loss. If coupled with exercises, it can help in weight reduction. This reduces risks of eating disorders associated with weight loss.
A healthy weight is the first step towards reducing cardiovascular health risks.
For healthy weight management, make these foods part of the diet.
- Whole grain cereals
- Nuts (tree)
- Non starchy vegetables
- Cold water fish and fish oils
- High fibre foods
The diet must also be low in fatty meat cuts, refined and super refined foods and sugars.
Also read: Why is weight loss slow?
8. Healthy foods can help improve bone health
Healthy foods are essential in the development of a healthy bone mass. Calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D are essential for bone development. While adequate sunlight can help with vitamin D supply, calcium and phosphorus have to come from the diet.
A diet should provide adequate calcium and phosphorus. Also vitamin D in cases of limited exposure to sunlight. Correct quantities of the 3 nutrients can improve bone mass gain. This makes it easy to rich the Peak Bone Mass. Achieving peak bone mass in early childhood reduces osteoporosis risks later in life.
Healthy foods also enable adequate protein intake. This improves normal metabolism of the required nutrients.
Omega 3 fatty acids also help protect against loss of bone mass. The interaction between different nutrients reduces risks of bone fractures.
Proper bone health is only maintained by adequate nutrition. And healthy foods help provide the desired nutrients. The bone health diet should be an adequate source of :
Vitamins A, D, C, E and K
Minerals, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, fluoride, iron, zinc, copper and boron
It should also be low in sodium.
Some of the healthy foods good for bone healthy are:
- Low fat dairy products and milk
- Whole grains
- Poultry (non fatty pieces)
No single food improves bone health alone. However, a consumption of a balanced diet can help improve bone health.
9. Healthy aging and healthy foods
As human beings age the bodies start falling apart. They start losing the ability to resist infection, physical strength and cognitive function. It is therefore important to find ways to improve the quality of life at old age.
Vitamin E, vitamin B6, zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D and omega fatty acids are some of the nutrients that can help in healthier aging. Also calorie restriction diets and healthy carbohydrates have been shown to improve health. This is because they reduce inflammation. They also reduce oxidative stress. Both of which are problems faced in age related health deterioration.
A balanced diet low in calories can help improve the quality of life. It also enables better management and prevention of chronic diseases. Healthy protein and calcium sources improve tissue repair and bone health. Healthy diets can improve nutritional status in old age.
Some fruits like avocados can support healthy aging. They contain xanthophylls and other carotenoids with potent antioxidant protection. This protect DNA from oxidative damage. DNA damage is responsible for accelarated aging.
Diets for healthier aging must be rich in antioxidants. Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants. Therefore eating fruits and vegetables improves the quality of life.
Healthy foods play a crucial role in human health. Because they provide the nutrients essential for human survival. This improves the nutritional status of the body. However, no single healthy food can be beneficial on its own. Hence the need of a healthy balanced diet.