10 reasons you should care about what you eat NOW!
"You are what you eat" is a cliche for a reason.. What we eat has a big impact on both our short and long-term health. This a big reason we should all care about what we eat now, rather than when we are sick. If that's not convincing enough, here are 10 reasons why you should care about what you eat NOW!
1. Enhance your Energy:
It seems that the minute I graduated college I started feeling old. Not in the dramatic “oh no I’m 22!” sense, but more in terms of overall energy. Fatigue hit hard and fast and only worsened with the start of my job. While enhancing my diet did make considerable improvements in my overall wellness, once I totally cleaned up my diet (sans grains, food sensitivities, and excessive alcohol) while supplementing any gaps in my lab work, I began to regain my energy and feel amazing again!
2. Manage your Mood:
There are loads of articles attributing exercise to increased moods, which is definitely a positive notch for increasing (while no overdoing) exercise. However, diet definitely has its affects in mood, as well. Eating sufficient antioxidants and tryptophan (found in non-starchy vegetables, citrus fruits, and protein) can improve mood by decreasing inflammation (3). Also, ample water intake has also been shown to have a positive effect in mood (4). Therefore, eating a diet rich in non-starchy vegetables, fruits, protein, and sufficient water can help boost your mood!
3. Optimize Antioxidants:
Antioxidants help scavenge free radicals in the body caused by external toxins (smoking, alcohol, car exhaust, stress, poor nutrition). This helps fight against adverse health effects such as cancers and heart disease by activating Nrf2, which helps enhance detoxification (5). Antioxidants also have been shown to have a significant improvement in memory and mood (3). Antioxidants are found in non-starchy vegetables, fruits, red wine, tea, nuts, and dark chocolate. It is important to intake a wide variety of these foods in order to better protect yourself against adverse health effects such as cancer and heart disease.
4. Watching your Weight:
Aside from looks, your weight can greatly affect how you feel.. mentally, physically, and emotionally. A healthy diet will help control a healthy weight where you can feel physically strong and active while also easily being able to do all of the activities that you enjoy with your friends and family. While I am a FIRM believer of fit and beauty at every size, if you are feeling uncomfortable or physically limited by your weight, now would be the perfect time to start making dietary changes.
5. Winning your Work Outs:
“You cannot outrun a bad diet...” this is not said to de-emphasize the importance of physical activity, but instead to prioritize the need for a healthy diet in order to enhance your work outs. I used exercise as an excuse to gorge on Mexican food in my youth. Since I began optimizing my diet, I have actually seen improvements in terms of weight loss with muscle tone and gain. Protein will help build muscles while carbohydrates provide quick energy and fats provide long-term energy to get through a work out. However, finding the right ratio is the most important part. Too many Americans already eat enough protein to maintain or build muscle with the right weight training exercises. Too much protein can cause weight gain as well as dehydration. Also, too many or too few carbohydrates can cause weight gain or weight loss. It’s all about finding the right ratio! (2)
6. Improved Immunity:
The gut is the first line of defense for your immunity. Think about the fact that your GI track is the only part of your internal body that is constantly subjected to the outside world (food, drink, bacteria etc). High inflammatory foods can cause a breakdown of the gastrointestinal barrier which can cause certain foods and bacteria to make their way into your circulation. This can cause hidden food allergies, which can then go on to cause a whole slew of adverse health effects (see bullets 9 and 10). Improving your gut health and decreasing GI inflammation can help aid against not only colds but long-term adverse health issues, as well. Eating lots of antioxidants, organic fruits and veggies, plus anti-inflammatory grass-fed meats can help decrease overall inflammation and calm down the storm that can occur within our guts! The Paleo Mom (my hero) does a great job of explaining what a leaky gut is and why we want to prevent or heal it here.
7. Successful Sleep:
Do you struggle with falling asleep or staying asleep? Your diet may be playing a big part in that. There are some big hormone players that make a difference in how soundly we sleep. Some foods prevent tryptophan while other foods enhance the working power of serotonin and melanin (6). We need a healthy mixture of these hormones in order to promote adequate sleep. Certain nutrients, such as magnesium, can also cause issues with adequate sleep. While managing these nutrients aren’t always doable without support from a functional medical provider, changing your diet can be a step in the right direction. Utilizing fresh fruits and vegetables and lean protein will help promote tryptophan and are also full of b vitamins, which help promote serotonin and melanin to help ease you into a restful night sleep (6).
How many of you have family members with chronic diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, or even Alzheimer’s and dementia? These are some of the leading causes of death in the U.S. The good news is these diseases can be managed or even prevented with the use of food. Focusing on real food like protein, vegetables, and healthy fats while limiting sugar, processed foods, and unhealthy fats will help keep your vitality for years to come.
9. Hidden food allergies could be causing SHORT-term health issues:
Do you regularly get colds? Do you have chronic sore throats, hoarseness, or even nosebleeds? Do you get seasonal allergies year after year? All of these things could be attributed to hidden food sensitivities. I, myself, grew up with random issues that I now look back on and realize were attributed to eating foods that my body hated! This included a geographic tongue, chronic sore throats and hoarseness (I eventually had my tonsils removed in junior high), random spurts of GI upset, and even some urinary incontinence (typically while tumbling as a gymnast/cheerleader). (1)
10. Hidden food allergies could be causing LONG-term health issues:
Obvious symptoms of food intolerances include gastrointestinal distress such as abdominal pain, cramps, diarrhea, constipation, nausea etc. It can also cause more severe GI issues such as Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and Irritable Bowel Disease. Not only does long-term consumption of foods that you may be sensitive to cause GI distress but it can also cause other chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, mental health issues (depression, anxiety, ADHD, panic attacks), Neurological Issues (epilepsy, migraines, multiple sclerosis), and even pulmonary, renal, and urological issues. (1)
There are probably another 100 reasons why it is important to start caring about what you are eating NOW including garnering high nutrients from your food, achieving adequate vitamins for substrates, and even protecting against radiation exposure..
Gaby, Alan R., MD. Nutritional Medicine. Alan R. Gaby, M.D., 01/2011. VitalBook file.
J Am Geriatr Soc 63:886–892, 2015. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jgs.13386/citedby
Strasser B, Gostner J, Fuchs D. Mood, Food, and Cognition: The Role of Tryptophan and serotonin. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care: January 2016 - Volume 19 - Issue 1 - p 55–61 doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000237
Munoz C, Johnson E, McKenzie A, Guelinckx I, Graverhold F, Casa D, Maresh C, Armstrong L. Habitual total water intake and dimensions of mood in healthy young women. Appetite 92 (81-96). 2015. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2015.05.002
Prasad Kedar. Simultaneous activation of Nrf2 and elevation of dietary and endogenous antioxidant chemicals for cancer prevention in humas. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 35 (2) 175-184, 2016. DOI: 10.1080/07315724.2014.1003419
Peuhkuri K, Sihvola N, Korpela R. Diet promotes sleep duration and quality. Elsevier Nutrition Research Vol 32 (5) 309-319, 2012. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2012.03.009