How many times have you heard the saying, "You are what you eat"?
You know your diet impacts your health. But have you ever wondered how exactly it improves your health? How does what you put into your body prevent certain life-threatening illnesses like heart disease, stroke, diabetes and osteoporosis?
Here are a few explanations:
Healthy eating prevents obesity – the number one nutritional reason for disease.
Obesity is a major risk factor for many conditions, like type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, stroke, heart disease and more. Eating foods loaded with sugar, fats and calories can add extra weight to your body, weakening your bones and making your organs work harder. This automatically puts you at a higher risk for health problems down the road.
Weight gain results from an imbalance between how much energy you take in and how much you expend. Even small amounts of excess weight can increase your risk for disorders such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and cancer.
An unhealthy diet can increase the risk of some cancers. Overweight and obesity are associated with at least 13 types of cancer, including endometrial (uterine) cancer, breast cancer in postmenopausal women, and colorectal cancer. These cancers make up 40% of all cancers diagnosed.
Certain nutrients affect certain parts of the body.
Without enough calcium, your bones can become unhealthy, brittle and weak. This makes you more susceptible to osteoporosis. Therefore, a diet that is high in calcium can help prevent osteoporosis. The same holds true with saturated fat and cardiovascular disease. Too much saturated fat in your diet can lead to high cholesterol and high blood pressure, two major risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Two of the leading causes of heart disease and stroke are high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol. Consuming too much sodium can increase blood pressure and the risk for heart disease and stroke. Current guidelines recommend getting less than 2,300 mg a day, but Americans consume more than 3,400 mg a day on average.
Over 70% of the sodium that Americans eat comes from packaged, processed, store-bought, and restaurant foods. Eating foods low in saturated fats and high in fiber and increasing access to low-sodium foods, along with regular physical activity, can help prevent high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Healthy eating improves the mood, which in turn boosts physical activity.
If you’re happy, you’re more likely to be active. Eating the right foods can help you be happier, therefore leading to more bouts of healthy exercise. Since regular physical activity is a necessity for disease prevention, healthy eating therefore helps in the equation.
Healthy diets boost “good” cholesterol and decrease unhealthy triglycerides.
This directly impacts risk of heart disease, stroke, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and high blood pressure by helping your blood flow smoothly. The more healthy foods you eat, the better your “good” cholesterol levels will be, helping to prevent disease.
There’s no denying the health benefits that come from nutritious diets. Incorporating a healthy diet into your lifestyle will automatically reduce your risk for serious, life-threatening diseases, so why not give it a try?