It seems these days that science is constantly revising what nutrition truly means. In the 1930s, people believed smoking cigarettes was beneficial to one’s health. Flash forward to the 1980s when people were told eggs were a major contributor to cholesterol-related diseases. Most recently, scientists are warning that diet soda is actually worse than regular soda. But science is also coming up with some incredible new discoveries regarding health and nutrition. So, just what is nutrition?
Poor nutrition and chronic disease go hand in hand. The reason for National Nutrition Month is to help people understand what good nutrition is and then begin a healthful eating plan, with the goal of preventing disease and improving quality of life. What is a healthy eating plan? It’s simple, actually. There are five food groups that need to be present on your plate:
In addition to preventing disease, good nutrition also enhances beauty and health, but for many people, the hard part is actually getting the right foods, in the right quantities, onto the plate. Some easy ways to incorporate all five food groups into your daily meals are:
- Buy pre-cut fruits and veggies from the grocery store and add a few to every meal.
- Keep pre-washed salad greens in your fridge, and add them to every meal.
- Add a slice of whole-grain toast to your meals.
- Popcorn is a whole grain. Pop some for a snack!
- Make dinner once, but make enough for it to be used for another meal.
- Choose healthy snacks like mixed nuts and dried fruit, cut veggies, whole-grain crackers and cheese, or beef jerky.
- Make berry smoothies with low-fat milk.
- Don’t be afraid to incorporate canned meats into your diet — chicken and tuna from a can make a great protein-rich addition to snacks and meals.
If you think that’s all there is to nutrition, there are actually many other components involved.
The second step in good nutrition is exercising — moving your body more. Exercise has numerous benefits. It helps a person maintain a healthy weight, strengthens bones, reduces the risk of heart disease, improves mental health and mood . . . the list goes on and on. Thus, exercise paired with proper eating elevates a person’s overall health, and when a person’s health is elevated, so is their quality of life.
That’s right — the beloved act of sleeping is actually imperative to proper nutrition. Did you know not getting enough sleep may inhibit a person’s ability to lose weight, even if they are eating a nutritious diet and exercising? In addition, scientific studies have shown that people who do not get enough sleep have larger appetites because their bodies produce more leptin — an appetite-controlling hormone. Seven to nine hours of sleep a night is recommended, so turn that TV off a little earlier and let your body and bed spend some quality time together.
Incorporating cutting-edge science into your daily nutrition routine may be the key to achieving the best results possible. Lately, there have been some pretty incredible breakthroughs in cellular health. Redox signaling molecules, the tiny molecules that signal when a cell is old or sick, have been linked to fighting every single type of disease, from cancer to diabetes to endometriosis and even heart disease. Learning more about scientific advances in this area may take your nutrition goals to the next level.
Ultimately, to become the best version of yourself, you have to take care of your body and your mind. Nutrition plays a major part in that, but nutrition isn’t limited exclusively to the food we eat. The most important step to starting anything worthwhile is self-love. The definition of self-love is “regard for one’s own well-being and happiness.” When we achieve a healthy regard for our well-being, what truly matters in life becomes more apparent. When we love ourselves, we begin to do things for our body, mind, and spirit that enhance our quality of life, our happiness, and our health.
Use this month to assess your nutrition and take steps to start improving it. A little bit of work every day will turn into a lifestyle change, and your body and mind will reap the benefits for years to come.