We all know food is a major player when it comes to our health. The more knowledge you have about how the food you eat affects your body will give you a head start on getting the nutrition you need to look great and feel great, inside and out. Here is our list of the top 15 nutrition tips everyone should know:
1. “Diets” are bad, lifestyles are good.
The word “diet” implies a restrictive, short-term method of achieving a goal. Approaching weight, fitness, and health goals from this short-term perspective almost always ends in failure. Instead of just focusing on your diet, look for entire lifestyle changes you can make that will help you reach and maintain your goals.
2. You need to eat more green veggies.
Of the recommended 2-3 cups of vegetables a day, the average American only eats 1.5 cups1. And of that 1.5 cups, only 10% includes green and orange veggies; the rest is made up of less nutritious veggies like potatoes and tomatoes. It’s universal advice to prioritize getting more greens on your plate.
3. If it’s been processed and refined, avoid it.
The more refined and processed a food is, the less it has to offer your body’s overall health. Highly processed oils contain large quantities of trans fat, which is toxic to your body. The methods used to process grains to create white flour remove most of the nutrition contained by wheat2. In general, you’re doing your body a favor by avoiding foods containing processed ingredients like white flour, sugar, and oils.
4. Unprocessed food is healthiest.
The closer your food resembles its original, natural state, the better.
5. Vitamin D is important.
You may not realize it, but Vitamin D plays a critical role in your health… And chances are, you (like many other people) aren’t getting enough. The best way to get it naturally is in the sun, without sunscreen3. If sunlight isn’t an option for you, your best bet is a D3 supplement or cod liver oil.
6. Don’t believe everything you hear.
Health is a popular topic of conversation in today’s media. However, don’t take reports as absolute truth. What makes a news site money is a sensational headline and shocking news, so there is often an element of exaggeration in most reports. Take things with a grain of salt, and do research before making drastic life changes based on one story.
7. The “perfect diet” is a myth.
What works for one person as far as a healthy lifestyle and adequate diet will not work for everyone else. Each of us have unique bodies made up very differently from one another. The lifestyle and diet that works is the one that works for your body.
8. Supplements aren’t magic.
Taking dietary supplements (like vitamin D3, Calcium, etc.) can be beneficial to your health, but a pill will never replace the benefits of acquiring those nutrients through real food you eat. The complexity of real food is what makes it valuable to your health, and that’s something a supplement can never mimic.
9. Beware of false advertising.
You’ve probably picked up on this, but even “health foods” can be pretty unhealthy. Just because someone puts “healthy,” or “whole grain,” or “all-natural” on a label doesn’t mean it’s actually a food item you should consume. Learn how to read your food labels4 and don’t make decisions based off a company’s clever marketing.
10. Fat isn’t bad.
Contrary to popular belief, not all fats are bad for you like avocado, eggs, and olive oil. Please revisit our previous blog article, "The Skinny on Fat", to see what are good and bad fats. Sure, some are and should be limited or eliminated (trans fats being a good example of something to avoid altogether). But healthy fats are important to your overall health, helping you absorb nutrients, fuel your body, and keep your heart and brain functioning well.
11. Beware your sweet tooth.
Point-blank, any kind of artificial sweetener is bad for your body. “Sugar-free” and “diet” foods and drinks often contain high quantities of these fake sugars. If you need to satisfy your sweet tooth, it’s better to do so with real sugar. But even at that, be careful how much you consume. The American Heart Association recommends an average daily intake of no more than 9.5 teaspoons of sugar. The average American consumes 22 teaspoons per day adding up to 130 pounds of sugar annually5.
12. Counting calories isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
On a basic science level it makes sense: eat fewer calories than you burn and you’ll lose weight. The human body is far more complex than that, and there are many factors at play with how your body burns energy. So yes, watching your caloric intake can be beneficial, but don’t count on it as the only way to lose weight.
13. Protein helps you lose weight. Protein acts as one of your body’s major fuel sources. When you eat a high-protein diet, you essentially give your body better, longer-lasting fuel. One study showed that by making 30% of their daily calories protein, participants are 441 fewer calories per day and lost 11 pounds in 12 weeks6.
14. You can afford to eat less. Most of us have a distorted view of what an adequate portion size is. We also have a tendency to eat for reasons other than fueling our body (i.e. comfort food, social eating, etc.). When we adjust why we eat to fueling our body, we can learn what amounts our body actually needs to function and be healthy7.
15. Drink more water.
Our bodies are made up of 80% water, so it makes sense water plays an important role in our health. The sad truth is most of us don’t consume enough. The recommendation of 8 cups a day (64 ounces or 2 liters) is a good place to start, but in America most people only drink 5. Upping your water intake will help with everything from maintaining proper balance in your bodily fluids to helping with weight loss to assisting kidney and bowel functions8.