From childhood, we are told that it’s important to eat a healthy diet. However, aside from the fact that it’s good for us, we’re not always given a lot of education in regards to actually why it’s good for us.
Yeah, we know that our parents want us to eat our fruits and veggies. But what exactly do they do for us? Why is it important to eat healthy?
Healthy food provides our body with various nutrients to keep it in good shape. Nutrients range from fats and proteins to the various vitamins and minerals that we can find in fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and nuts. Healthy foods also contain a variety of antioxidants and other plant-based nutritional compounds that can help us live a long and prosperous life.
In this article, we’re going to talk about exactly why nutrition and health are important for your overall health, and what the problems associated with unhealthy eating are.
- What does poor nutrition mean?
- How does poor nutrition affect your health?
- Examples of bad eating habits
Poor nutrition is a state of being nutritionally devoid. Many people, especially in the United States, actually eat an unhealthy diet. In fact, thanks to the huge popularity of processed foods, flash-frozen vegetables and canned food, even people who eat foods that technically get all the servings that they need from the Food Pyramid may still not get the nutrients that they need to be healthy.
Frozen, canned, and processed foods often have the nutrients damaged or destroyed. As do many pre-cooked foods. Nutrients, especially organic vitamins, don’t survive well during the packaging or processing phase, and as such you’ll notice that you don’t get quite the same amount of nutrients in a can of tomatoes as you would from eating fresh tomatoes.
According to Western nutrition, people require a set amount of different nutrients every day. These nutrients are best obtained through fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains – however, in a pinch, they can be obtained through supplementation.
Unfortunately, most people don’t get all of these nutrients. That means that they may develop nutritional deficiencies, which can lead to lots of different problems. If you don’t eat properly, then nutritional deficiencies can cause issues like fatigue, depression, indigestion, and low immunity.
There are lots of different ways that poor nutrition can influence your health.
If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may want to go see a nutritionist before you see a doctor looking for prescription medication. In many cases, people who think that they have a chronic symptoms are really just suffering from a nutritional deficiency.
And, even if you’re not overtly suffering from these symptoms, you should get your nutrient levels checked anyways. This can be done by a blood test, or a nutritionist may be able to evaluate you with a less invasive procedure. Learning what nutrients you’re lacking is important, and getting the right nutrients in your diet can have a huge positive influence on your strength and energy levels.
These are some of the most common issues associated with poor nutrition and an unhealthy diet.
Tiredness and fatigue
Good food, vitamins, and minerals provide the energy that we need to live out our days. If we don’t get proper nutrition, then we won’t have energy, and we will become fatigued. Many people who believe that they have a sleeping problem or other condition causing fatigue may actually just be lacking the proper nutrients that they need to be healthy and energetic.
Many nutrients can contribute to tiredness and fatigue. Some common examples can include:
- Carbohydrates. Carbs are a double-edged blade. Complex carbohydrates, like those found in sweet potatoes and whole grains, can provide a long-lasting source of energy. Unfortunately, the carbs that most people consume come in the form of processed breads, potato chips, and other processed foods.
These processed foods are known to provide quick bursts of energy followed by a ‘crash.’ People who eat these foods all the time often have low energy levels. Furthermore, these foods are often filling but completely devoid of nutrients, which means they’re filling up on food.
- Protein. Protein can be found in legumes, beans, soy products like tofu, eggs, fish, and meat. You probably know that protein is responsible for helping build muscle, but it’s also important for helping to enhance energy levels. Diets low in protein can adversely affect energy levels and lead to feelings of weakness and fatigue, particularly for people with high-energy lifestyles.
- Vitamins and minerals. Lots of vitamins and minerals can help boost energy levels; conversely, being deficient in these nutrients can lead to fatigue. A deficiency of the B complex vitamins, for example, can lead to serious energy problems, as can iron deficiency.
Brittle and dry hair
One symptom of nutritional deficiency is dry, brittle, and cracking hair.
- Biotin, or vitamin B7, is highly important for the health of your hair and skin. While biotin deficiencies are rare, one of the symptoms of a deficiency is brittle and cracking hair.
- Vitamin C. Vitamin C deficiency can be so serious that in the past it was considered a disease, known as scurvy. One of the symptoms of vitamin C deficiency is brittle and cracked or dry hair. Vitamin C can be found in many fruits and vegetables.
Lots of problems can occur in your oral health if you don’t get proper nutrition. Issues such as scurvy, a cleft palate (which is rather rare), problems with your tooth enamel, bad tooth mineralization, and other dental health problems can emerge if you’re eating an unhealthy diet.
The most important vitamins and minerals to consume for your oral health are the B vitamins (especially folate), vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium, and protein. It’s also incredibly important to avoid sugar and other acidic foods (including sugar-free diet soda), which can damage your enamel, stain your teeth, and lead to cavities.
Mood swings and depression
Good nutrition also helps to regulate our mood. Many nutrients are responsible for helping to regulate the health of our brain, but some of the most important are:
- The B vitamins, particularly vitamin B6 and B12 both help the brain produce energy and can regulate mood stability. Get B vitamins from fish, vegetables, and eggs.
- Magnesium is a nutrient that can help to relax the blood vessels, reduce stress, and fight anxiety. Magnesium is a mineral that can be found in many beans, legumes, and veggies.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are hugely important for cognitive and mental functioning. Omega-3 fatty acids prevent depression and have even been used as a treatment for ADHD in France. Omega-3s can be found in avocados, nuts, and fish.
Poor immune response
Another one of the most important functions of food is to help build our immune system to keep pit healthy and strong. There are a huge number of vitamins that are important for our immune function. Some of the most prominent are:
- Vitamin C. Vitamin C is truly a powerhouse nutrient. The reason people recommend drinking orange juice and taking vitamin C to ward off a cold is because vitamin C can seriously boost up your immune system (though it’s best to just take it all the time instead of loading up during an illness).
- Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient that helps your body to engage in more than 200 reactions. Many of these reactions are important for a healthy immune system.
- Vitamin D is a nutrient that can be obtained easily from the sun. It’s important for balancing your immune system and your mood. During winter months, vitamin D can be found in fish like sardines.
Just as important as building a healthy diet plan is making sure that you avoid bad eating habits. These are some of the most common bad eating habits.
Skipping meals is generally not a great idea, unless it’s done with regularity.
If you skip meals frequently, your metabolism will slow down. These means that you will end up burning fewer calories, which could lead to weight gain. Ironic, really – skipping meals means that you’ll eat less food, but that you might pack on more weight when you resume eating your regular diet.
Skipping meals can also lead to fatigue and low energy, simply because you won’t be getting the nutrients that you need to be healthy and energetic.
Some people believe that snacking is great for building metabolism; others believe that it’s unhealthy. Ultimately, it boils down to what you’re snacking on, how often you’re snacking, and how you’re snacking.
One reason that snacking is considered unhealthy is because most ‘snack foods’ are dreadfully terrible for the body. A traditional snack food is highly processed, and usually very sugary, salty, or oily – or all three! Eating these unhealthy snack foods at any time can wreak havoc on your health.
One rumor is that snacking boosts your metabolism, but the research shows that this might not be the case.
Snacking at night time is also bad news, because your metabolism is already lower. This means that you won’t be able to absorb the nutrients from your snacks as easily, and you’ll be more likely to put on extra calories.
Avoiding fruits and vegetables (unhealthy diet)
An unhealthy diet can be simply one that doesn’t have any fruits or vegetables in it. Fruits and vegetables provide us with a vast array of different nutrients that can help all aspects of our health. People who avoid fruits and vegetables, preferring to focus on meats, processed foods, or grains, are simply not going to have the same nutritional profile as people who eat fruits and vegetables.
In fact, many people find that they’re able to avoid most nutritional deficiencies by eating diets that contain no meat. With the exception of vitamin B12 and sometimes iron, all nutrients can be obtained easily from a fruit- and vegetable-rich diet – even protein, which many people wrongly assume needs to come from meat.
Not drinking enough water
Another important aspect of having a healthy diet is drinking enough water. While water isn’t considered a ‘nutrient’ by many, some dieticians consider water to be the alpha-nutrient. Water influences every single function of our body, and without it, we can become quite unhealthy quite quickly.
Water lubricates our organs, our cells, and our brains. It allows us to digest food easily, and to absorb the nutrients that are found in the food that we eat. It also prevents things from getting ‘clogged up.’
If you don’t drink enough water, a lot of pretty unpleasant things can happen.
- Your urine will become dark. Yellow urine is the first sign of dehydration; dark urine means that you’ve been dehydrated for quite some time.
- Your muscles will grow weak and fatigued, and you will have less energy to expend.
- You may become dizzy and faint.
- You may experience constipation and other digestive issues.
- Your skin will become dry and flaky.
- You will be prone to frequent headaches.
It’s recommended to drink at least 8 glasses (2 liters) of water everyday, and even more if you live in a hot area or are frequently sweating, exercising, or expending lots of energy.
Having a good diet is just as important as avoiding unhealthy eating habits. Not everyone recognizes that they can offset their healthy diet plan by participating in a number of unhealthy eating habits.
Fortunately, cutting out bad eating habits and enjoying a healthy diet isn’t as hard as many people seem to think. Eating a lot of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and legumes will provide you with the nutrients that you need to enjoy improved health and energy levels.
Hopefully this article has helped you to better understand the link between nutrition and good health.