No matter where you are in the age span, whether or not you are managing or recovering from illness or injury, or your level of general health, a healthy diet is fundamental to well-being. From supporting muscles and maintaining strong bones to preventing disease and promoting good mental health, a healthy diet has myriad benefits. Indeed, eating well can help you live longer while also promoting improved quality of life. The importance of a healthy diet cannot be overstated so let’s take some time to better understand the basics of a healthy diet and why it is important.
The Importance of a Healthy Diet – Healthy Diet Basics
First and foremost, it is important to understand that healthy eating may help you maintain a healthy weight but “dieting” can be dangerous. If you are planning to make some changes to the way you eat, focus on making sustainable lifestyle changes rather than temporary changes for the purpose of weight loss. So-called crash diets may have an immediate impact on your weight, but research shows that weight is usually re-gained after a diet ends and the consequence of significant weight fluctuations on your health are likely worse than maintaining a consistent, higher weight. All this to say, when we speak of a healthy “diet” in this article, we’re referring to consistent lifestyle choices that support your overall well-being.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the Canada Food Guide recommendations for healthy eating.
- Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, whole grain foods, and protein foods.
- Avoid highly processed foods as they are packed with sugar and salt.
- Choose water over other drinks and certainly avoid sugary drinks.
The Canada Food Guide encourages using your plate as a reference for your food choices. Approximately half your plate should be represented by vegetables and fruit as they are full of nutrients including antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fibre.
Whole grain foods such as whole grain bread, brown or wild rice, quinoa, or oatmeal are much better than processed grains such as white rice, bread, or pasta. Approximately one quarter of your plate should be represented by whole grain foods.
Finally, healthy proteins including legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, poultry, and lean red meats can help you build and maintain healthy bones, muscles, and skin. You need to eat protein every day and the food guide directs you to choose plant-based proteins more often. Aim for at least 2 servings of fish each week and choose lower fat dairy options. The final quarter of your plate should be represented by protein foods.
The Importance of a Healthy Diet
Now that we understand some of the basics of a healthy diet, let’s look at some of the main reasons healthy eating is important.
- Prevent disease
A healthy diet can reduce your risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and some cancers. In North America, chronic diseases represent the leading causes of death. Chronic disease is also often associated with poor lifestyle choices including poor eating habits as well as smoking, lack of nutrition, and alcohol use. A healthy diet helps to prevent and manage chronic diseases so that you live longer and better.
- Support mental health Mental health is also strongly linked to dietary choices. Diets that are rich in nutrients and limit processed foods are associated with decreased risk of anxiety, depression, ADHD and other mental health diagnoses. Additionally, not only can a healthy diet reduce your risk of these conditions, but eating nutrient-dense foods can help maintain your mental health even after you have been provided a mental health diagnosis.
- Improved recovery from illness or injury At North Shore Sports Medicine, we have seen firsthand the impact of healthy eating habits on recovery from illness and injury. Healthy eating habits support muscle and bone growth and repair, promote improved digestive function, and supports immune function. Given these benefits, there should be no surprise that eating well contributes to your recovery.
If you’d like to know more about healthy eating and the importance of a healthy diet and how it may impact your overall well-being, contact our team of rehab professionals at North Shore Sports Medicine.