Food is one of the most controversial topics you can find.
The way we eat plays such an essential role in our health and our lives that it has been the subject of extensive research for decades.
Nowadays we have access to plenty of nutritional research that has shaped worldwide nutritional recommendations. However, nutritional science has also lead to massive confusion about what we should and should not be eating.
Did you know?
The latest 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines introduced new advice on a few important subjects after taking in account the new body of nutritional research. For example, the recommendation of sugar intake changed from 5 to 15 percent of total calories (in 2010) to less than 10% of total calories per day.
The first Food Guide Pyramid, which was heavily criticized for its focus on too much bread, pasta and cereals (among other things), was replaced in 2005 by My Pyramid, in the hopes to improve the way American eats. However, there’s still a lot of controversy surrounding the dietary recommendations made by the USDA.
Due to diverse nutritional research, different diets have become mainstream.
Which is the right way of eating? Vegan, paleo, gluten-free, pescatarian, vegetarian, or omnivore? You’ll find thousands of supporters for each diet.
It doesn’t help that there’s a lot of contradictory advice on the media that seems to be constantly changing.
In short, food is complicated.
What works for some doesn’t work for others, and that’s why it’s hard to pinpoint hard and fast eating rules for everyone?
However, we do know about certain eating patterns that promote a healthier life.
Food is complicated on the details, on the micro level, but when it comes to the macro vision of eating, we can clearly see which habits and foods make most of us healthier and happier.
Instead of worrying about how many calories to eat at lunch, how many servings of carbs to eat during the day, or how much you weigh, focus on two things: The quality of your food and what your body tells you.
Those two things are the most important guidelines you need to be truly healthy and vibrant, regardless of your diet.
To help you focus on high-quality food and reconnect with your body, here are 10 nutrition rules that will help you eat healthilyand feel great everyday.
If you follow these 10 eating habits, you’ll improve the way you eat, feel, and look.
1. Skip Processed Food.
The number one thing you should do for your health is to kick processed food to the curve.
We all know that junk food is bad for us, you might have heard it constantly from your mother and in school when you were growing up.
The common advice is to avoid things like fries, sodas, and candy like the plague.
But there’s more to processed food than just fast food.
Processed food includes:
- Refined grains, like white bread
- Refined sugar
- Artificial sweeteners, like Splenda
- Salad dressings
- Most flavored yogurts
- Soft drinks
- Hot dogs
- Most breakfast cereals
- Frozen meals
- Instant soups
- Gums and candy
- Chicken nuggets
- Cake mixes
- Most energy bars
- American cheese
- Solid fats like margarine
- Vegetable oils
Processed foods are associated with an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, digestive issues, allergies and cardiovascular problems.
Eating them in itself is harmful, but the worst thing they do to your body has deprived you of the nutrients you need to thrive.
By filling you up with a lot of empty calories, your body doesn’t receive the vitamins and minerals it needs to stay healthy and stores all the extra energy as fat.
The excess energy is what causes weight gain and cardiovascular problems while the lack of nutrients triggers hormonal, digestive, skin, skeletal, and immune system disorders.
By quitting junk foods, you make space for nutritious food to nurture your body.
When you go to the supermarket, it’s easy to get confused by labels offering you “100% Natural” products (which doesn’t mean absolutely anything).
The only thing you should inspect before you buy a product is the ingredient label. If the list has more than 5-6 ingredients, or ingredients you don’t recognize right away, it’s better to stay away from it.
If you see any of these ingredients on the label it means the product is heavily processed (and you should stay away from it):
- High fructose corn syrup
- Sugar (especially if it’s one of the first three ingredients)
- Salt (especially if it’s one of the first three ingredients )
- Soybean, sunflower, or any refined vegetable oil
- Refined flour
- Artificial coloring (for example yellow #5)
- TBHQ (preservative)
- Artificial & natural flavors
Light and low-fat products are not any better for your waistline either.
So-called low-fat foods trick you into believing you’re eating fewer calories, but calories are not what truly matter when it comes to your health or your weight.
The nutritional quality of the foods you eat is what determines how healthy and lean you are.
By removing the fat from foods like yogurt and cheese, food companies need to replace it with other ingredients to preserve the flavor.
Guess what the ingredients are: sugar, artificial sweeteners, and artificial flavors.
Since excess consumption of added sugars is linked to weight gain and metabolic disease, low-fat products can actually cause you to gain weight.
In conclusion, most light products are only harmful processed foods packaged to trick you into believing they’re healthier.
They don’t belong in a healthy diet. Skip them.
2. Eat Mostly Plant-Based.
Making vegetables and fruits the main focus of your diet will transform your health.
It’s not just about including them, but about making them a centerpiece of your meals.
You don’t have to be vegetarian or vegan to eat more vegetables. Whatever your diet is, you should consume plenty of veggies every day.
A plant based diet has been linked to decreased BMI, blood pressure and blood lipids and a slower mental decline.
It also helps to prevent coronary artery disease and cancer.
A comprehensive review published in The Permanente Journal showed that plant-based diets help to prevent:
- Heart disease
- High Blood Pressure
They also found that plant-based diets are not nutritionally deficient like most people would think.
With the recent announcement by the World Health Organization (WHO) that processed meat causes cancer, and red meat is a potential carcinogen, you have just one more reason to eat more veggies and less meat.
To give your body all the nutrients it needs, make sure to include protein and veggies in all your meals.
A healthy plate should include vegetables, clean sources of protein, healthy fats, and healthy carbs.
Protein is a crucial nutrient for your cells, muscles, hair, and skin.
Vegetables and fruits are loaded with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, vitamins and minerals that will nourish all the cells in your body and protect you from free radical damage.
The highest sources of protein include chicken, turkey, tuna, salmon, shrimp, lamb, scallops, sardines and soybeans.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, excellent plant-based protein sources include chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, soybeans, tofu, pumpkin seeds, tempeh, and lima beans.
3. Eat Healthy Fats.
Don’t avoid fats completely. Fatty acids are essential for the proper function of every single cell in your body.
The healthiest fats you can eat are unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are divided into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
They help to reduce bad cholesterol and blood pressure.
Omega-3s, a type of polyunsaturated fat, can’t be produced by your body. This is why it’s extremely important to get it from high-quality food sources. They help to build your cell membranes, improve brain function, and produce hormones.
The best sources of omega 3s include flax seeds, walnuts, sardines, salmon, shrimp, soybeans, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.
Other sources of healthy fats you should include in your diet are avocados, fatty fish, almonds, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, and peanuts.
4. Eat Each Meal Until You’re Satisfied, Not Stuffed.
Eating past the point you’re satisfied can make you gain weight and lead to obesity.
Your gut signals your brain if you’re satisfied or not 20 minutes after you start eating. If you are not mindful and ignore your body’s signs of satiety, you’ll end up eating more than what you really need.
Overeating causes bloating, weight gain, and discomfort.
The more you eat overtime (and if you gain weight because of it), the less satiety and pleasure you’ll get from your food, leading to more overeating. Obese people have more resistance to satiety signals than people with normal weight.
This means that ignoring your satiety signals leads to overeating, which causes weight gain. Weight gain causes less sensitivity to satiety signals and therefore you continue overeating.
To stop this vicious cycle eat until you’re 80% full. The Okinawan people, one of the healthiest populations on the planet, have a practice called “HaraHachiBu,” which means to eat until you’re 80% full, not stuffed.
This requires you to listen to your body and become aware of your levels of satiety.
Once you’re not hungry anymore, stop eating. Don’t continue to eat just because there’s more food on the plate. Save the leftovers for later instead of overeating.
5. Don’t Diet
One of the best things you can do for your body is not to diet. Don’t deprive yourself of food, go on crazy liquid diets to lose weight, or stop eating for days.
Diets often put your body at risk by depriving it of the nutrients it needs.
They are also not sustainable.
If you starve your body, it’s very likely you’ll binge later because a diet puts you in a mindset that the deprivation is the sacrifice and the binge is the reward.
Unstable eating patterns are extremely unhealthy for your body and your mind, as they can make you obsessive about how many calories you’re eating or how much you weight.
Instead of dieting, focus on including more foods that aid weightloss in your diet. By eating more healthy foods (not less), you’ll lose weight naturally and feel good from the inside out.
6. Eat Breakfast Only If You’re Hungry.
Unlike common wisdom, breakfast is not actually the most important meal of the day.
If you wake up hungry, by all means eat your breakfast. Letting your body stay hungry is harmful to your health and productivity.
However, you don’t need to eat breakfast everyday if you don’t feel hungry in the morning.
Studies show that if you’re a breakfast skipper, you’re better off skipping it.
It’s commonly believed that people who skip breakfast tend to overeat during the day, but the opposite is shown to be true. Skipping breakfast can even help you reduce your overall energy intake during the day.
7. Don’t Rely On Multivitamins
I’m just going to say it: You don’t need multivitamins.
Multivitamins are an $11 billion industry, but studies have found they are ineffective for the general population, even for people that have nutritional deficiencies.
In fact, supplementation with vitamin A, beta-carotene, and vitamin E may increase mortality.
You’re better off eating plenty of fruits and vegetables instead of taking multivitamins.
8. Drink Plenty Of Fluids
Last but not least, drinking plenty of water and fluids is vital to stay lean and healthy.
By drinking 1.5 to 2 liters of water per day, you will help to flush out toxins from your body, aid waste elimination by helping the fiber in your digestive system move faster, keep your cells hydrated, and promote weight loss.
You don’t necessarily need to drink 8 glasses of water per day. It’s ideal you drink water and consume watery foods as well.
Some of the most hydrating foods include watermelon, cucumber, celery, tomatoes, and pineapple.
Your body can mistake hunger for thirst when it’s dehydrated, which can lead to overeating. By drinking water during the day, you can curve your appetite.
Dehydration can also lead to poor cognitive performance. According to this study:
“As with physical functioning, mild to moderate levels of dehydration can impair performance on tasks such as short-term memory, perceptual discrimination, arithmetic ability, visuomotor tracking, and psychomotor skills.”
Following these rules won’t just give you a temporary benefit. In the long run, your body will be able to apply and maintain the effects of a nutritious and healthy lifestyle. This is a sure way to make the most out of the nutrients these foods offer.