Guest blog post by Anna-Maria Volanaki
The busy everyday lifestyle has extremely changed human’s eating patterns. People tend to eat quickly, not have time to digest their food, spend less money on their food and make quick decisions about what they will eat without checking the ingredients their food contains.
Due to this global phenomenon, the possibilities of developing a disease – obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, IBS, cancer – have increased. Below you will find some easy directions that will help you to improve your diet and health by adjusting a few of your eating habits and by realizing how good nutrition can improve your life.
- Start your day with a healthy breakfast.
Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day. The body needs it to fill up its energy levels after a long night sleep. Skipping breakfast it’s like you leave your body’s batteries uncharged. Treat yourself with a tasty high in protein, slow-digesting carbs and good fats meal and let yourself feel nourished from the nutrients it contains.
If you don’t have enough time to cook something in the morning, just have a bowl of porridge with almond milk, flaxseeds, walnuts and a few strawberries or blueberries.
- Eat more vegetables.
It’s very important to have at least five servings of vegetables per day according to the guidelines (1). Vegetables like asparagus, green leaves, green salads, cabbage, kale, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes and cucumber are high in vitamins and minerals.
Having the required amounts of vegetables will provide you with the required amounts of vitamins per day, help you top up your water levels, improve your immunity, keep your skin and eyes healthy, fight infection and keep your bones strong (1). Also remember that most of the vegetables are very low in calories and you can have as much as you desire!
- Add more protein to your diet.
There are lots of people who get confused about the amount of protein they should consume on a daily basis. A sedentary person or beginner should have 0.8 – 1g of protein per body kg and for a person who exercises (either endurance or strength training) the amounts vary from 1.2 to 1.7 g per body kg per day (2, 3).
The amounts for adolescent competitive male athletes can reach up to 2 g per body kg, while for female ones is up to 1.7 g per body kg (2, 3). The protein will help the body to recover quicker, replace the damaged muscle fibers and avoid stiffness.
These amounts might not be that easy to meet for a vegetarian or vegan athlete and on this case it’s good to try some extra natural proteins such as rice, hemp or pea.
- Reduce sugar consumption.
Sugars are the main ingredient that affects health and makes you gain weight. Unfortunately, most of the ready-made – processed foods are very high in sugars and the more you eat these foods the more you tend to crave them.
Chocolate, pizza, sauces, ready-made juices, flavored yogurts and everything there is in the discount sections in the super markets are usually very high in sugars and saturated fats. That’s why it’s very important to learn to read the labels and make right and healthier options when you shop.
- Add good fats to your diet.
Top up your good fats by adding to your diet nuts – almonds, walnuts, cashews – nut butters, oily fish, extra virgin olive oil, avocados and seeds like flaxseeds. They are high in omega 3, which have been found to help reduce bad cholesterol LDL and increase good cholesterol HDL, help with cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, balance blood pressure, skin conditions, concentration and immunity (1, 4).
Food should be the body’s medicine and give to people the required energy to function well every day. The combination of a bad diet with the lack of exercise can affect both health and immunity, but it’s never too late to make a life change for the better. Making these little changes on your diet will make you feel healthier and full of energy while you experience new flavors and recipes. Give it a try you will see it’s worth it!
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- Hark, L. and Deen, D. (2005). Nutrition for life. The definitive guide to eating well for good health. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley.
- American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine (2009). Nutrition and athletic performance. Med and Sci in Sports and Exer, 41 (3),709 – 731.
- Burke, L. (2007). Practical Sports Nutrition. United States of America, USA: Human Kinetics.
- Covington, M. B. (2004). Omega-3 fatty acids. American Family Physicians, 70 (1), 133 – 140.