10 Best Nutrition Tips to Boost Your Overall Well-Being
Your health is arguably the most valuable commodity you have. It’s something a lot of people take for granted, and only miss when it starts to fail. Lots of things can have a negative impact on your health, including your fitness habits, smoking, drinking too much alcohol, and your diet. Illnesses and diseases also affect your health, not least the current COVID-19 outbreak – also known as the coronavirus.
The good news is that while it is impossible to entirely bullet-proof your health, there are still plenty of things you can to boost your overall well-being. Here are our ten best nutrition tips!
1. Eat the rainbow
No, we don’t mean you should eat an abundance of multi-coloured sugary sweets! Instead, you should try and include a variety of different colored vegetables or fruits in your daily diet. This will ensure that you consume a broad range of vitamins and minerals every day. Vitamins and minerals are the spark plugs that power the reactions that sustain life – including your all-important immune system.
Try to include at least three different colored plant-based foods in all of your main meals. For example, you could eat red tomatoes, green spinach, and yellow squash. Try to eat different vegetables every day to further broaden your vitamin and mineral intake spectrum.
2. Drink more water
Your body is made from roughly 60% water. Your blood is 95%+ water, and your body uses H2O for a wide range of functions, including flushing away toxins, lubrication, cooling, and transporting nutrients and even oxygen around your body. In simple terms, your body is a big bag of salty water! You can survive weeks without food, but just a few days without water. And yet, despite its obvious importance, a lot of people go through life suffering from mild to moderate dehydration.
This can lead to headaches, skin problems, low energy levels, cramps, poor concentration, and even joint and back pain. Avoid these problems by drinking more water. Opinions vary as to how much water you should consume, but you can’t go too far wrong by making half a gallon per day your target.
Add an extra quarter gallon for every hour of exercise you do. Remember, too, that beverages like tea, coffee, and juice count toward your water intake, as do vegetables, fruits, and foods like soup. However, to keep things simple, you should only really count obvious hydrating fluids – water being the one your body actually needs.
3. Reduce your refined sugar intake
Refined sugars are everywhere. Food manufacturers add them to make their products taste good and can be an addictive substance to some people. Look at the ingredients that make up most processed foods. Invariably, sugar will be on that list.
Refined sugars will spike your insulin levels and add to systemic inflammation (which is thought to be the cause of countless illnesses) and pain. Not to mention refined sugar adds extra calories to your meals making weight gain very hard to avoid.
Reducing your refined sugar intake will do you nothing but good. Your energy levels will be more stable, things like skin rashes, headaches, and digestive upsets will vanish, and you’ll find it a whole lot easier to manage your weight too.
The occasional soda or candy bar won’t hurt you, but other than as a treat, you should limit your refined sugar intake to the lowest amount possible.
4. Eat more healthy fats (& fewer trans fats)
A lot of people are very fat-phobic, but, in actuality, most fats are nothing to fear, and some are actually good for you. Unprocessed fats like avocado oil, olive oil, natural dairy butter, coconut oil, and the fats in fish and grass-fed beef are actually very healthy.
Healthy, natural fats are anti-inflammatory and are good for your heart and brain too. They also contain or aid in the transportation and storage of the fat-soluble vitamins – A, D, E, K.
Between 20-30% of your calorie intake should come from healthy fats, but you should do your best to minimize your intake of trans fats. Trans fats are processed unsaturated fats that cause inflammation and block the effect of healthy fats. Trans fats are commonly found in processed foods and labelled as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats and shortening. Trans fats should be avoided whenever possible.
5. Drink more tea and coffee
Both tea and coffee contain valuable antioxidants. Antioxidants protect you from the effect of free radicals, which are unstable molecules that are responsible for a host of effects, from aging to cancer. Exposure to toxins and pollution, an unhealthy diet, and even the air you breathe can increase your exposure to free radicals.
The antioxidants in tea and coffee help disarm and stabilize free radicals, and that can have a massive impact on your health. Both of these beverages are also linked to things like improved long-term mental and cardiovascular health, as well as better fat burning.
Not a caffeine fan? No problem! Decaffeinated tea and coffee are similarly beneficial.
6. Eat more fiber
Low-carb diets are all the rage right now. They are very useful for weight loss and can also help reduce blood glucose levels for diabetics, pre-diabetics, and those suffering from metabolic syndrome. You don’t have to go full keto, but cutting carbs definitely has benefits.
Unfortunately, a lot of low-carb diets are also low in fiber, and that’s a problem. Processed foods are also often low in fiber. Fiber is a non-starch polysaccharide that is only really found in carb-based foods. There are two types of fiber – soluble and insoluble – and both are crucial for your health.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel. As it passes through your digestive system, it soaks up things like bile acid, cholesterol, and dietary fats. Insoluble fibre acts like a brush, scrubbing your digestive tract clean of old bacteria, dead cells, and other potentially harmful substances. Both types of fiber also keep your digestive system working efficiently.
Most adults need about 30-40 grams of fiber per day, and that’s hard to get on a very low carb diet. However, by filling up on low-carb, fibrous fruits and veggies, you should still be able to get enough of both types of fiber.
Good options include:
- Brussels sprouts
- Most raw nuts and seeds
7. Eat enough protein
Bodybuilders and athletes know how important protein is, but non-exercisers need this vital macronutrient too. Protein, which can be found in animal foods such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy, and non-animal sources such as nuts, beans, lentils, and vegetables, is crucial for tissue repair and growth, as well as proper immune system function.
When you eat protein, your body breaks it down into individual amino acids, which it then uses as building blocks and in the chemical reactions that sustain life. Too little protein means too few amino acids. In this situation, your body will start to “borrow” protein from your muscles, leading to muscle atrophy or breakdown.
Your protein intake should reflect your activity levels but, while hard-training athletes need more protein than more sedentary people, even couch-surfers need adequate protein too. Hit your daily protein requirements by including high-protein foods in your main meals. You could also use whey or plant-based protein powder to meet your protein needs. Vegans, vegetarians, those with small appetites or time poor individuals should strongly consider supplementing their protein intake.
8. Use more herbs and spices
Before modern medicine turned to drugs, we used herbs and spices to treat a wide range of medical problems, as well as boost health and vitality. Herbs and spices contain concentrated sources of nutrients, many of which have a powerful, health-boosting effect.
You can enjoy the benefits of these substances while adding amazing flavors to your meals. Good choices include:
- Black pepper
- Cayenne pepper
9. Consume probiotics
It’s often said that good health starts in the gut. Your digestive system contains billions of bacteria that are important for the health of your entire body. Unfortunately, these bacteria are affected by eating too much sugar, not eating enough fiber, stress, sedentarism, and a host of other lifestyle and dietary factors. Low levels of good bacteria can lead to food intolerances, digestive issues, weight gain, and immune system dysfunction.
Repopulating and maintaining the health of your gut flora is actually quite simple, but may mean you need to start eating a few foods that are not part of your regular diet. The following foods contain natural pre and probiotics that are either good for your current gut bacteria or will help repopulate it.
10. Eat more real food
A lot of the foods in today’s supermarkets didn’t exist a few decades ago. These “franken-foods” were created in laboratories and not kitchens and contain nothing but empty calories. That means they provide your body with energy, but nothing else. No vitamins, no minerals, and no fiber.
However, despite providing no nutrients, digesting and processing these foods requires vitamins and minerals. Eating a lot of these foods can leave you malnourished despite consuming plenty of calories.
The easiest way to avoid these nutrient-poor, empty-calorie foods is to eat more real food and make your own meals from scratch. You don’t have to give up processed foods entirely, but they should make up a very small percentage of your daily food intake.
Build your meals around foods that you can find in nature. As amazing as it would be - donuts, sugary breakfast cereals, and chicken nuggets don’t grow on trees! However, if you went out into the countryside, you should be able to find apples, oats, and free-range chickens. Adopt this hunter-gather mentality at the supermarket, and you’ll quickly find healthier, more natural foods to eat.
It’s hard to say who first uttered the words you are what you eat. But whoever it was, they hit the nail squarely on the head! The food you eat affects your body at a cellular level and ultimately becomes part of you. If you eat healthily, you too will be healthy. But, if you eat unwholesome junk, it stands to reason that your overall well-being will be affected.
As Hippocrates said, ”Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. Use these tried, tested, and proven nutritional tips to boost your health and well-being.