Do you eat to live, or live to eat? Unfortunately, many people base the majority of their food choices on enjoyment factors. Eating has taken on such a role in our society that nearly every social gathering revolves around food in some way: a trip to the movies warrants popcorn and soda, bowling necessitates nachos and dip, and celebrating a success with the family means going out for dinner, ice cream, or a party with cake. When we feel that we deserve some sort of reward, we often ignore the benefits of healthy eating and instead turn to food for comfort and satisfaction. We tend to enjoy food so much that we actually consume more than our bodies need, causing us to feel sluggish, unhappy, and sometimes even depressed. It may also cause us to put on extra weight.
Fortunately, the benefits of healthy eating can help counteract some of the negative side effects of unhealthful eating habits. From the time you wake up to the time your head hits the pillow at night, the choices you make daily—whether to eat a nutritious, healthy breakfast or whether to pick up Chinese food on the way home—affect both how your body feels and how well it performs. When you have been eating a certain way for so long, it can be difficult to change your lifestyle habits. Fortunately, there are many tools and healthy eating tips available that can help guide you. In fact, the problem can be that there are so many of them that it quickly becomes overwhelming.
In this case, it may be recommended that you consult a nutritionist, who will not only discuss the benefits of healthy eating with you but who can actually share some healthy eating ideas and work with you to form a healthy eating guide to help you determine which foods to eat and in which amounts to obtain the proper amount of nutrients to nourish your body. Nutrients work together to provide energy, growth and maintenance, and to regulate numerous body processes. While carbohydrates, fats, and protein provide energy, vitamins and minerals help regulate many body processes, including metabolism, and of course water is vital to life. Aside from the six classes of nutrients, a well-balanced diet also provides other dietary compounds, including phytochemicals and fiber, that have been shown to help fight many diseases. Although there are plenty of pills and supplements on the market, one should not assume that the benefits of healthy eating come only from compounds that can be extracted from foods, put into pills, and still produce the same positive effect on one’s health. The disease-fighting properties of phytochemicals, for example, likely go beyond the compounds themselves and work with fiber, nutrients, or other unrecognized substances in foods to provide a synergistic and positive effect on one’s health.
Other benefits of healthy eating include weight management, meaning your weight stays within a healthy range and is neither overweight nor underweight (both of which can indicate under- or overnutrition of certain nutrients and impending health issues), and helping you to achieve energy balance, the state at which your energy intake and expenditure—both measured in calories—is equal. If you are not already at a healthy weight, a healthy eating guide can give you an idea of how to achieve a positive energy balance to gain weight or a negative energy balance to help shed it. A healthy eating guide can help you keep track of your energy (calorie) imbalances over the proper time period (generally several weeks to months) and plan any necessary changes you may need to help you reach (or maintain) a healthy body weight.