Why a Healthy Diet Should Be Your #1 Priority

Uncertainty, isolation (social distancing), working from home, fear of illness, etc. etc. It’s all too much!

Living in a world that changed overnight and having no idea what is coming is terrifying and stressful – at least it has been for me. My emotions are all over the place. I just want it to be over, so we can go back to some sense of normalcy.

But – what do we do in the meantime? 

We take care of our minds and bodies  so we can stay healthy. That is more important NOW than ever!

Take Care of Your Body and Mind with a Healthy Diet

Young woman  stress eating cake
Image by Massonforstock

In this world of convenience and flavor-enhanced foods, it is very easy to indulge in foods that taste great but provide little nutrition.

When we get stressed or worried, that tendency increases and we fill our bodies with “treats” that make us feel better for a minute or two.

As difficult as it is – when things get tough, we must double down and focus on eating good nutritious foods that will keep our minds and bodies strong to face whatever challenges lie ahead.

Worry and stress take a terrible toll on the body. The two things that are most important to minimize the toll are exercise and a healthy diet filled with nutritious food.  

There is no reason not to exercise since the majority of us are restricted to our homes – indoors or outdoor – just do it! At least 30 minutes each day and in the fresh air is preferable. 

The Link Between Diet and Depression

We are living in a strange new world of isolation – or social distancing in the current vernacular – but, we haven’t lost the ability to be smart about what we eat – unless we let our worry rule our senses.

Your daily food choices directly affect the way you feel mentally and physically. If you are using fear and discouragement as justification for stress eating – stuffing yourself with sweets with little thought about nutrition, you are hurting yourself far more than you think you are.

Many ongoing studies are finding the link between diet and mental health. 

People who eat a steady diet of processed foods, added sugars and white flour/sugar products are more likely to struggle with anxiety and depression. 

Those who consume natural foods including lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains – limiting their intake of red meat enjoy stable moods and are not as likely to suffer from depression.

It is difficult to stay positive, keep yourself busy, and take care of your loved ones when you are feeling down.

A new study by the NIH (National Institute of Health) released May 16, 2019, finds that ultra-processed foods cause overeating, weight gain and an increased risk of depression.  Don’t let any of that happen to you. 

First and foremost . . .

Pay Attention to What You Are Eating

Nutrient-rich foods are necessary for good health and must be the bulk of your diet. Focus on eating foods that are as close to their natural state as possible!

Junk foods, fast foods, and packaged processed foods are filled with added sugars and empty calories (little or no nutrient value). They may taste good, but when eaten as part of your regular diet, they cause weight gain and damage your body. They should be eliminated or eaten rarely in very small quantities.

Healthy Diet Foods in Fridge

Healthy Eating Guidelines

  1. PROTEIN – Be sure you eat enough protein. Eggs, beef, fish/shellfish, chicken, pork (including nitrate-free bacon, sausage, ham), lentils, beans, nuts, and some grains, i.e. quinoa.
  2.  DAIRY (Another good source of protein) –  Milk, cottage cheese, all varieties of cheese,  and non-fat Greek yogurt.
  3.  FRUITS & VEGETABLES –  You can eat unlimited amounts of vegetables and a generous amount of fruits every day – but be aware that some fruits are higher in calories than others.
  4. CARBOHYDRATES  – Provide necessary fuel for critical processes in your body – especially the central nervous system and brain; they also lower your risk for disease. It is never a good idea to stop eating healthy carbs.   Healthy Carbs – whole grains such as whole-wheat flour, quinoa, oatmeal; popcorn; nuts and seeds; beans and lentils; and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables such as berries, bananas, apples, pears, avocado, carrots, broccoli, artichokes, kale, sweet potatoes, and beets. Bad Carbs (avoid) – All processed and refined foods such as white flour, rice, pasta, bread, crackers, cereal, and refined sugars like table sugar and added sugars like high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, maltose, etc.
  5. FATS  are necessary for vitamin and mineral absorption, blood clotting, building cells, and muscle movement. Healthy Fats (unsaturated) – These can be found in nuts, seeds, avocados, and vegetable oils (olive, avocado, and flaxseed). Unhealthy Fats (trans-fats – AVOID Completely)

Foods to Avoid (or Eliminate)

  1. SUGAR AND SUGAR PRODUCTS – These are empty calories; the refining process essentially removes all nutrients.  Includes most sweets, ice cream, candy, doughnuts, cookies, cake, pie, desserts.  Anything made with white flour, processed sugar, added sugars of any kind, and high fructose corn syrup, etc. If you enjoy desserts – make your own from scratch so you control the ingredients and avoid the additives.
  2. FAST FOODS – Avoid or. . . indulge RARELY and choose carefully from the menu.
  3.  JUNK FOOD – Snack foods made of white flour, added sugars, and high sodium content such as Pop-Tarts, chips, crackers, pretzels, Cheetos, Packaged Fruit Pies, Snack Cakes, donuts, chocolate, candy bars, etc.
  4. FLAVORED BEVERAGES – (AVOID or consume rarely) – Sodas, coffee, tea, energy drinks, processed fruit juice, hot chocolate, specialty beverages like lattes and Frappuccinos, etc.  Sugary drinks and energy drinks (high caffeine content) should be avoided completely. An occasional cup of coffee or herbal tea is acceptable, just don’t fall into the habit of drinking many cups of fully caffeinated coffee every day.
  5. PREPACKAGED/PROCESSED FOODS – (AVOID COMPLETELY) These are loaded with poison additives and added sugars. Don’t eat them.  More and more studies are finding that consumption of heavily processed foods contributes to heart disease and early death.   

Be Sure to Get Enough of the Following:

  1. WATER – Keep your body hydrated. Listen to your body, if you are thirsty  – DRINK water!  
  2. FIBER  – Vital for a healthy digestive tract and helps with weight loss (makes you feel full).  Fiber can be found in all types of fresh whole berries; dried fruits; fresh whole pears, apples, grapes; vegetables such as corn, sweet potatoes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and zucchini; whole-grain bread, cereals, and pasta; seeds, all nuts (especially almonds),  and legumes (chickpeas, lentils, peas, and all types of beans).
  3. MINERALS – Necessary for regulating metabolism, staying hydrated, and building strong bones and teeth. If you eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables,  in most cases you will get all the minerals you need.

Eat Well and Stay Healthy!

The grocery stores are open! Fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, chicken, etc. are available – so shop for the good stuff and eat right.

If you don’t want to go to the store – have it delivered, or order and pick up.  

If we take care of ourselves and each other, we will get through this!

 

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