Eating for Fitness: How Smart Food Choices Can Improve Your Health
Our day-to-day diets ultimately dictate the way that we look and feel about ourselves. In fact, research suggests that nutrition is the most important factor in terms of overall fitness.
With a growing body of evidence highlighting the importance of maintaining a healthy, balanced diet, more of us are prioritizing healthy food choices as a primary fitness goal. Studies show that healthy eating habits make us happier and healthier. Maintaining a nutritionally balanced diet not only reduces body fat, helps us to shed excess pounds, but also reduces our risk of illness, as well as boosting confidence.
A Look at Superfoods
Numerous studies reveal a correlation between healthy eating and improved overall health. While there is no silver bullet in terms of nutrient-dense foods, all food products were not created equal, with some food choices far healthier than others.
The health benefits of “superfoods” like blueberries, turmeric, kale, goji berries, and green tea, have been exaggerated to stratospheric proportions, making it a virtual impossibility for reality to live up to the myths. The word “superfood” is included in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, where it is defined as a food rich in compounds considered beneficial to health, rather than a catch-all cure for all ailments. While some foods certainly do have a positive impact on health when consumed as part of a nutrient-rich, balanced diet, the idea that one single “power food” can heal disease or cause people to miraculously shed pounds is incredibly misleading.
The first food touted as a superfood was the humble banana. In the early 20th century, around the time of World War I, the United Fruit Company initiated an aggressive marketing campaign to promote one of its major imports. The company published informational pamphlets titled Food Value of the Banana and Points About Bananas, extolling the virtues of the fruit as a cheap, easily digestible, nutritious food item that was not only widely available, but perfectly packaged by nature, and incredibly versatile.
To persuade the American public to consume more bananas, the United Fruit Company suggested adding bananas to breakfast cereals and salads, and even proposed serving them as a fried side dish alongside the evening meal. The popularity of bananas soared as some physicians touted it as a cure for celiac disease, despite the fact that, at the time, the true cause of celiac disease — gluten — had not been identified.
Today, it seems that a new superfood hits the headlines each month. Some foods are incredibly nutrient-dense, while others have comparatively little nutritional value.
Antioxidants play an important role within the human body, staving off disease and illness, and reducing inflammation. Selenium, beta carotene, vitamins C and E, copper, magnesium, and zinc are all antioxidants. They protect cells against free radicals, shielding DNA and other important cellular structures against oxidative stress. Foods like dark chocolate, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, goji berries, spinach, beets, and kale are all rich in antioxidants which, according to research, can speed up recovery after workouts.
Why Is Maintaining a Balanced Diet Important?
Worldwide obesity levels are worryingly high today, with an estimated 30% of the global population regarded as obese or overweight. By 2030, this figure is predicated to rise to almost half, according to statistics from the McKinsey Global Institute, this global obesity epidemic wholly attributable to a prevailing imbalance between calorie intake and energy expenditure in modern lifestyles.
In affluent countries, AI, automation and robotics have increasingly taken the legwork out of human roles, rendering jobs less physically demanding and more sedentary.
Instead of walking to work, many of us drive, or take the bus, the train, increasing the amount of time we spend sitting each day. Add to this the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, with many people evolving to remote working practices, and already dwindling activity levels dropped even further.
A well-rounded, nutritionally complete diet and regular exercise are essential to maintaining both physical health and mental well-being. Not only do these two vital components guard against weight gain in a world where lifestyles are growing increasingly sedentary, but exercise and healthy eating have both been shown to improve brain function and mood.
A healthy diet comprises at least five portions of vegetables and fruit every day, incorporating plenty of fiber-rich whole foods, some dairy, a moderate amount of unsaturated fats, protein, plenty of water, and a wide variety of micronutrients. Without balanced nutrition, the body is not only vulnerable to infection and disease, but fatigue starts to creep in, diminishing physical performance. With statistics from the Center for Science and Public Interest suggesting that four of the top 10 leading causes of death in the US today are directly linked to diet, making smarter, more health-conscious food choices
has never been more important.