A healthy diet and healthy lifestyle have very good PR which is not a surprise. Science confirms their beneficial effects on the body and mind. These slogans appear very often in various situations, but what do they mean? What is a healthy diet? What does it mean to lead a healthy lifestyle? With us, you will find out what to do to make your lifestyle healthier and why it is worth it.
Healthy diet - what is it and how does it work?
There is no single answer to what a healthy diet is. Recommendations may vary significantly depending on the institution. Individual needs and predispositions must be taken into account. Some people feel better if they eat 3 meals, others 5. Some people enjoy 60% of their energy from carbohydrates in their diet, others 35%. However, a healthy diet is built on certain pillars that remain constant. In the most general terms, a healthy diet is a way of eating a diet that covers all the body's needs. It is adjusted in terms of calories, macronutrients, provides essential vitamins and minerals, is varied, attractive and tasty.
The pyramid of healthy food recommended in Poland illustrates such a diet very clearly. The pyramid of healthy food developed by specialists is accompanied by 10 principles which describe what proper nutrition is at its core. Planning meals according to these rules makes it easy to get started with proper nutrition.
10 rules of a healthy diet
- Consume your meals regularly.
- Eat vegetables and fruit as often and as much as possible, at least half of what you eat. Remember the right proportions: 3/4 - vegetables and 1/4 - fruit.
- Eat cereal products, especially whole grains.
- Consume at least 2 large glasses of milk every day. You can replace it with yoghurt, kefir and - partially - cheese.
- Limit your meat intake (especially red meat and processed meat products to 0.5 kg/week). Eat fish, pulses and eggs.
- Limit your intake of animal fats. Replace them with vegetable oils.
- Avoid the consumption of sugar and sweets (replace them with fruit and nuts).
- Do not add salt to your food and buy products with low salt content. Use herbs - they have valuable ingredients and improve the taste.
- Remember to drink water, at least 1.5 l a day.
- Do not drink alcohol.
Healthy diet rules - how to incorporate healthy eating into everyday life with ease
It is easier to include healthy eating in your daily diet by knowing the helpful tricks that make food choices and building good eating habits easier. Here is a set of tips to help you put healthy eating principles into practice.
- Eat slowly, while sitting. Give your brain time to feel satiety. Eating quietly makes it easier to respond to the satiety signals that your body sends out.
- Let wholemeal bread and thick cereals make up at least half of the carbohydrates (bread, cereals, rice, pasta) you eat.
- Eat eggs, preferably for breakfast. Don't be afraid of cholesterol. Cholesterol from food in the vast majority of people is unrelated to blood cholesterol levels. In fact, research shows that eggs eaten for breakfast promote better glycaemic and weight control.
- Avoid long frying and grilling. These processes produce far more toxins than boiling, roasting and braising, and dishes become heavier to digest.
- Eat fish 2-3 times a week.
- Take care to include vegetables, possibly fruit, in every meal.
- Avoid sugary drinks, ready-made food and fast food.
- Prepare most meals at home.
- Avoid 'diet' products. Apart from being low in fat, they have little to offer and often have poor composition.
- Remember that a healthy diet does not have to be perfect. In fact, it shouldn't, because the ideal diet is too difficult to follow all the time. Just make sure that 80% of the foods you eat are healthy. The other 20% can be your favourite food guilty pleasures.
A healthy lifestyle - not just a diet
What is a healthy lifestyle? It consists of several factors that ensure physical and mental well-being. In the context of a healthy lifestyle, we first think of diet and physical activity. However, they are not its only components.
Healthy lifestyle - physical activity
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends 150-300 minutes per week of moderate physical activity (e.g. fast walking, marching, peaceful swimming, recreational cycling) or 75-150 minutes of higher-intensity physical activity (e.g. aerobics, running) to prevent numerous diseases and improve well-being. In addition to aerobic cardio exercise, which improves performance and stamina, anaerobic strength training is recommended. The WHO recommends resistance training twice a week as it has additional health benefits.
A sedentary lifestyle is particularly detrimental to health. Sitting at work, relaxing in front of the TV after that, moving around in the car. All this means that we spend most of the day sitting, which increases the risk of diseases. It is recommended to avoid sitting as much as possible, to walk instead of driving, and to do small household chores while moving.
Healthy lifestyle - correct body weight
Correct body weight is one of the factors essential for maintaining health and mobility until old age. However, there is no need to stick to the BMI ranges, which define the normal weight, overweight and obese ranges. BMI does not take into account most of the factors that affect body weight and whether it is still normal - bone mass, muscle mass, body fat content, the amount of fat around internal organs.
For each person, the range of correct weight will be slightly different, depending on their physique, hormonal conditions and the most beneficial circumstances for body homeostasis.
Healthy lifestyle - sleep and rest
Adequate sleep is not only essential for feeling good throughout the day and keeping energy levels high. Chronic sleep deficiency has been linked to mood disorders, depression, decreased libido, lowered immunity, increased risk of obesity, hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, including heart attack.
On average, a young adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep and an adult 7-8 hours to rest effectively. Daytime naps, criticised by many, are not harmful and in fact, have a positive effect on productivity and creativity in performing tasks. However, it is important that during short naps, sleep time does not exceed 20-30 minutes and does not enter the deep sleep phase.
Taking a break from work, household chores, meeting the needs of others, focusing on yourself for a while and doing something purely for pleasure should be a natural part of everyday life. Rest is essential to function. It is not possible to live indefinitely on a " dead battery ". Fatigue will always show itself eventually. The longer it gets dragged out, the more severely it will affect us. A healthy lifestyle is also about a healthy mind. Sleep and rest are among the essential elements of well-being.
Healthy lifestyle - drugs and bad habits
Drugs and bad habits which make it difficult to call a lifestyle healthy include smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products, drinking alcohol, taking intoxicants, abusing medicines or taking them without any apparent need.
If you want to live a healthy life, you have to give up drugs, which include alcohol in any quantity. The latest WHO position is that, according to current knowledge, the greatest benefit to health comes from giving up alcohol totally. It is recommended to consume as little alcohol as possible and to avoid other drugs completely.
Benefits of a healthy lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle offers a lot of benefits. These can be seen in both physical and mental well-being. Increased life length, reduced risk of disease, improved quality of life, mental wellbeing, and stable mood. This is how the benefits of a healthy lifestyle may be presented in a nutshell. A proper diet and regular exercise change life for the better.
Healthy lifestyle and longevity
A healthy lifestyle prolongs life. According to observational studies conducted on large populations for over 20 years, men who take care of their body weight, physical activity and proper nutrition live, on average, 7.6 years longer than those with a low-hygiene lifestyle. Among women, the difference is even greater - 10 years.
Healthy lifestyle and risk of disease
Life longevity is undoubtedly a consequence of diseases that occur with age. A healthy lifestyle reduces the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, atherosclerosis and some cancers. It also reduces deaths from cardiovascular incidents - heart attacks and strokes. Approximately 50% of deaths in Poland are due to cardiovascular disease and cancer. A healthy lifestyle is a real tool to reduce their risk.
A healthy diet and exercise also affect the body's mobility.As we age, joint problems become more troublesome, and bone demineralisation progresses, which can lead to osteoporosis and, common among seniors, hip fractures. A healthy lifestyle improves bone density, strengthens muscles and 'oils' joints.
Other effects of a healthy lifestyle worth mentioning include improved bowel function as well as the immune system, or positive effects on eye, teeth and skin health.
Healthy lifestyle vs. mood and mental illnesses
A healthy body and healthy mind, says the well-known phrase. It is also true from a scientific point of view. The role of a healthy lifestyle in mental health should not be underestimated. Physical activity is important for reducing perceived stress and anxiety. It causes a kind of 'reset' of the brain during exercise and the release of endorphins - the 'happy hormones'. A properly balanced diet provides the necessary ingredients to protect over-exposed nerve cells. According to scientific studies, a low-quality diet can worsen the condition of people suffering from mood disorders, anxiety and depression, while a healthy diet can reduce their symptoms.
Healthy lifestyle vs energy and productivity
Lifestyle affects energy levels, motivation to perform, productivity at work and creativity. A diet based on processed foods, sleep deficiency, little time outside and a sedentary lifestyle result in reduced productivity and energy levels, even if you are eating the right amount of calories. Well, they are not everything. The brain needs many nutrients to work efficiently, most importantly omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and antioxidants. Higher energy levels, motivation and creativity are also facilitated by smaller meals, a low glycaemic load of meals and eating infrequently instead of constant, non-stop snacking. Efficient brain function is promoted not only by a diet, but also by spending time outdoors, looking at natural scenery, even looking out of the window while working and, of course, physical activity to relieve tension, mental fatigue and boost motivation.