Whether you’re a vegetarian, vegan, follow a paleo or ketogenic diet, or don’t follow any diet at all, the foundation of all healthy diets is the focus on consuming fresh whole foods.
With that said, regardless of what diet or eating lifestyle you follow, here are some universal healthy eating strategies anybody and everybody can benefit from.
1. Limit processed food
Processed food or junk food is undoubtedly delicious and scientifically proven to purposely be made addicting.
Unfortunately, junk food when eaten excessively doesn’t only promote obesity but other health issues as well such as heart disease, arthritis, and faster cognitive decline. Junk food ranges from candy, fast food, potato chips, deli meats, canned meat etc. Any food essentially that comes with packaging and a list of ingredients and preservatives falls under processed food.
While cutting out processed food entirely is highly unlikely and impractical, know that limiting it enough and focusing your diet on a majority of fresh and whole ingredients is enough to stay in good health.
The idea behind limiting processed foods is to limit your body’s exposure to artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors, which have zero nutritional benefits.
2. Limit refined sugar
Refined sugars have shown time and time again to be closely linked to issues such as obesity, diabetes, mood disorders, gut issues, and hormonal imbalances. This is because refined sugar is high inflammatory and devoid of any nutrition.
The problem with refined sugar is it is easily found everywhere. From your favorite sauces and condiments, commercial beverages, your favorite pastries, refined sugar is easy to come by and hard to avoid.
With that said, anybody looking to improve their health will find that cutting down on refined sugar alone can result in great health improvements. Have the occasional birthday cake or cookie, but try to keep your total daily caloric intake from refined sugar at a minimum.
3. Limit refined carbohydrates
Like refined sugar, refined carbohydrates found in white bread, pastries, crackers etc. causes surges in blood sugar and promote inflammation and fat storage.
Refined carbohydrates aren’t to be confused with cutting out carbohydrates entirely. Healthy carbohydrates such as whole grains, ancient grains, beans, root vegetables etc. all contain carbohydrates but they are unprocessed and come chock full of nutrients and fiber. It is the nutritional content of these ‘good carbohydrates’ that shouldn’t get you thinking all carbohydrate food sources are the same because good carbs don’t spike your blood sugar the way refined carbohydrates do.
Refined carbohydrates on the other hand are not only highly processed, but stripped of fiber and nutrition, which is why once your body processes it, it turns into sugar.
A diet that requires you to starve yourself or promotes starvation is a diet that has no credibility and will do more harm, mental and physical, than good.
4. Don’t starve yourself
Even time restricted diets such as intermittent fasting doesn’t promote starvation. Diets like these require people to start fasting from a shorter time-frame and progressing to longer fasting time frames precisely to ensure that your body adjusts accordingly without starving.
Forcing your body to starve promotes malnourishment, stress, and backfires for any health and weight loss benefits because your body responds by slowing down metabolic functions in order to conserve energy. Not only does starving yourself cause pain, but the common response is to binge eat in response to not eating enough, negating all the effort you put in to not eating.
A healthier eating habit would be to instead practice mindful eating, when put in its most basic form is simply listening to your body’s hunger responses. Eat when you’re genuinely hungry and stop when you’re satisfied.
5. Exercise body acceptance
There is a distinct balance between loving and accepting your body as it is but also accepting that you may not be giving it your best to promote its health and having enough love it to take care of it the best way you can.
Being healthy is not just a physical state, it is also a state of mind. Know that you have the choice to love and accept your body as it is now, and not when it is a certain way that you perceive it should be in the future.
Following healthy eating habits should be a form as nourishment to a body that you already love, and not as a form of punishment or a response to a body that you feel is lacking. Accepting your body as it is and nourishing it the best way you can is one of the best and most sustainable things you can do for your entire wellbeing.
These eating habits ideally fit into any healthy lifestyle. With moderation and mindfulness, anybody can follow healthy eating habits without necessarily having to eliminate any particular food entirely.
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