Why eat well? I used to ask myself this question quite often when driving past a certain fast food taco shop. The food there wasterrible for my body—made of the cheapest, most grotesque ingredients and full of disgusting additives. One time it even made me sick to my stomach. And yet I kept eating it.
It’s true that eating healthy and wholesome meals is generally more expensive and usually takes more preparation time than eating junk food and takeout all the time. And who has the time (not to mention the money) for that?
I did. I found this out when one night in my late teens I got sick… and didn’t get better for months and months. The World Health Organization links poor diet and a lack of exercise to a high risk for stroke, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and some kinds of cancer (read more here). I link it to feeling sick for a very, very long time.
So what does a healthy diet do?
Professor Benjamin Caballero at Johns Hopkins University defines it for us in his online course on nutrition. A healthy diet is one that:
- Fills the “energy needs” of our minds and bodies. Everyone knows this part deep down: eating healthy food just makes you feelbetter – more awake and more energetic. Consuming unhealthy foods and drinks, on the other hand, can make you feel bloated, tired, and unable to do well in your life activities. Wouldn’t it be nice to have enough energy, both mental and physical, to take on work or school each day?
- Gives us enough “essential nutrients”. If you are growing, healing from an injury, or just trying to think straight at work or school, getting enough vitamins and minerals is a no-brainer.
- Makes us less likely to contract a disease. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that “chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability in the U.S.” They cite a lack of fruits and vegetables second on this list of factors that put you at risk for one.
- “Is safe to consume.” There are a lot of toxins in American foods – especially in the ready-made foods at the grocery store and the corner market. Being poisoned by junk food probably won’t make you too sick the first time, but, take it from me, it can cause problems if you keep consuming it over time.
In the end, eating well doesn’t just keep you from getting sick. It’s a relatively easy and potentially fun way to get the energy you need to start feeling good about life. When you consider how much better life is when you’re healthy, it just makes sense to make eating right a top priority.
Most people can agree that they should make more wholesome eating habits a bigger focus in their lives. But where can we start? It can be very difficult to figure out what exactly you’re eating in the first place. Often there are more than twenty ingredients on one package of food alone!
For starters, you can follow along with this column. Here you’ll find fun recipes, helpful nutrition insights and ideas on how to detect food allergies. You’ll also get tips on how to shop smarter and get higher-quality food for your money, as well as updates covering the newest trends and developments in food science and health food culture. Happy eating!