Eating habits are swiftly changing all over the world. People are realizing that living a healthy lifestyle helps prevent chronic diseases, long term illnesses and promotes longevity. Nowadays, people are increasing their intake of natural foods and are focussing on implementing healthy habits.
Our forefathers had little to worry about food as most of it was available in its natural form. Even though the resources were limited, they mostly ate organic, natural, and sustainable foods.
However, with increased demands, competition, and the introduction of new technology, people have started using artificial fertilizers and pesticides to boost the growth of their crops. Also, harmful chemicals are used to ripen or increase the size of fruits and vegetables. Some foods go through a lot of processing, and additives are added to increase the shelf life of the product to make them look appealing and taste better. All these processes are detrimental not only to us but also to the environment.
People are becoming cautious of the harmful effects of processed foods, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides used in agriculture and are moving towards more healthy eating habits. Numerous food labels market themselves as natural, organic, and sustainable even though they comply differently. So, before dwelling on the health benefits of clean eating, let’s understand the meaning of these words.
Organic: Organic foods are farmed using very specific and eco-friendly methods. They are farmed without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or genetic engineering. It helps sustain soil fertility and ecological biodiversity.
Sustainable: Sustainable implies food production that is socially and environmentally responsible. It may be farmed organically or with more conventional methods to ensure the safety of the environment.
Natural: Refers to the food that has undergone minimal processing and contains no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
The food industry has been witnessing a revolution in the past few years. People are moving from foods with high sugar and oil content to baked, sustainable, and no preservative foods. People are also getting influenced by social media which not only allows chefs, health experts, and nutritionists to post photos and recipes of healthy food to a wide audience but also allows brands that focus on natural foods to connect to people all over the world. This has brought in a lot of awareness about how beneficial eating healthy is. Also, the COVID-19 pandemic has made more people interested in foods that are beneficial for their immunity, metabolism, and mental health.
Benefits of Healthy Eating:
• Helps in maintaining heart health: According to the National Library of Medicine(National Centre for Biotechnology Information), it is possible to prevent up to 80% of premature heart diseases and stroke diagnoses with lifestyle changes such as increasing physical activity and healthy eating. The researchers found that whole grains, fruits, and vegetables with high fiber are filled with nutrients that are crucial for keeping the heart-healthy.
• Helps in improving gut health: A healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, and nuts provides a combination of prebiotics that help good bacteria thrive in the colon. It promotes regular bowel movements and improves gut health.
• Helps in improving memory: A 2015 study identified nutrients and foods that protect against cognitive decline and dementia. Researchers have found that vitamin E, vitamin D, vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids, flavonoids, and polyphenols are very beneficial to boost brain function. Walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, avocado, spinach, blueberries, and broccoli act as superfoods for the brain.
• Aids in weight management: Many healthy foods, including vegetables, fruits, and beans are lower in calories than most processed foods. A healthy diet helps a person limit his daily calorie intake. A diet rich in fiber and protein helps in staying fuller for longer and prevents overeating.
• Helps in controlling diabetes: Eating healthy, natural, and organic food products can also help in controlling diabetes. It helps manage the blood glucose level by limiting the intake of processed food and food rich in trans fat. Eating a diet high in fibrous plants and unprocessed foods may help reduce blood sugar levels in people who have or are at risk of diabetes. International Diabetes Federation, stated that more than 463 million people live with diabetes worldwide, out of which 88 million people belong to the South East Asia region and by 2045 this will rise to 153 million. It is, therefore, crucial to inculcate healthy eating habits into our lives and get all the benefits of organic and natural foods.
• Helps in maintaining soil health: Natural and organic ways of farming help in maintaining soil fertility. They do not completely deplete the soil of its nutrients and prevent the soil from turning into barren land. Also, this healthy soil produces healthier crops that can resist diseases, survive drought, and tolerate insects thereby needing less pesticide interference and providing us nutrient-rich healthy, natural, and organic foods products.
Easy ways to introduce natural foods into your daily life:
• Avoid vegetable oils and spreads: Vegetable oils and spreads are produced via chemical extraction, making them highly processed. Some oils contain high levels of omega-6 fat linoleic acid. Studies suggest that it increases inflammation, potentially raising the risk of weight gain and heart diseases. The body needs to eat a moderate amount of healthy fats that you can get from healthier options like cold-pressed coconut oil, olive oil, and natural ghee.
• Avoid packaged snacks: Snack foods typically contain refined grains, sugar, vegetable oils, and other unhealthy ingredients. They provide very little nutritional value. Avoid grabbing these for mid-meal snacking. Choose better alternatives like unsalted nuts, dry fruits, vegetables, and fruits.
• Add vegetables and fruits: Keep more fruits, vegetables in your diet. Try to eat seasonal fruits and vegetables as they naturally ripen in the sun, are fresher, and taste better. They have the highest amount of nutrition, antioxidants, and poly nutrients. Avoid processed foods and try healthier recipes at home.
• Eating whole grains: Refined carbohydrates are highly processed foods that encourage overeating and provide very little nutritional value. Research has shown that refined carbs can lead to inflammation, insulin resistance, fatty liver, and obesity. In contrast, whole grains provide more nutrition and fiber, help in weight management, supports healthy digestion, and help in reducing chronic inflammation.
• Substitute sugar with natural sweeteners: It is almost impossible to just get rid of sugar cravings completely from your diet. So try replacing sugar with a healthier alternative like jaggery powder in your teas, coffees, desserts, etc. It aids in digestion, helps prevent anemia, and also helps in cleansing the body. You can also use raw honey which is another healthier alternative to sugar. It is a rich source of antioxidants and fiber and can promote heart health.
• Limiting processed foods: Most processed foods lose their fiber and nutrition but gain sugar, salt, chemicals, or other ingredients. They lack many nutrients that are provided by natural foods. They also sometimes have unhealthy ingredients which might cause more harm than benefit.
The healthy food movement has become unstoppable due to the rising awareness of nutrition and its benefits. But it is not just a trend that everyone is following, we are just going back to our traditions and resorting to more holistic ways of eating.
We should focus on adding healthy foods to our diet rather than just taking unhealthy foods away. We naturally stop eating unhealthy foods once we add healthier options to our diet as we start experiencing its health benefits. These foods help us stay fuller for a longer time as most of the healthy foods are mostly organic food products or naturally procured food items that are rich in fiber and protein. We stay full and don’t indulge in overeating. Eating healthy is not about following a diet plan, it’s about adapting to an eating lifestyle that takes us back to eating natural foods.
So eat healthily and stay happy.