In matters of health and nutrition, it’s easy to get confused. We’re constantly flooded with information about the latest food fad or trendy ingredient. Even experts tend to have contrary views on the subject.
However, there are a few recommendations that are actually backed by scientific research. Health and nutrition ultimately come down to balance. This is easier to achieve than you might imagine, and switching to a healthy lifestyle can even be enjoyable. You just have to learn about the fundamentals: vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, and healthy fats.
Whether you want to know what it takes to eat healthy or you’re trying to shed a few pounds, here is our list of science-based health and nutrition tips everyone should know. Keep them in mind the next time you’re doing your groceries or going to a restaurant.
Don’t Drink Your Calories
You already know that you should avoid getting dehydrated by making sure you consume enough fluids. This has numerous advantages. It increases the number of calories your body burns by boosting your metabolism. Studies show that if you consume the recommended amount of fluid of around 2 liters per day, you can boost your metabolic rate by as much as 30%.
The amount of fluid your body needs increases in hot weather and during workouts.
Another great time to drink fluids is before meals since it helps with digestion and reduces your appetite.
Unfortunately, these days many of us replace water with sugary soft or fizzy drinks. It’s best to stick to water. These drinks are not just bad for your teeth, they also tend to be high in calories. Correction: sugary drinks are some of the most fattening products you can consume.
Research shows that your brain doesn’t register the calories that come from liquids the same way it does from solid food, so it doesn’t adjust your appetite. The result is that you’ll tend to consume more calories during the day without realizing it.
And seeming healthy fruit juice and smoothies are not much better. If you want to get the vitamins, simply eat the fruit so you can also get the fiber.
Don’t Go on a Diet! Track Your Eating Habits Instead
You want to shed a few pounds, so you’re thinking of going on a diet. Don’t. Just don’t. Dieting is notoriously ineffective and one of the most powerful predictors of future weight gain.
Diets can sabotage your weight loss endeavors just as much as overeating. Yo-yo dieting and depriving yourself of food can raise your risk of developing chronic diseases and lower your metabolic rate. Yo-yo dieting leads to weight cycling – losing and gaining weight repeatedly. This can cause chronic inflammation, which can lead to chronic disease.
If you’re trying to lose weight or maintain a slim figure, depriving yourself of food is not a good strategy. Eating healthy is not about counting calories. Even if you consume the right amount of calories, it doesn’t mean that you’re getting them from the right sources or that your body is getting the nutrients it needs to stay healthy and fit. Weight loss will be a natural result of switching to a healthy lifestyle and choosing quality over quantity.
And the best way to transition to a healthy lifestyle is to keep a diary in which you track your food intake. Research shows that doing so makes you more likely to adhere to your goals and lose weight.
But we don’t mean writing the number of calories. What you eat is just as if not more important than how much you eat.
You’ll want to base your food choices on nutrient density. Your body needs vitamins, protein, fiber, healthy fats, and micronutrients like liquid minerals. This strategy will help you become more mindful of the food you put in your body. You’ll see that in the long-term, it’s a lot more effective in helping you lose weight and stay fit. Best of all, instead of feeling hungry, cranky, nauseous, and weak because you’re depriving yourself of food, you’ll feel healthy and full of energy.
Protect Your Gut Health
Gut health is crucial to many of your body’s biological processes like nutrient absorption, appetite control, and hormone production. You have trillions of bacteria living in your digestive tract, and as unsettling as that might sound, they’re good for you. The “good bacteria” help you extract nutrients from food, synthesize certain vitamins and control the spread of “bad bacteria” that are harmful to your health.
Based on this information, you can understand why disruptions in the gut microbiota can lead to serious chronic disease.
Probiotics contain strains of the “good bacteria” we mentioned. You can either buy probiotics and take them as supplements, or you can incorporate foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha into your diet. You’ll also want to make sure you eat enough fiber since it works as fuel for your “good bacteria.”
Get Enough Sleep
If we’re honest, most of us are not getting as much sleep as we’d like. We know how unhealthy it is to sacrifice sleep in order to get more work done or sometimes, just so we can binge yet another Netflix show, but somehow we still do it.
Much like dieting, poor sleep habits are another strong predictor of weight gain. Sleep deprivation can increase your chances of developing obesity by more than 50%. It also raises your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. That’s because it increases insulin resistance and interferes with hormones that control our appetite and metabolism.
The best way to make sure you get enough good quality sleep is to set a schedule and stick to it. You’ll also want to avoid exposing yourself to bright light or the blue light emitted by screens. So instead of watching Netflix or scrolling through your social media before you go to bed, you might want to take a bath, meditate, read or listen to an audiobook.
Your circadian rhythm is influenced by external factors. Avoiding bright and blue light and going to bed at the same time will help your body produce hormones like melatonin so you can fall asleep easily instead of counting imaginary sheep at three in the morning.