There’s a classic saying that goes “mens sana in corpore sano” or “a sound mind in a sound body”. The saying is meant to encourage people to take care of both their physical and mental health in order to enjoy life and live it to the fullest. It’s a worthwhile goal, but given the many obligations and stresses of daily life, it’s often hard to find time to take care of either one, let alone balance both!

HOWEVER! What if there was a way to get BOTH and have fun doing it? Before you scoff, here’s the short and sweet answer:

Eating.

That’s it. Really.

Now, the catch is that you’ve got to eat a healthy, balanced diet. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your junk food snacks or treat yourself to some sinfully unhealthy deliciousness every now and again—it’s called a balanced diet after all—but it is advisable to err on the healthy side when it comes to food.

To be clear, this isn’t an article about a specific kind of diet. This is an article about how a healthy diet can benefit both your physical and mental wellbeing, with some food suggestions to consider adding to your meals.

With that out of the way, let’s dive right in!

Physical Wellbeing

It helps with managing your weight.

Contrary to popular belief, doing loads of cardio or spending hours upon hours in the gym does not offset a diet filled with fattening foods. Sure, cardio does burn calories and doing regular weight training can help improve your metabolism (more muscle uses more energy and calories), but eating healthy is a surefire way to keep your weight in check. Swapping those soft drinks for water and sweets and chips for fruits and nuts can be a great place to start!

Also, staying at your personal optimum weight helps you avoid the diseases that come with being overweight or obese, such as hypertension, diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease, and more.

It strengthens your teeth and bones.

Sugary treats are notorious for damaging your teeth. The sugars mix with saliva and your mouth bacteria to create plaque, which in turn can dissolve your teeth’s enamel and cause cavities.

A healthy diet that mixes in foods and drinks that are high in calcium. Eat food like low-fat milk and cheese; green leafy vegetables like spinach, bok choy, and kale; and fish where you can eat the bones like sardines—can help prevent osteoporosis. This skeletal disorder, consisting of softened and spongy-looking bones that can easily break, is more prevalent as one gets older. Thus the need for a calcium-rich diet as one ages.

It improves your gut health.

Ever experience the woe that comes with constipation? If you have, that means you lack fiber in your diet. Eating foods rich in fiber like legumes (these include beans, peas, and lentils), fruits, and vegetables can help the bacteria in your stomach, intestines, and colon digest your food and make flushing out the pipes a much smoother process.

A great way to complement a diet high in fiber is to add more of the good bacteria to your body via fermented foods and probiotics, like kimchi, yogurt, and miso, which all happen to be wonderfully delicious.

It increases your immunity.

Viruses lurk everywhere, waiting to strike, and while you can try to keep as clean as possible, it’s only a matter of time before they find a way into your body. This is why it’s critical to give your body’s immune system all the help that it can get.

Eating foods that are abundant in vitamin C such as fruits (including citruses like oranges, grapefruits, and limes, and other fruits like blueberries and strawberries) and veggies like tomatoes, carrots, and leafy greens can fortify your immune system. You can also add the vitamins that come from cheese, milk, fatty fish, and more to give it an even greater boost.

And if you do get sick, a strong immune system can help you recover much more quickly.

It delays aging.

While they may not stop Father Time, foods and drinks rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids can keep him busy while you revel in the joys of youth. Or at least revel in a body that looks and feels younger than it should! These foods and drinks include leafy green vegetables; fatty fish; whole grains; green tea; fruits like strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries; and dark chocolate. They can detoxify the body by helping remove harmful free oxygen radicals, which in turn helps maintain your DNA’s structure, and slow down the effects of aging.

It helps you get a good night’s sleep.

There’s nothing like a restful sleep to recharge you after a long day. It would be quite the waking nightmare if you couldn’t get it!

Eating healthy foods can help you maintain a healthy weight, which can reduce the chances of suffering from sleep apnea, which is common in obese people. Furthermore, limiting how much alcohol or caffeine you consume can also help you get a more complete, uninterrupted sleep, regardless of whether you have sleep apnea or not.

Mental Wellbeing

It improves your memory.

Do you feel like it’s getting harder to get that word off the tip of your tongue or recall where you last placed your phone? Research has shown that a healthy diet can help prevent dementia and cognitive decline. Eating foods rich in flavonoids and polyphenols, vitamin D, C, and E, and omega-3 fatty acids can help keep your memory in tip-top shape.

It reduces stress.

Well, of course eating reduces stress! Food is the best! But seriously, foods loaded with antioxidants can literally reduce the oxidative stress in your body while foods heavy in trans fat and sugar can increase it. While stress-eating unhealthy junk food can sate your cravings in the moment, avoiding it can help you manage and control your mental stress levels in the long run

…you’ve got to eat a healthy, balanced diet. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your junk food snacks… but it is advisable to err on the healthy side when it comes to food.

It increases productivity.

If you put the wrong kind of fuel into your car, it won’t run properly or take you very far. Similarly, if you take in the wrong kind of food, you may end up sluggish. Light and healthy foods can boost your energy levels and make you more active, leading to increased productivity overall.

Emotional Wellbeing

As time goes on, research is pointing to a close relationship between one’s diet and mood. Studies are showing a link between a diet with a high glycemic load and symptoms of depression and fatigue. Foods with a high glycemic load include a lot of refined carbohydrates heavy in sugar, such as cakes, cookies, white bread, and soda. With clinical depression being taken more seriously than it ever has before, it may help to reduce intake of food that negatively affects your mood on a chemical level, in addition to seeking professional help if you need it.

Wellbeing of the Next Generation

If you have children, it’s likely that they eat the same things you eat, especially during shared meals. Whatever eating habits you have, they’ll probably develop as they grow up. That’s why consistently preparing healthy dishes and keeping a healthy lifestyle complete with proper exercise have a longer term effect than you might think. Because of these choices, your children may be more likely to make the same healthy choices when they finally have decision-making power over their meals and workout routine.

Environmental Wellbeing

The mass production of commercial foods continues to severely impact the environment and the climate. A special mention goes out to the atmosphere-warming methane produced by the millions of farm animals raised in the food production industry. For the environmentally-conscious consumer, you can help diminish this impact by choosing to eat fresh, organic veggies; free-range chicken, pork, beef, and eggs; and fish caught in the wild when you can. It helps that making this choice has become trendier in recent years and it definitely contributes to the goal of sustainability.

Eating healthy may involve some growing pains as you try to incorporate healthier choices in your diet, but the rewards are worth it! Furthermore, you don’t have to do it all in one go. It could start a day at a time as you find healthier options to choose from.

Aside from finding your own suki or local wholesaler to find you fresh produce, meat, or fish, there are also modern home appliances to make cooking healthier meals easier. Substitute an air fryeror ceramic griddle for your pan-fried dishes, for instance. (They use less oil). Or get a low-carb rice cooker. (Yes, they exist!) Or use a food processor or blender to grind up your fruits and vegetables. (Especially if you’re not a fan of veggies).

They’re worthwhile investments. After all, eating healthy is staying happy!

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