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Mid Coast Center for Community Health & Wellness Newsletter
July 2021
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The Benefits of Healthy Eating

Benefits of Healthy Eating

Eating a healthy diet has many health benefits including maintaining optimal weight, preventing disease, and boosting your mood.

In general, healthy eating starts with making good food choices. A healthy diet includes nutrient-dense foods from all major food groups including lean proteins, whole grains, and healthful fats, and eliminating or significantly reducing processed foods.

Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce the risk of many chronic health issues. Being overweight or obese, however, significantly increases your chances of serious diseases, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Some cancers
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Osteoporosis

Many healthy foods including vegetables, fruits, and beans are lower in calories and loaded with healthful nutrients. Furthermore, they tend to be higher in dietary fiber. Dietary fiber plays an important role in weight management. It helps regulate hunger by making you feel full longer, and it also helps with elimination.

Additional healthy eating tips for maintaining a healthy weight include:

  • Plan your healthy meals: This reduces your chances of making poor choices or binge eating.
  • Know how much you eat: It is very easy to consume more calories than you realize.
  • Vary your vegetables: By eating different vegetables, you may feel more satisfied.
  • Use herbs and spices: These ingredients add flavor without significantly increasing calories.
  • Read the nutrition facts labels: Know precisely what's in the foods you eat.

Better Mood

Research suggests that there may be a close relationship between diet and mood. In 2016, researchers found that diets with a high glycemic load may trigger increased symptoms of fatigue and depression.

Foods with a high glycemic load include refined carbohydrates or simple sugars. Examples of this type of food include sugary drinks, white breads, biscuits, cookies, and cakes. Conversely, vegetables, whole fruit, whole grains and lean proteins have a lower glycemic load.

Heart Health

According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for adults in the United States. The American Heart Association reports that nearly half of all adults in the United States live with some form of heart disease.

Healthy eating and increased physical activity can help prevent high blood pressure or premature heart disease. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is recommended as a dietary approach to reduce high blood pressure. This diet includes:

  • Eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
  • Choosing fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils.
  • Limiting saturated and trans fat intake, such as fatty meats and full-fat dairy products.
  • Limiting food or drinks that contain added sugar.
  • Restricting sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day and increasing your intake of calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Note that 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day is ideal.

Additional recommendations for heart health include choosing foods high in fiber. Dietary fiber may improve blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk for heart disease and other chronic diseases.

Reduced Risk for Cancer

Eating foods that contain antioxidants can help reduce your risk of developing some cancers. Antioxidants help protect our bodies cells from damage by removing free radicals, which can cause disease.

Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes contain many phytochemicals, which act as antioxidants.

Foods high in antioxidants include:

  • Seeds and nuts
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Berries, such as raspberries and blueberries
  • Carrots and pumpkins

Improved Gut Health

A healthy gut or colon contains adequate amounts of naturally occurring bacteria which aids in digestion, metabolism, and overall good health. An unhealthy diet that is high in sugar and low in fiber alters the gut microbiome, resulting in increased inflammation and poor health.

Eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes that is also low in sugar will provide prebiotics and probiotics, which allow healthy bacteria to thrive in your gut.

Examples of foods high in pre/ probiotics include:

  • Fiber (a prebiotic)
  • Fermented foods rich in probiotics:
    • Kefir
    • Miso
    • Yogurt
    • Sauerkraut
    • Kimchi

Improved Memory

Research suggests that a healthy diet might protect against cognitive decline. In one particular study, vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin E, omega fatty acids, fish, polyphenols, and flavonoids were all considered beneficial. The healthy eating suggestions previously recommended in this article also impart improved memory benefits.

Many healthy diets have certain characteristics in common:

  • Eat more vegetables: Fill half of your plate with vegetables. Make sure you select a variety of colors, and be generous with greens.
  • Eat fruit: Choose fruit over the juice so that fiber is included.
  • Eat whole grains: Select a variety of high-fiber options.
  • Include nuts and seeds.
  • Choose good fats: Olive oil, olives, nuts, nut butters, seeds, and avocados are the healthiest options.
  • Eat lean protein: If you eat meat, make it lean and eat smaller amounts. If you choose the plant-based diet, include plenty of beans.
Healthy Diet Options

A number of healthy diets have been shown to support your wellbeing and reduce your risk of disease. Several options are presented here.

Plant-Based Diet: Plant-based eating means that you focus on eating mostly plants. You do not need to be fully committed to a vegetarian or vegan diet but instead choose to eat more food from plant sources. This includes:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Legumes and beans
  • Whole grains
  • Oils

Mediterranean Diet: The Mediterranean diet builds upon the plant-based diet for a foundation, but it also includes:

  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Cheeses
  • Yogurt

The focus should be eating more plant-based foods, then eating meats and sweets less frequently.

Vegetarian Diet: There are many different varieties of the vegetarian diet, such as:

  • Flexitarian or Semi-vegetarian includes eggs, dairy, and occasionally lean meat poultry, fish, and seafood.
  • Pescatarian includes eggs, dairy, fish, and seafood.
  • Vegetarian includes eggs and dairy, but no meat or seafood.
  • Vegan includes no animal products.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet: The anti-inflammatory diet emphasizes:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Lean protein
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Healthy fats
Healthy Diet Options

A number of healthy diets have been shown to support your wellbeing and reduce your risk of disease. Several options are presented here.

Plant-Based Diet: Plant-based eating means that you focus on eating mostly plants. You do not need to be fully committed to a vegetarian or vegan diet but instead choose to eat more food from plant sources. This includes:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Legumes and beans
  • Whole grains
  • Oils

Mediterranean Diet: The Mediterranean diet builds upon the plant-based diet for a foundation, but it also includes:

  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Cheeses
  • Yogurt

The focus should be eating more plant-based foods, then eating meats and sweets less frequently.

Vegetarian Diet: There are many different varieties of the vegetarian diet, such as:

  • Flexitarian or Semi-vegetarian includes eggs, dairy, and occasionally lean meat poultry, fish, and seafood.
  • Pescatarian includes eggs, dairy, fish, and seafood.
  • Vegetarian includes eggs and dairy, but no meat or seafood.
  • Vegan includes no animal products.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet: The anti-inflammatory diet emphasizes:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Lean protein
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Healthy fats
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The Importance of Immunizations
 
 
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