We choose what we eat depending on our needs, priorities, time, budget, and attitude toward nutrition and health. Your health is directly related to your diet, so if you want to live a happier and healthier life, healthy eating habits should be on top of your list of priorities.
Eating a healthy diet can prevent many serious health conditions and reduce the risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure, just to name a few. Sadly, many people don’t pay attention to what they put in their bodies. Some folks don’t have enough time to prepare nutritious, well-balanced meals, others may not care about what they are eating. While each and every one of us could come up with an excuse as to why we can’t eat a healthy diet, it is important to at least consider making some healthy changes to your eating habits. Over time, you can introduce more and more changes – up to the point where you are comfortable with eating wholesome, nutritious food on a daily basis.
Many people think that it is easier to eat canned food as it requires less time to prepare and serve. This is not necessarily true. Nowadays, you can find hundreds upon hundreds of healthy recipes that are ready in under half an hour. If you put in just a little effort, you can easily change your eating habits and lifestyle.
Fresh Food vs. Processed Food
When you think of healthy eating, fresh food is probably the first thing that comes to mind. Fresh ingredients are the foundation of every healthy diet, but the problem is that fresh food is not always easy to find. Some foods are seasonal and some do not grow in certain countries. This, combined with the lack of time to cook, is the main reason why people choose packaged food.
When it comes to the benefits of eating fresh food, the biggest one is that is really good for you. It is healthier than packaged food because it doesn’t contain any preservatives, dyes, added salt, artificial sweeteners, etc.
Fresh foods are not frozen or preserved by canning, dehydration, freezing or smoking. Fresh foods such as fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, nuts, and seeds are not altered in any way from their natural state. They contain more nutrients than packaged food and are naturally lower in fat, calories, and sodium. With all the vitamins, minerals, and fibers they contain, fresh food can keep your immune system strong.
You can find more fiber and healthy fats in fresh food than in packaged food as well. If you include fresh foods in your diet or at least replace some processed food with fresh food, you can provide your body with all the nutrients it needs to function optimally. You can lose and maintain weight and prevent many chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes or heart disease.
One more thing to consider is flavor. Fresh food tastes better. Nothing beats the flavor and texture of fresh food.
Generally speaking, processed food is food that has been altered from its natural state. Processing methods include grinding, steaming, extensive heating, canning, smoking, pressing, cooking, and freezing, as well as dehydration and fermentation. The main problem with processed food is that, during manufacture, many healthy nutrients are lost.
Processed food is often high in sodium and bad fats, which can increase blood pressure and cholesterol. It can contain allergens. Some processed foods such as soft drinks, candy, baked products, and frozen desserts are loaded with sugar. Eating high calorie food that is also low in fiber food can contribute to weight gain.
However, not all processed food is bad. It is a common misconception that all packaged and processed food is unhealthy. For example, freezing is a great way of preserving food. There’s no need to add chemical preservatives as vegetables and fruits are frozen on the day they are picked. Freezing can also preserve most nutrients, meaning frozen foods can actually be good for your health.
Balance Is the Key to Health
You can balance your diet by avoiding pre-packed and precooked foods whenever possible. Even though processed foods are faster and more convenient to prepare, you can still make some time for homemade meals. When you are in the mood for a snack, you can eat an apple or some other fruit instead of a cookie.
However, you don’t need to eliminate all processed foods from your diet to improve your health. You can decrease the quantity of processed foods you eat and increase your fresh food intake. It may seem like a lot of work, but it isn’t that hard at all. The best way to be sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need is to eat a wide variety of food. When you are buying packaged food, you should pay attention to labels as well.
What you should also pay attention to is the quality of certain meal replacements such as shakes or protein bars. The purpose of these meal replacements is to provide you with all the nutrients your body needs in a single serving of food. While eating protein bars or shakes is more than convenient – there’s no grocery shopping or meal preparation, all you have to do is open the packaging and start eating – it doesn’t always give your body what it needs to stay healthy. This is why you should be very careful when choosing meal replacements and only opt for those that are made of ingredients of the highest quality. There are quite a few options that are clean, pure and nutritionally dense but it’s most important to find the healthier ones vs those that are made from low quality ingredients such as artificial sweeteners, low quality protein sources, etc.
Eating Your Way to Health
While fresh food comes with more health benefits, processed food is not as unhealthy as you may think. Still, keep in mind that fresh food doesn’t have additives and preservatives while processed food does. Fresh food is naturally nutrient dense, which means it is rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, unlike processed food, which is high in calories and low in everything else.
On the other hand, fresh food has a shorter shelf life than packaged food, which doesn’t just last longer but is also available throughout the year. And in many cases, it actually is easier to prepare. Bear in mind that nowadays even wholesome food is not what it used to be. Unfortunately, with more and more people concerned about their health and the quality of the food they eat, farmers have begun overusing the land. They just take away without giving back, meaning that the soil no longer contains all the minerals and nutrients it should. This is why you should consider using nutritional supplements and including superfoods such as salmon or blueberries in your diet. Superfoods are extremely rich in nutrients, which makes them particularly beneficial for your health.
It is important to weigh the pros and cons of both eating fresh and processed food. Consider all the factors when choosing the right diet for your needs. Just bear in mind that when you eat better, you will feel better. Similarly, when you eat healthier, you are going to be healthier. It is truly that simple.