The food we eat really does impact everything, from our energy levels, to the shine of our skin, and even to our sleep quality.
Our hispanic culture has too many wonderful (and delicious) traditional foods to say “No” to them all, nor would we want to. We all know that preparing food together is one of the things that makes life worth living. It’s how we show love for family members and neighbors. It’s magical.
The key is choosing your battles when it comes to food choices. That way you can enjoy the best of our heritage and make informed decisions that put your long-term health first. It’s time to celebrate with a plan!
How do food choices affect our health?
The food we eat gives us energy (calories) and it gives us nutrients. In order to avoid gaining weight (and all the problems and serious illnesses that can come from obesity) we need to balance the energy we take in (eat) with the energy we expend each day.
Healthy food choices make this balance easier, and they also give us the micronutrients (like vitamins and minerals) and macronutrients (like fats and protein) that our body uses to repair itself and stay healthy.
Let’s break down how good food can lead to the good life:
1. Eating healthy = Less unhealthy fat
An extensive study in 2018 by the City University of New York showed that the vast majority of foods that had high amounts of cholesterol also had high amounts of saturated fat, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.
Before you get discouraged, it’s important to remember that not all fat is evil. We need fat to function - it’s part of our cells, especially fatty acids, which work hand in hand with protein to ensure healthy cell function, specifically in how they facilitate communication between cells. When we eat bad fats, like saturated fat, it can actually disrupt the communicaiton of our cells by weakening our cell membranes, leaving them sluggish and unprotected.
Here are some examples of healthier fats to add to a healthier diet.
- -Eggs are full of nutrients and proten but have low levels of saturated fat (1.56 grams per egg), and also contain key vitamin and mineral micronutrients.
- -Omega 3 Fatty acids, like those found in nuts and fish like Salmon, are very important for heart, brain, and joint health.
2. Eat healthy to sleep like a baby
A Columbia University study in 2016 found that foods full of sugar and saturated fat slow down our digestion, speed up our heart rate, and make it harder for us to fall asleep and stay asleep. Studies have also shown that a diet low in micronutrients shortens sleep duration. This can lead to a vicious cycle where those who sleep less end up eating worse and sleeping even less than before. It’s “chicken or the egg?” - does the bad sleep come first or the fatty, sugary food? One thing’s for sure in this scenario, though - your health comes last.
On the other hand, the Columbia study showed that people with a healthy diet full of micronutrients slept better, longer, and their bodies even responded better to sugary or fatty foods. A healthy diet is the key to a good night’s sleep, and we all know there is nothing like a good night’s sleep.
Here are some examples of foods that can help with sleep quality
- -Milk, which contains an amino-acid that helps isolate melatonin, your body’s natural sleep hormone.
- -Omega 3 rich fish like salmon, mackerel, and anchovies. Omega 3 can stimulate melatonin production.
- -Sour cherries and kiwis, which also help increase melatonin levels.
3. Eating healthy means more energy
Every single thing our body does requires energy, and when we eat poorly, we can fluctuate wildly. Like when we scarf down sweets or simple sugars - there is a great sugar rush of energy, but it leaves as fast as it comes. It’s the same for our cells, which need balanced nutrition in order to stay healthy and meet short, medium, and long-term energy demands.
Here are some examples of foods that help give us more healthy energy.
- -Eggs, which have a great balance of fats and proteins.
- -Nuts, which are full of minerals and essential fatty acids.
- -Bananas, which are full of fast-energy potassium.
- -Spinach, which is loaded with carotene and betacarotene for energy production.
- -Dark Chocolate, which is a superfood full of protein, healthy fats, minerals like potassium, iron, magnesium, and even vitamin B12!
- -Pumpkin and sunflower seeds, which also have magnesium - a key nutrient for converting carbs into energy.
4. Eating healthy can protect our DNA and reduce our cancer risk.
Damage to our DNA is caused by many factors, like exposure to toxic chemicals, or even aging. Damage to our DNA can lead to mutations in our DNA, like the mutations that cause cancer cells to form and grow unchecked.
One of the best ways to protect the structure of DNA is to eat healthy, which helps maintain a strong cell membrane, keeping potentially damaging substances out of our cells.
Here are some examples of foods and nutrients that can protect DNA and help avoid cancer.
- -Healthy, unsaturated fats, like those found in ocean fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies. Nuts, avocado, and olive oil also contain high levels of healthy fats.
- -Vegetables like carrots, tomatoes, and spinach, which are high in folate. Folate helps in DNA replication and repair.
- -Vitamin B12, which also helps in DNA replication and repair, and can be found in dairy products, fish, eggs, and meat, among other places.
- -Certain fruits like carrots, mangos, papaya, and banana, which are high in DNA-protecting betacarotene.
Even a little change goes a long way.
Good food for the good life doesn’t mean we should starve ourselves or go on a crash diet. It just means making small changes, little by little, with our long-term health in mind. It means having that extra portion of healthy fruit - an apple, a pear, a small banana. It means having a couple extra salads a week, or putting some spinach in a shake. It means changing out fried foods for grilled - the taquitos will taste just as delicious, we promise!
Let’s get healthier, together.
Your friends @misantoremedio