Society’s modern diets are hardly the same diets that have kept us healthy for centuries. Influenced by the sizzling summer topics on social media, we’ve become obsessed with fat loss, dieting, and fitness routines promising to get us the perfect physical appearance. Unfortunately, our drive to rapidly achieve these goals has caused many of us to adopt an “at any cost” attitude that doesn’t stop for a moment to consider the basic nutritional demands of our bodies.
Starvation and fad diets, though popular, have revealed the unhealthier effects of social media. Even the mega-popular social media titan Instagram had to admit recently that the standards being set for modern beauty on their platform are irrefutably harmful to today’s teens.
In terms of nutrition, it seems society has lost its way - consumed with reckless pursuits of weight loss without any real focus on basic nutrition. Let’s take a break for moment from following personalities or accounts that make us feel “less than” and reacquaint ourselves will five simple facts that will ensure you are getting the proper nutrition to perform your best, both physically and mentally.
Fact One: Nutrition Does Not Mean Fat Free
Surprise. There are fats you should be eating for their nutritional value, even if fat loss is one of your goals. That’s because our bodies require a certain amount of dietary fat. Dietary fats are also referred to as essential fatty acids, and our bodies need them to function optimally because of the role they play in facilitating the proper absorption of vitamins and minerals.
But we’re not condoning that you get your fat intake by eating bacon cheeseburgers. The nutritious kind of fats are unsaturated fats. Specifically, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that are found in common nuts and seeds (pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, etc.) and also fish. Eating salmon, tuna, and herring increases your Omega-3 fat levels – a crucial type of nutrition because your body cannot manufacture Omega-3 on its own - it must come from the foods that we eat.
Fact Two: Optimal Nutrition Includes Proper Hydration
Our bodies are 60% water, so hydration understandably ranks very high in nutrition. Now that summer has arrived, it may require a more deliberate effort to consume the right liquids to maintain our proper levels of hydration. If we don’t, our bodies simply cannot perform at their best.
Drinking water makes enormous contributions to nutrition in the form of essential minerals like potassium, iron, and sodium – all minerals that our muscles desperately crave, especially in the summer heat. Experts have traditionally maintained that we should be drinking eight glasses of water each day, but people who exercise more will need to drink more water. As temperatures go up, we need to be mindful of listening to our bodies. When we get thirsty, skip sugary sodas and seek out unsweetened options or ice water instead.
There are also foods that can help our bodies stay hydrated - oranges, peaches, and pineapples are more than eighty percent water, and they provide vitamins and minerals in their most organic forms!
In fact, the nutritional benefits of staying properly hydrated go beyond the physical realm. One London study revealed that drinking enough water successfully boosted attention rates by more than 20 per cent.
Fact Three: Nutrition in Whole Foods
We spoke with a registered dietitian at a fitness studio in Canary Wharf (London) who stressed the importance of consuming more whole foods like whole grains, fresh fruits, and legumes because of their nutritional value. Whole foods are easily identifiable because they don’t require a label listing thousands of chemical ingredients, and they are far more nutritious than popular ready-made meals that are heavily processed.
Increasing our intake of whole foods may become more challenging as our fast-paced, frenetic lifestyles resume, and ready-made meals grow increasingly more convenient. But these heavily processed foods are often loaded with useless calories that offer little value to our bodies and they lack the crucial vitamins, minerals, and fiber that our bodies can get from eating organic, whole foods.
Examples of the whole foods we need to be consuming more of include:
Nuts and seeds – cashews, peanuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds
Grains – whole wheat, rice (wholegrain), and steel-cut oats
Fruits and vegetables
Legumes and beans – lentils, split peas, and chickpeas
Fortunately, all of these can be conveniently purchased at your local supermarket.
Fact Four: Food Over Supplements
Vitamin supplements are commonly recommended by doctors, fitness professionals, and personal trainers (PT) for a multitude of reasons. The debate becomes whether we can rely on these supplements to help us achieve proper levels of nutrition, or is it better to focus on what we eat to get the vitamins and minerals that our bodies need? Is nutrition really as easy as popping a pill?
It’s a question that continues to be debated.
Its’ important to understand that our digestive systems use enzymes to extract the nutrients that our bodies crave from the foods that we eat, and it’s rigged to discard what we don’t need. That means if we’re taking more vitamin and/or mineral supplements than we need, there is no real benefit because our bodies will simply get rid of the excess.
But it’s absorption where eating more whole foods can trump the nutritional value of taking supplements. That’s because our bodies do a much better job of absorbing the vitamins and minerals we need when they’re provided in food sources rather than in pill or capsule form.
Remember, it only makes perfect sense for us to be consulting dieticians or fitness professionals to determine what nutrients our bodies need more of. Medical and fitness professionals are trained to assess our lifestyles and help us determine what supplements make the most sense, and at a surprisingly affordable price.
Fact Five: The Connection Between Nutrition and Your Mental Health
The medical community is just beginning to verify the connections between our diets, nutrition, and mental health, but there is already plenty of evidence to show how closely these topics are related. In fact, a one U.K. study connected nutritional supplements to effectively battling depression and anxiety. Right now, one of society’s biggest nutritional challenges is how heavily we rely on processed foods to get us through our day – foods that offer little nutritional value but are so high in sugar, flour, and carbs that our brains become conditioned to crave more of them.
If we’re going to be getting the proper nutrition from our diets, it will require a lifestyle change for many of us. But the benefits of optimal nutrition have become undeniable - we will live more fulfilling, more enjoyable lives because our bodies will feel better, both physically and mentally.