Be honest: how many times have you decided to start eating healthy in order to lose some weight, only to find yourself giving up and indulging in something sweet or salty later? This is a process known as yo-yo dieting, where people try to “get healthier” by crash dieting. Then after some time, they feel hungry and deprived and give up on their health goals entirely. This common cycle is a toxic dieting belief that people commonly fall for, which is why it’s important to change your mindset if you want to eat healthy every day.
For example, what if your motivation to eat healthy was more than just weight loss? While having a healthy diet can assist your body in losing some of the extra weight, eating nutritious foods regularly has all kinds of benefits for your body’s health. Numerous dietitians and studies back this up, stating that if you eat healthy every day, your body’s processes and functions will improve significantly, making you feel better inside and out.
Here’s what exactly happens to your body when you eat healthy every day, and why you should consider shifting your mindset from always trying to lose weight to always wanting to live a happy, satisfying life. And if you’re looking for even more healthy eating tips, be sure to check out our list of The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
“When we focus on eating a healthy and balanced diet on a regular basis, rather than cycling through fad diets and integrating cheat days, our bodies begin craving the healthy foods we consume,” Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD from Balance One Supplements. “This is because our bodies work optimally when we fuel it with food and nutrients that add to our health rather than take away from it.”
Best points out that this process happens due to neuroplasticity, a process in which the brain can change habits after repeating new habits over a period of time. One study published by the journal Neural Plasticity shows how a healthy lifestyle of eating healthy and physical activity can train the brain to actually like these healthier patterns of life.
“Therefore, as we eat a healthy diet on a regular basis and experience the positive side effects from this lifestyle we will begin desiring this way of life-based largely on the changes in our brain that it produces,” says Best.
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Conversely, if your body can be trained to crave healthier foods, it can also be trained to crave less unhealthy foods.
“You can actually develop a dislike for less healthy foods where they begin to ‘taste more processed’ or ‘too salty/sugary’, which helps you not crave those items as often,” says Ricci-Lee Hotz, MS, RDN at A Taste of Health and Expert at Testing.com.
Here are 12 Ways to Crush Your Unhealthy Cravings for Good.
“Our bodies are like intricate factories, relying on food energy, vitamins, minerals, fluids, and antioxidants to function optimally,” Brenda Braslow, MS, RD with MyNetDiary. “It is amazing how good nutrition provides all of these important components to function at tip-top level. When you eat healthy, you give your body what it needs to function well, both internally and externally.”
Not only does eating a variety of nutrients healthy for your internal body, but it will also help with your outward appearance.
“Healthy nutrition can show on the exterior with healthy eyes, skin, teeth, nails, and hair,” says Braslow. “Health care professionals and scientists also see that healthy nutrition shows on the inside with a healthy heart, cleaner arteries, and blood vessels, and a healthy digestive tract.”
“When you eat healthy regularly, you’ll likely notice a difference in many aspects of your health, including having stable and consistent energy levels, improved sleep, and better recovery from workouts,” says Sarah Schlichter, MPH, RDN of Bucket List Tummy. “A healthy, well-balanced diet includes adequate macronutrients and micronutrients to help support the optimal functioning of body processes.”
Every dietitian we spoke with about eating healthy said the same thing—you’ll see a decrease in inflammation when you eat a healthier diet. That’s because most “healthier” foods are considered anti-inflammatory, while foods that aren’t as rich in nutrients are known to be inflammatory. Harvard Health points out that a diet with less processed foods will help reduce inflammation, which is closely linked to a higher risk of chronic diseases.
Here are the 30 Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods.
“Healthy meals support your digestive system and avoid bloating and discomfort and your body looks composed and slim,” says Shannon Henry, RD with EZCare Clinic.
Hotz also points out how eating healthy can improve your overall gut health. A study published by Nature Metabolism looked at the gut health of 9,000 participants and found that eating a healthy diet is closely linked to a healthy gut microbiome.
No one likes to still feel hungry after eating a meal. That’s why it’s helpful to ensure that you include the three important macronutrients on your plate in order to feel full for a longer period of time. By ensuring that your plate has a sufficient amount of protein, fiber-rich carbs, and healthy fats, your body will feel full and satisfied for hours after enjoying your meal. That’s because protein, fiber, and healthy unsaturated fats are all keys to keeping your body feeling full and your digestive tract happy.
The easiest way to ensure you are getting all of these macronutrients in your meal is by following the USDA MyPlate Guidelines straight from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Filling half your plate with vegetables and/or fruit, a quarter of your plate with a lean protein, and a quarter of your plate with a fiber-rich carb or whole grain (while incorporating a healthy fat, like olive oil or avocado) is the easiest way to ensure your healthy meal will keep you feeling full.
It’s called nutritional psychiatry. According to Harvard Health, when you properly fuel your body with foods that will help it to function better (i.e. “premium” fuel) what you eat can directly affect your brain, which consequently affects your mood. Researchers at University of Michigan Health point out five different foods that directly affect your mood including tryptophan (turkey, dairy, nuts), magnesium (whole grains, legumes), phytonutrients (dark chocolate), omega-3 fatty acids (fish, seeds), and polyphenols (berries, coffee, wine).
Nevertheless, eating a healthier diet full of nutritious whole foods will make a huge difference in your mood throughout the day. Here are Healthy Foods Dietitians Say You Should Be Eating Every Day.