What you eat today affects your health today, tomorrow and into the future. When we think about food we tend to think about what we want now and not the impact it will have on us later. People look at food and think about what they like or don’t like and what they feel like eating at that moment.
No one looks at food and thinks “hmmm, if I eat that bag of candy it’s going to cause serious damage at a cellular level.” It’s time to start thinking about the long-term effects of what we eat.
Studies show a link between poor nutrition and decreased concentration, poor physical performance, increased fatigue and premature aging.
An increased intake of sugary foods leads to thickening of the arteries, stiff joints and increased risk of cancer.
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Excess calories lead to obesity, which increases risk for heart disease, diabetes and hypertension.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey estimates the average American man consumes 2,475 calories a day and the average woman consumes 1,833 calories a day. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Science we consume on average 22 teaspoons of sugar a day – that’s 350 calories from sugar alone. This is well above what most people need.
As a dietitian, I often have people ask me how they can increase their energy level and feel better. According to the Department of Agriculture, foods that are high in antioxidants can improve the ability of the brain cells to communicate with each other longer, which maintains cognitive function as you age.
A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and heart-healthy fats has been shown to improve concentration, decrease fatigue, increase energy level and improve mood.
You have the power to improve your health by making more mindful food choices. Take a moment to pause before you eat. Look at your choices. Assess your hunger. Start with smaller portions and go back for more vegetables and protein if you’re still hungry. Reduce your intake of sweetened beverages and added sugars. Make sweet treats a “once in a while” food instead of a daily one. This is especially important during the holidays, when we’re faced with an abundance of choices.
Food is the fuel that gives you the body you need to live the life you want. Determine what kind of life you want and eat accordingly.
If you pick your foods wisely now, you’ll reap the benefits later in life.
Shelly Wegman is a registered dietitian at Rex Wellness Centers in Raleigh and Garner. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.