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Focusing on Foods that Can Improve Your Health

Do you pay much attention to your diet? Do you know what you are eating, or what you need to eat to stay healthy? Many people do not, and this means that they are missing out on essential nutrients that could help them to feel better, look better, have faster and clearer recall, focus more, and do better at work or school.

It's easy to say that you don't have the time to count calories, cook from scratch, or worry about fresh food. Fast food stores are everywhere, and picking up a packet of potato chips is much more satisfying in the short term than eating an apple. However, in the long run, you will not be doing your body much good if you do that.

improve your health The Impact of Nutrition on Your Mind and Body

Most people appreciate the impact that nutrition can have on their waistline, complexion, hair and energy levels, but what a lot of people don't realize is that it can have an impact on your cognitive performance too. If you've ever had brain fog after over-indulging the night before, you may have some understanding of this.

Studies show that nutrition is important for brain development in young children. 1 Good quality nutrition in early childhood is associated with better cognitive performance. 2 These trends continue into adulthood, too, as we will discuss later.

Government Nutrition Guidelines

The UK government has published some guidelines regarding nutrition and health. 3 Those guidelines focus on the overall nutrition that people take in, and are designed to be as accessible as possible for people. The 'Eatwell' Guide 4 explains that you can follow a healthy diet, and do the right things for your body, by focusing on eating a variety of foods, including fish, plant proteins, fruit and vegetables, lean meats, and also the sweet or savory treats that you crave. There are similar guidelines all over the world, although there are some population-focused differences, based on the health issues that are common in other parts of the world.

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Don't fall into the trap of thinking that you have to eat organic, locally produced fruit and vegetables, and cook every single meal from scratch to be healthy. Frozen vegetables are nutritious and are a convenient and easy choice. Rice, beans, and chicken are all good options for people who want to improve their diet. They are cheap, affordable and convenient.

The Nutrients Your Brain Needs

Your brain needs several essential nutrients, including 5

    • Vitamin A - for eye health and cognition

    • Vitamin C - for the antioxidants, which help to stave off the effects of aging and protect cells

    • Vitamin E - for gamma-tocopherol, which can protect against brain disorders

    • Omega 3 - Fatty acids to help promote good brain function

    • Acetylcholine - an important ingredient of neurotransmitters

The above are just some of the nutrients that your brain needs for good functioning. There are many others. Indeed, nutrition experts emphasize that there is not one specific supplement that you can take or one specific superfood that you can eat, that will help you to perform better at school or college, or that will protect your brain health long term.

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If you are looking to protect your brain function into old age, then you will want to focus on a diet that is rich and varied, with as many different nutrients as possible. You can still treat yourself; there are studies that show that things like chocolate and wine can be beneficial in moderation.

For example, cocoa has been found to have neuroprotective effects, making it useful for people who are older and who are looking to avoid the effects of age-related cognitive decline. 6 There are also studies that show that the antioxidants in wine could be beneficial, thanks to their anti-aging properties, and that wine is a healthful beverage. 7 Of course, these things are true only in moderation. Many chocolate bars are calorie dense and full of sugar, additives and unhealthy fats. Wine may have benefits, but it is also an alcoholic beverage, with all the potential problems that it could bring.

Focus on A Sustainable Diet

There is an often repeated statistic that 95 percent of diets fail. This is based on a decades-old study, and while it has been backed up with more recent studies showing that people can lose weight for a few months but tend to regain the weight they lost when they stop the diet, 8 there is one key detail in that statement. If you want to get and stay healthy, then you should not be looking at doing juice cleanses or trying to lose weight through extreme calorie restriction. Rather, you should be looking for small, simple lifestyle changes that will last forever.

You can still eat chocolate or have pizza on a game night. You can still drink wine. If you absolutely hate broccoli then you do not need to eat it. There are changes that you can make, that will be simple and effective. Drink more water. Swap out potato chips for fruit. Have a smaller snack size version of your favorite sweet treat. Fill your plate with vegetables instead of starchy carbs. Have a naked burrito instead of having the one with the wrap. Have just one beer instead of several. You will save money, and you will enjoy a lot of health benefits too.

Focus on the changes that you know you can make and that you will be able to stick to. Make one change at a time and stick with it until it becomes a habit. 9 Pretty soon, you won’t miss what you once loved.

Photo Credits: PHOTOCREOMichalBednarek/, DiegoCervo/, Elenadesign/

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