You may have heard that you need to eat healthily to maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of chronic diseases (like heart disease and cancer), and promote your overall health.
The question is, do you know why healthy eating is likely to lead to success in your life? There’s actually a connection between eating healthy foods and success that may not be too obvious but is a very powerful link. Let us briefly explore that link so that we can use that knowledge to our advantage.
The energy you need to perform tasks effectively comes from eating healthy foods. You don’t want to go about your daily schedule feeling grumpy and irksome. Healthy eating can increase your energy levels, increase your life expectancy, improve your mood, and can also reduce the number of days you call in sick.
But for your body and brain to help you do that, you’ll need to provide them with adequate nutrients and a good level of energy.
Usually, we generally assume that the food we eat goes to our stomach and not our thinking center – the brain.
But when the nutrients and energy are filtered out of the food, they are transported through the bloodstream to every part of our body including the brain. So, if you eat good food, you are essentially giving your body and brain the nutrients and energy to function optimally.
But if you eat unhealthy foods or if you don’t have healthy eating habits, your body and brain suffer the effects of unhealthy food and poor eating habits.
Healthy eating does not only mean avoiding fast food and sodas. It includes:
1. Staying away from food when you should:
When you are full, you should stop eating. Basic, right? But you’ll be surprised at the number of people who keep eating because:
● They can’t resist the taste of the food.
● It’s their favorite food.
● They don’t want the food to go to waste.
When you are hungry, you become more alert – you see clearly, you can quickly recognize and figure things out. This is evolutionary in a way that your brain has adapted to keep you alive.
Our ancestral hunter-gatherers needed these cognitive functions to quickly hunt down animals and think of clever ways to survive back in the day. But when you eat, these cognitive functions tend to become a bit dull – all you want to do is relax because you are satiated, and the urge to seek survival is satisfied momentarily.
Hunger tends to stimulate your cognitive abilities. On the other hand, a feeling of satiation tends to squelch your drive to task your brain and slow down your mental keenness.
Now imagine that you are full and keep eating for whatever reason until you overeat, how do you suppose that would impact your cognitive functions – your ability to think properly?
And what about someone who has a habit of binging, how successful do you suppose that person is likely to be?
As tempting as your favorite food may be, you need to stop overdosing your body and brain with it. Overeating, even if it is healthy food, is an unhealthy way of eating.
2. Eating when you are supposed to:
There are several reasons people do not eat when they are supposed to.
They could be too busy and forget to eat or postpone eating until they get the chance to eat.
They could be trying to lose weight and keep fit that they intentionally deprive themselves of food. Or they may be following some strict fad diet that tortures them instead of helping them.
For some people, it could be misplacing the function of exercise and dieting. You cannot eat your way out of an exercise problem; neither can you exercise your way out of bad eating habits.
3. Eating a balanced diet:
It goes without saying that one type of food doesn’t contain all the energy and nutrients your body and brain needs. You need to change up what you eat to make sure that they contain the necessary micronutrients you need.
4. Avoiding unhealthy foods:
Even though fast food and processed sugars won’t kill you (instantly) or suddenly turn you from a highly productive person to a clueless person overnight, its negative impact can take its toll on you over time. Unhealthy foods will definitely affect your physical health and mental health.
Fundamentals of Healthy Eating
As earlier mentioned, there are quite divergent views about what to eat and what not to eat.
So, to keep things simple and to avoid all the confusion that may arise from conflicting “expert” nutritional advice, let your diet be based on real foods instead of processed foods.
If you can make it a rule to eat your food nearly as natural as they were made, your body and mind will be significantly impacted to make you feel and think better.
Your body needs a balanced supply of all macronutrients and micronutrients – carbohydrates, fat, protein, minerals, vitamins, and fiber – in your meals to function optimally.
Whatever you may be told, there is no need to eliminate a particular class of food from your diet. What you need to do is to make a conscious selection from each category of food.
1. Protein: Supports cognitive functions and also improves your mood. Fish, dairy products, meat, and poultry are good sources of protein. But you don’t have to eat animal products alone to get protein. High-quality protein can also be found in nuts and seeds, beans, soy products, and tofu.
2. Carbohydrates: Supplies your body with most of the energy it needs to continue functioning. But instead of eating refined carbohydrates such as cornflakes, white bread, potato chips, instant oatmeal, and sugary cereals, consider the healthier unprocessed carbohydrates such as unrefined whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat, barley, multigrain bread, bran cereal), non-starchy vegetables (green beans, celery, spinach, tomatoes), and fruits (pears, apples, citrus fruit, berries, and bananas).
When you reduce your intake of refined carbohydrates and processed sugars, it can help to prevent wide fluctuations in your energy levels and mood, rapid spikes in your blood sugar level, and also the accumulation of fat in your body.
3. Fat: Good fats can help to protect your heart and brain. Bad fats, on the other hand, can put you in harm’s way by increasing your risk of certain diseases. Consume healthy fats such as avocados, olives, peanut butter, walnuts, and fish oil. As much as possible, stay away from trans fat – they are harmful to your health. Sources of trans fats include fried foods (fried chicken, french fries, chicken nuggets), commercially-baked doughnuts, cakes, muffins, cookies, and any food that contains hydrogenated vegetable oil. Also, limit your intake of saturated fats that come from sources such as ice cream and palm oil. Instead of removing fat from your diet, be more conscious and eat healthy fats.
4. Fiber: Consider including fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and grains in your diet. They are good sources of dietary fiber, which can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
5. Calcium: Eating adequate amounts of calcium can help to improve your sleep quality and also reduce your chances of developing anxiety and depression. Calcium-rich foods include broccoli, salmon, soymilk, cheddar cheese, nonfat milk, and so on. Combining calcium-rich foods with vitamins D and K, and foods containing adequate amounts of magnesium is very necessary for your optimal health.
The Healthy Eating Pyramid
You don’t have to overly concern yourself with exact food measurements and counting of calories. Food is meant to be enjoyed, and the process of preparing it too should be an enjoyable one and not some dreaded task.
To help you remove whatever notion of complexity you may have about eating healthily, you can follow The Healthy Eating Pyramid developed by the Harvard School of Public Health.
The pyramid was designed to make healthy eating easier – consider it as a general grocery list that anyone can use.
The pyramid simplifies healthy eating by placing foods of the same nutrient-type in one category or layer of the pyramid.
The narrow tip of the pyramid contains foods that should be consumed in small amounts and sparingly. The wider bottom of the pyramid contains food that should be consumed more often and are important for your body and mind.
However, I believe that this pyramid is outdated and was made on faulty research, so that I would recommend only using it as a guideline.
Take Baby Steps
Instead of trying to change everything at once, take baby steps. Begin with small goals, and as you achieve them, you can gradually work your way up the ladder to achieve better results. Remove unhealthy food choices one at a time and replace them with healthy ones until it becomes a habit.
Your Food, Mood, Energy Level, and Productivity
One of the most important organs in your body is your brain. It keeps every other system in your body functioning as they should.
This is why it is essential to provide your brain with the right type of nutrients and ample energy to keep it working optimally.
Without the right level of energy, your brain is likely to become impaired, and that would affect your mood, energy, and overall productivity.
You may not know every single healthy food which your brain needs, but there are certain foods you should keep away from for the sake of your brain.
Be wary of so-called sugar-free products. They usually contain aspartame (artificial sweetener). Also, sugary drinks, as well as food that contains trans fat, refined carbs, and fish that are high in mercury, are not brain-friendly.
Avoid them as much as you can.
The Impact of Your Food on Your Mood and Productivity
When you eat, your food is broken down and converted into glucose. Glucose is the energy that helps your brain to stay alert.
If the food you eat does not give off adequate amounts of energy to the brain (when converted to glucose), you will have a difficult time concentrating on whatever task you have at hand.
In other words, cognitive functions are impaired when you feed on low quality (unhealthy) food regardless of the quantity.
Another way that food can affect your energy levels, productivity, and the mood is the type of energy produced from the food you eat.
Some foods, such as soda and pasta, are quick to give off energy. This means that you can feel a burst of energy almost immediately after eating these foods, but it usually doesn’t last.
So, you start to feel hungry and distracted again following the slump in energy.
Other foods such as cheeseburgers and high-fat meals can give you energy in the long haul but require your digestive system to put in extra work. This can lead to reduced oxygen levels in your brain, and then you start to feel dazed.
The nutrients in your food do not just provide fuel for your body; they also act as information providers to your body.
If you feed your body with the wrong types and quantities of food, it cannot properly process the information needed for metabolism and other activities.
This can result in decreased energy, bad mood, poor productivity, and a decline in your health. Malnourishment, overweight, and diseases are all results of misinformation due to feeding your body the wrong types and quantities of food.
The Benefits of Proper Nutrients
Switching from unhealthy eating habits to eating healthily has noticeable differences. Here’s something I suggest you give a try if you have not made healthy eating part of your lifestyle.
For the next week, suspend eating all fast foods, cut out sugars, don’t eat processed or packaged foods, and avoid foods that are high in sodium.
Make sure you drink an adequate quantity of water each day.
Here’s what you’ll notice about yourself :
● You tend to be more alert and aware of yourself and your environment
● You remember things better because your memory is positively impacted
● You sleep soundly at night and for longer periods
● You tend to have clear insights into things
● Your creativity receives an extra boost
● You are more active than before
● You are able to cope better with stress
● Your mental focus tends to become stronger.
You will discover that your overall outlook on work, relationships, health, and other important aspects of your life seem to be improved. All this contributes positively to your success in your endeavors.
Finding More Energy
Food is supposed to provide your body with energy and leave you feeling satiated. But when you eat junk food, guess what happens? You still don’t feel full.
You could eat a heap of french fries and drink some soda along with it, and after consuming that many calories, you still feel somewhat hungry in a short while.
The reason is that there is a huge difference between consuming calories and the intake of macronutrients (healthy carbohydrates, proteins, fat, and dietary fiber).
When you eat junk food, you are getting calories – plenty of them.
But there’s a reason they are called “empty” calories; it’s because they lack the nutrients that your body needs for sustainable energy.
Satiety is an inbuilt mechanism that is activated when you take in the right nutrients, not calories. So, you could go on eating junk all day and within the shortest time, start to feel hungry, less energized, and in a foul mood.
When you eat junk food such as french fries, for example, the ratio of calories to nutrients is way off. In other words, the calories are very high, but the quantity of nutrients they provide is very little compared to the quantity of the food.
Here’s a simple example. To get 100 calories from eating junk food such as a cookie, all you need is just two pieces of the cookie. It can give you a quick burst of energy, but it is gone as fast as it comes and it leaves you feeling hungry.
To get 100 calories from eating spinach, you’ll need to be able to eat anywhere between 10 or more cups of spinach! This means that you get more food in your stomach, more nutrients (iron and beta-carotene), and dietary fiber.
All of this translates into high-quality energy that can sustain you for longer periods. When you eat foods that are rich in dietary fiber and protein, it helps your body to slowly digest your food and also release energy to keep you going for a long period.
Eating junk in the hope of getting energy will only confuse your body – you are eating, but your body is still getting hunger signals, which will make you eat more food, and you end up overeating.
It doesn’t matter whether junk food is sugar-free or low-sugar; all junk food is ultra-processed food.
This means that they contain cosmetic additives and food extrusions, both of which ingredients are meant exclusively or industrial purposes. In short, they are harmful to your body.
You can’t get more energy from junk food; that’s the reason they are called junk to begin with.
Boost Your Energy Using Healthy Foods and Healthy Eating Habits
A lack of energy can negatively impact your activities. Becoming successful at what you do means that you have the energy and mental alertness to do what is required of you when it is required.
Consider the following quick tips to naturally boost your energy using healthy food.
To help you sharpen your focus and provide you with long-lasting energy, start being deliberate about eating foods that your body takes a comparatively longer time to absorb their sugar content. High-fiber vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, and nuts are some of these foods with a low glycemic index (slowly absorbable sugars). The glycemic index for fats and proteins are almost zero.
Judicious use of coffee can increase your alertness because it is rich in caffeine. So, make sure to have coffee long before your bedtime to allow your body to release the hormones responsible for relaxation and quality sleep.
Avoid smoking, not just because it is dangerous to your lungs but also because tobacco contains nicotine. Nicotine causes insomnia because it drains your energy.
Limit alcohol intake (or avoid it if you can). Alcohol has a sedative effect that can weaken your energy level. If you must drink, do so when you don’t mind having low energy.
Remembering to Eat in a Busy World
A lot of people run their lives on reserve energy. Many things top their priority list – money, career, fame, sex, relationships – but never their health.
And the reason for this neglect is largely lack of time. But here’s the truth; no one has more or less time than another. We all have the same number of hours in a day. You only make time for things that you consider important.
If your health is not one of those important things, you won’t see the need to make time for it. You can convince yourself that you are fine because you are not (yet) on a hospital bed.
But eventually, that line of thinking will definitely catch up to you if you are not giving adequate attention to your body.
How and when do you eat? See if any of these statements describe your eating habits.
● I eat only when I can take time off from my busy schedule.
● I am usually in a rush when I eat because I need to get back to more important things.
● I don’t have time to be picky about what I eat. I just grab a bite of the next available food and I’m done with food for that moment.
● I prefer snacking especially during working hours because it is quicker and a lot less messy.
● Eating is a distraction for me. I make sure that I finish handling important things before eating.
If any of these statements describe your behavior toward food, you are neglecting your health.
It is okay to be a driven person; someone who gets up and follows their passion because they believe strongly in what they do.
However, if your job or business is your only source of passion and purpose in your life, it is doubtful that you will ever live a happy and fulfilling life.
When you live solely for your business and career, you put yourself under constant pressure. Your fight or flight response system is constantly in overdrive, and that is not a good thing for your health.
The Dangers of Neglecting to Eat
As unimaginable as it may be, there are actually some people who forget to eat, especially when they are under stress.
It could also be due to an imbalance between intellectual and physical activity where a person becomes too carried away in a cerebral activity that they become lost to their physical environment and even their body.
Under intense pressure or stress, food becomes unpalatable, or hunger doesn’t seem to come to the foreground.
Such a person may resort to drinking high-calorie drinks or coffee just to get by.
Eating unhealthy foods can also affect your mood, which can, in turn, cause a loss of appetite. Neglecting to eat or not remembering to eat and drink adequate amounts of water on a continuous basis can cause malnutrition.
A malnourished person isn’t likely to be successful in any other pursuit.
When a person is malnourished, it can:
● Cause a delay in the time it takes for wounds to heal
● Lead to depression, loss of interest in social interactions, and self-neglect
● Reduce their immune response
● Lead to increased risk of pressure sores
● Lead to frequent tiredness, apathy, and a
general lack of concentration
● Take longer to recover from illness
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be cumbersome.
You don’t need to count calories (or count anything for that matter) to eat healthily and live a happy and fulfilling life.
The effort required to eat healthily and maintain a healthy lifestyle is far less than the work the body has to do to get rid of unhealthy stuff that many people constantly feed it with.
The benefits do not just end at good health and fitness; its beneficial impacts also extend to your job and relationships.