A sustainable, healthy diet change can improve the quality of your life and give you more vitality. Find all the – scientifically founded – facts you need to know about healthy nutrition.
This is how healthy eating works
The average diet in many countries is characterized by an enormous number of foods whose quality and nutritional value are shaky at best. Additives, artificial flavors, preservatives, sugars, or sweeteners often go unnoticed, so that it is not clear to many people just how unhealthy much of the foods available really are.
So how do you eat healthily? Unfortunately, wheat is not only food contaminated with pesticides, but also contains an increased percentage of gluten. White flour, in particular, has no place in a healthy diet: it loses all its healthy fiber and micronutrients through processing. Another group of foods that should be considered with healthy skepticism is dairy products. Although most people in Central Europe and America tolerate dairy products in moderation, these products create an acidic environment in the body that tends to cause inflammation. An absolute “No Go” for a healthy diet are any industrially processed foods. Many of the packaged items on supermarket shelves are treated with additives to improve the taste, shelf life or appearance of a product. These additives harm your metabolism, obscure the poor quality of the basic ingredients, change your taste perception, and, in the worst case, lead to addictive behavior.
What is healthy and what is not?
In addition to the 3 taboo food groups already mentioned, there are many foods, that in and of themselves are not unhealthy, but when eaten in large amounts are detrimental to your health. One of the keys to a healthy diet is therefore not to eat only 3 or 4 different foods, but rather to eat a wide variety of foods, and it is important to use fresh, unprocessed food as much as possible – a diet that is increasingly known under the keyword “clean eating”. In this way, you can avoid developing food intolerances – which often have their origin in an unbalanced diet – and supply your organ’s energy system sufficiently with nutrients. The amount of food you eat also plays a big role when it comes to eating a healthy diet because both too much and too little food harms your health. Being both overweight and underweight are associated with numerous diseases.
A healthy diet includes about 1-2g of protein per day per kilogram of body weight. Low-fat meats and fish products are usually best: they contain fewer calories than high-fat meats, are easier to digest, and have little or no effect on the acid-base ratio in your body. Processed meats such as sausages are unsuitable in a healthy diet due to the additional fats and additives.
Oils and nuts contain good fats, which you need to have enough building material for cell membranes, signaling substances, vitamin transporters; and to regulate your blood cholesterol and to make the fat metabolism as efficient as possible. Fats consist of fatty acids, which are found in short, medium, and long molecular chains and in 3 different forms: saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids. All three types have different functions in the body: some are broken down and used as energy sources (saturated fatty acids), others are cholesterol regulators (monounsaturated fatty acids) and still others are the building materials and transporters (polyunsaturated fatty acids). Only use fats that come from fresh sources or healthy oils and avoid processed foods with high-fat content. You should eat about 1 g of fat per kg of body weight per day, of which one part (min. 5 g) is monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids—your body cannot make them on its own so they must be added to your diet.
Carbohydrates make up a large part of a normal healthy diet. But carbohydrates are not created equal. While short-chain carbohydrates such as sucrose (household sugar) and fructose (fructose) cause your blood glucose levels to spike quickly and heavily, complex carbohydrates (e.g. vegetable starches) raise your blood glucose levels slowly and evenly. The glucose in complex carbohydrates provides you a long-term supply of energy. Other digestive nutrients such as fats, fiber, and micronutrients also help to slow the absorption process. This is another reason why fruits are better for the blood sugar than bakery products – although they have comparable sugar content. Fruits also provide additional nutrients that need to be digested, while baked goods contain virtually no valuable nutrients.
You should get most of your carbohydrates from a wide variety of vegetables and some complex carbohydrates (see below). An easy way to determine a suitable vegetable portion is with your hands: every day you eat about 5-6 handfuls of vegetables and 1-2 handful of fruit. Alternatively, you can use your plate: about 2/3 of the food on your plate should be veggies. Vegetables contain few calories (low energy density), so you can eat vegetables in large quantities without risking a calorie surplus; and various types of vegetables provide you with a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that are important for your metabolism. Also, vegetables are rich in fiber—which is very filling and excellent for digestion.
Healthy weight loss vs. healthy weight gain
Eating less than your body needs without being hungry all the time – how is that supposed to work? Your body gives signals that it is full when it registers that your stomach is filled and that certain nutrients are present. To lose weight, it is therefore important to choose foods with low-calorie density and to drink plenty of water (3 liters per day). In this way, you can fill your stomach and supply nutrients to your body without creating a calorie surplus. The energy density of a food results from the ratio of calories to volume. For example, a chocolate bar has a high energy density while vegetables generally have a low energy density. Vegetables not only have a low energy density, but also a high fiber content – which also helps you feel fuller faster and stay full longer. So vegetables, in combination with good hydration, are the perfect combination to ensure that you can maintain your calorie deficit to reach your goal weight.
You should avoid foods that spike your blood sugar (e.g. white bread, cake or cola), as these can lead to increased hunger. These “fast” carbohydrates are unsuitable for weight loss. Once you have reached your desired weight, you can slowly increase your calorie intake. Although you must pay close attention to the signals your body sends you. Of course, it takes discipline to lose weight, but with the right food choices, you’ll be less likely to be at the mercy of food cravings. Get your daily calories (For healthy weight loss: your caloric needs minus about 500 kcal) from low-fat protein sources, healthy oils, nuts, some complex carbohydrates, and 2/3 vegetables
Your body cannot create muscle mass out of nothing, so you have to provide it with building material: a lot of protein for the new cell structures—about 2g per kilogram of body weight per day—and some good fat for the cell membranes. You also need healthy fats to have enough raw material for neurotransmitters— the signal substances in your body that spread the message ” build muscle “. Carbohydrates eaten at the right time—usually, right after training—help to accelerate recovery and increase muscle output. While you should eat complex carbohydrates (which raise your blood sugar levels more slowly) before training and on non-workout days, you can enjoy “fast” carbohydrates after training. Last but not least: If you want to get bigger, you have to eat surplus calories, your normal daily requirement will not provide the raw materials for new muscle mass. A rough set of guidelines: an additional calorie surplus of 20% of your basal metabolic rate.