Beyond the Scale: 7 Life-Changing Benefits of Healthy Eating

Article posted in: Diet & Nutrition Experts’ Corner
person cutting cucumbers for healthy eating plan

Most people start their healthy eating journey to lose weight. However, the rewards of a nutritious diet extend far beyond achieving a slimmer waistline.

The benefits of adopting a healthy diet can completely change your life, from enhancing your physical and mental well-being to improving your energy levels. Use these seven life-changing healthy eating benefits as motivation to stay the course towards your personal health goals, regardless of the number on the scale.

1. Improved Heart Health

heart disease

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that heart disease is the top cause of death across the globe.

Losing weight can undoubtedly improve heart health. Experts agree that overweight individuals who lose just 10% of their body weight (about 20 pounds for a 200-pound person) can significantly decrease heart disease risk factors like high cholesterol and triglycerides.

However, eating for heart health is about more than just cutting calories. Diets rich in whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables provide fiber, vitamins and minerals essential for protecting heart health. Notably, research shows that an increase of seven grams of fiber daily is associated with a 9% decrease in heart disease risk.

Furthermore, keeping your sodium intake in check can help reduce blood pressure—a key heart disease risk factor.

2. Reduced Cancer Risk

A healthy diet can be a powerful tool to reduce your cancer risk. Antioxidant-rich foods like fruits and vegetables fight free radicals, the harmful compounds that cause cell changes associated with cancer.

Numerous studies have linked higher fruit and vegetable intake to lower cancer risk. According to the American Cancer Institute, you should aim for two to six cups of fruits and veggies daily.

Dark green and orange veggies may be particularly potent cancer fighters, so look for ways to include more foods like spinach, kale, broccoli and orange bell peppers in your meals.

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3. Better Mood

Woman sits cross-legged on her bed by the windows, smiling as she holds an open book

The connection between what you eat and how you feel is undeniable. Your diet can have a profound impact on your mood and mental well-being. This connection is rooted in the intricate biology of your digestive tract.

Your intestines are lined with neurons that communicate directly with your brain. Additionally, most of the mood-regulating neurotransmitter serotonin is produced in your digestive tract.

These processes are heavily influenced by the trillions of bacteria living in your gut, and the food you eat determines how well these bacteria function.

Switching to a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and healthy fats helps your gut bacteria thrive, reducing your risk of mood disorders like depression by 25-30%.

4. More Energy

Ever feel drained mid-morning or post-lunch? Your food choices might be the culprit.

Breakfasts loaded with refined carbs, such as bagels, muffins or sugary cereals, can cause a quick blood sugar spike followed by a plummet, draining your energy. Likewise, lunch foods low in protein and fiber, like pasta, white bread or French fries, can lead to afternoon fatigue.

In contrast, diets rich in lean proteins and fiber digest slower, maintaining your energy and curbing cravings. Choosing foods like egg whites with whole grain toast in the morning and salads, hummus and lean proteins at lunch can keep you full and energized without the crash.

5. Sounder Sleep

Man resting in bed

A better night’s sleep is often an unexpected but welcome benefit of healthy eating. Consuming nutrient-rich foods not only assists in weight loss, potentially easing obstructive sleep apnea, but also provides essential sleep-promoting vitamins and minerals.

For example, B vitamins in seafood and greens and magnesium in nuts and dark chocolate support melatonin production. Additionally, a diet rich in vitamins A, C, D, E and K can enhance sleep quality, leaving you feeling refreshed and ready to take on your day each morning.

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6. Enhanced Physical Ability

Muscle and bone strength greatly affect your body’s physical abilities. The importance of this isn’t limited to athletes. Strong bones and muscles can help you reduce joint pain and increase your endurance to participate in activities you love.

You may be surprised to learn that most people’s bone mass has peaked by age 30. Similarly, you naturally start losing muscle mass after age 30. However, maintaining a healthy diet full of lean proteins and calcium-rich foods can prevent these losses, keeping you feeling good in your body long-term.

7. Smarter Brains

Healthy fats from salmon, avocado, olives, and nuts

Eating healthier fats from nuts, seeds and seafood instead of saturated fats in processed meats, butter and pastries can enhance brain performance. Research consistently shows that diets abundant in healthy fats boost brain function and memory.

Conversely, a major study revealed that women with diets high in saturated fat underperformed in cognitive and memory tests. So, whether preparing for a crucial test or eyeing a job promotion, a nutritious diet lays the groundwork for achieving your best.

Conclusion

While it’s tempting to fixate on the scale when working to improve your eating habits, remember that the benefits of healthy eating reach well beyond just weight loss.

By choosing wholesome foods, you’re paving the way for a life brimming with energy, elevated mood, enhanced brain function, better sleep and robust heart health while lowering cancer risks.

Struggling to start or need consistent guidance on your journey? Nutrisystem can help. With a straightforward meal plan and convenient meals delivered right to your doorstep, Nutrisystem makes it easier to enjoy the comprehensive benefits of a healthy diet.

References

  • World Health Organization (WHO). Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs). [Internet]. Geneva: WHO; [updated 2021 June 11; cited 2023 September 22]. Available from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cardiovascular-diseases-(cvds)
  • Brown JD, Buscemi J, Milsom V, Malcolm R, O’Neil PM. Effects on cardiovascular risk factors of weight losses limited to 5-10. Transl Behav Med. 2016;6(3):339-346. doi:10.1007/s13142-015-0353-9
  • Threapleton DE, Greenwood DC, Evans CE, et al. Dietary fibre intake and risk of cardiovascular disease: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2013;347:f6879. Published 2013 Dec 19. doi:10.1136/bmj.f6879
  • Cancer Progress Report. Fruit and Vegetable Intake in the United States. [updated 2023 August; cited 2023 September 22] Available from: https://progressreport.cancer.gov/prevention/fruit_vegetable.
  • Rahe C, Unrath M, Berger K. Dietary patterns and the risk of depression in adults: a systematic review of observational studies. Eur J Nutr. 2014;53(4):997-1013. doi:10.1007/s00394-014-0652-9
  • Lu J, Shin Y, Yen MS, Sun SS. Peak Bone Mass and Patterns of Change in Total Bone Mineral Density and Bone Mineral Contents From Childhood Into Young Adulthood. J Clin Densitom. 2016;19(2):180-191. doi:10.1016/j.jocd.2014.08.001
  • Okereke OI, Rosner BA, Kim DH, et al. Dietary fat types and 4-year cognitive change in community-dwelling older women [published correction appears in Ann Neurol. 2012 Oct;72(4):627]. Ann Neurol. 2012;72(1):124-134. doi:10.1002/ana.23593