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Three ways to eat more nutritiously

If you want to eat more nutritiously but don’t quite know how, here are a few easy changes you can make that will benefit your health.
Last Updated : 06 July 2024, 09:44 IST

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Hazel Flight For The Conversation

Ormskirk: When it comes to staying healthy, diet is one of the best things you can do to look after your body.

If you want to eat more nutritiously but don’t quite know how, here are a few easy changes you can make that will benefit your health.

1. Be adventurous Plenty of unusual or unconventional foods that might not be a normal part of your diet are full of nutrients and microorganisms that can have many health benefits.

Sea vegetables, for instance. These have existed for thousands of years and are a staple food in traditional Asian and coastal cultures. These vegetables are nutrient dense and contain antioxidants (molecules that neutralise harmful “free radicals” in the body), essential fatty acids, fibre, iodine and proteins not found in land-based foods.

This is due to the unique growing conditions and biological adaptations of sea vegetables, which lead to a distinct nutrient profile – making them a valuable addition to the diet. Some of their benefits include protecting against cancer and being antiviral, preventing blood clots, regulating cholesterol levels and having antioxidant properties. They may also prevent cardiovascular disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Certain sea vegetables – such as algae – can be added to other foods to boost their taste and health benefits. Research shows that adding algae to foods such as cheddar cheese and toasted bread is a great way to increase protein content. The blue-green algae spirulina is particularly beneficial – packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and protein. It’s even used as a supplement by Nasa astronauts on space missions.

Sea moss, edible seaweeds (such as nori) and algae (such as mozuku) are just some of the sea vegetables you might consider putting on the menu.

Bitter greens – such as dandelion, beetroot, nettles and mustard greens – are all nutrient dense and have antioxidant properties. They’re also shown to support gut health and digestion as they’re packed with fibre.

Fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut and kefir, are associated with lower risk of chronic diseases (including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer) and better weight management. They’re also rich in probiotics, which promote gut health and improve digestion.

2. Season generously Using a variety of herbs and spices when cooking not only enhances the overall sensory experience of your meal, they also provide several wellbeing benefits.

Spices such as turmeric, ginger, garlic, as well as cinnamon, cloves and oregano, are thought to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties due to the array of chemical compounds they contain.

Many of these chemical compounds complement each other – and may even counteract several disorders, including heart disease, chronic inflammation and diabetes.

Cinnamon has also been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels, which is particularly important for managing diabetes.

Ginger, peppermint and fennel are all associated with better digestive health. But if you’re looking to improve your immune health, you should aim to include plenty of garlic, thyme and oregano in your meals.

Because of how flavourful herbs and spices are, you’ll probably use less salt and sugar when cooking your meals – which could reduce the risk of conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. Chilli peppers may also be a useful weight management tool, as the capsaicin they contain (which causes the spicy sensation) boosts metabolism and promotes fat burning.

One last benefit of using herbs such as saffron and rosemary is that they’re are linked to improved mood and cognitive function. Even the aroma of rosemary may be enough to enhance memory and concentration.

3. Eat seasonally and locally Incorporating seasonal food into your diet is not only good for your health, it’s also good for the environment.

Seasonal fruit and vegetables are often fresher, taste better and may have higher nutrient content because they do not need to be stored and transported. Locally grown, seasonal food usually needs fewer chemicals and preservatives because they don’t need to be transported far distances. And because these foods don’t spend as much time in storage and transit, there’s less chance of spoilage and waste.

It’s worth noting, however, that while storage and transportation may be linked to some loss of micronutrients, these losses are considered minimal – especially in relation to not eating fruit and veg at all.

If you can, try preserving some fresh seasonal produce – either by dehydrating, canning, freezing or fermenting them. This extends their shelf life and preserves some of their nutritional value.

How you eat It isn’t just your diet that’s important in helping you eat more nutritiously. The way you eat is also important.

For instance, mindful eating can help promote a healthier relationship with food, which can in turn improve digestion and weight management. This is because mindful eating emphasises being more conscious of your hunger and fullness queues, which can prevent overeating.

The more aware you are of the food you’re eating, the healthier and more balanced the food choices you may make.

The size of your plate is also important when it comes to maintaining healthy eating habits. For example, smaller plates give a visual perception of more food. In a society where overeating is common, using the correct portion sizes may help you eat a more balanced diet.

By making just a few small changes to your daily diet, you can improve how nutritious it is and boost your health and wellbeing.

The author is Programme Lead Nutrition and Health, Edge Hill University.

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Published 06 July 2024, 09:44 IST

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