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HealthFocused

Educational health information to improve your well-being.

Tips for Maximizing Nutrition

February 20, 2020
Published in: Nutrition

Overhead view of fresh food spread across a table

Getting the right nutrition to your body can seem like a very difficult ordeal. Most of that is a result of the dieting industry—for every new diet, there is a new nutritional super villain that must be kept at bay at all costs. While it can be true that limiting certain items from your meal plan can make an improvement on your health, following some fad diets can cause you to run the risk depriving your body of the calories and nutrition it needs in order to function properly.

Getting proper nutrition doesn’t just come down to depriving yourself of certain foods—it is a game of both subtraction and addition. What follows are a few things that you can remove from your diet, and something healthier to substitute in its place.

coffee cup on a tableSubtract: Sugary Beverages

Sugar on its own isn't great for the body, but when it is dissolved in beverages it can create all new problems for your metabolism to deal with. Your liver can only process small amounts of fructose at a time. When it gets a lot of extra sugar, such as in the amounts that come in soda and sugary coffee beverages, that extra fructose is turned into fat. As excess fat progresses into obesity, your body can become prone to more dangerous issues, such as heart disease and complications from diabetes.

Addition: Black Coffee

Depriving yourself of sugary drinks doesn't mean you have to give up caffeine entirely. Coffee is high in antioxidants, and some studies have shown a link between coffee consumption and a reduced risk of diabetes, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's disease. While moderation should still be observed here, at least you know that you can still go to the coffee shop on your commute and get something that isn't a well-disguised milkshake in the morning.

bowl of assorted nutsSubtract: Junk Food

This should come as no surprise. In addition to heavily sweetened beverages, junk foods reign supreme as one of the most damaging things you can introduce into your diet. What qualifies as junk? A few guidelines you should keep in mind include whether or not it contains refined flour, soybean oil, corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup. While small amounts of any of those are okay, relying on these as sources of calories regularly can be very hazardous to your health. Finally, these foods—including breakfast pastries, fried chicken, and ice cream—are more likely than others to contain trans fat which has been linked to inflammation and heart disease.

Addition: Nuts and Fruits

Junk food might be damaging to your nutrition, but snacking doesn't have to be. Nuts, for instance, are a great source of not only healthy fat but are loaded with magnesium, vitamin E, fiber, and other nutrients as well. Other studies have shown that nuts can help you lose weight, or that they are capable of boosting your metabolism. If you want to add a little sweetness into the mix, you can add in some dried fruits to your trail mix. Dried fruits are highly nutritious—they contain roughly the same amount of nutrients as the fresh fruit—just condensed into a little package. Just be sure not to go overboard, it's easy to eat more than a serving when what was once a bowl of grapes becomes two spoons of raisins.

close-up pouring bottled water into a cupSubtract: Low-Fat or Fat-Free Foods

"Wait a second," you say. "I already got rid of all of the junk food in my house and replaces it with the low-fat versions. Shouldn't I be just fine?" Not so fast. Frequently when fat content is removed from a food product, sugar and other additives are added in to compensate for the loss of flavor. Take salad dressings, for instance—the low-fat variety of many dressing will have removed the olive oil from the ingredients list—meaning that not only are you depriving your body of a healthy fat source, but you are putting empty calories on top of what might have otherwise been a healthy meal.

Addition: Drink Plenty of Water

While it is technically possible to drink too much water, the chances of you actually hitting that threshold are very slim. The average American consumes much less than the daily recommended 8 glasses of 8 ounces of water—also known as the 8x8 rule. If you're below that threshold, know that you're not alone - but think about some of the benefits that you might be missing out on. Studies have shown that by drinking water before meals you eat less during the meal overall and that many people mistake their thirst for hunger in the first place.

Proper nutrition is a balancing act, and not every body’s needs are the same. The best way to be sure you are getting the proper nutrition would be to speak to a health professional or a nutritionist—but by following these steps, you may be able to give yourself a head start in the right direction.