You’ve probably heard the infamous saying:

“You are what you eat.”

Essentially, this means that the foods and drinks you put in your body have a direct effect on your health and well-being. If you nourish your body with the right ‘fuel’, it will perform better. If you eat a lot of junk food and drink a lot of soda, your health will suffer.

That will not come as a shock to anyone.

But what may come as a shock is just how much of an impact the foods you eat can have on your health and happiness. So let’s explore this a bit further.

You Are What You Eat: What the Research Says

A published in the journal Cell found that what you eat can have “major effects” on your body composition and physiology. Researchers conducted genetic tests using roundworms and found that various diets produced dramatically different results in gene expression. The researchers believe this evidence has serious implications for humans. One of the study authors, Albertha J.M. Walhout, PhD, stated that:

“A small amount of a ‘healthy’ food in an otherwise unhealthy diet could elicit a beneficial change in gene expression that could have profound physiological effects.”

How to Eat the Healthy Way

If you are what you eat, which would you rather be:

a) A highly processed, edible food-like substance comprised of 20+ chemicals?

b) A vegetable?

The answer is quite obvious: a plant-heavy diet consisting of real, whole foods close to nature has a number of health benefits. According to the Centers for Disease Control, eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables helps lower your risk of several types of chronic diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.

On the flip side, processed foods can be detrimental to your health. Trans fat, an ingredient commonly found in packaged processed foods to help make them more shelf-stable, has been directly associated with an increase in heart disease, and ultimately, death. And if you’re constantly loading up on fast food and restaurant meals, your health will suffer the consequences. What you eat has a direct correlation to how you look, feel, and sleep.

What Should You Eat?

The cool part is, it’s really not that hard to make a few changes and take control of your health.

Here are the foods you should be eating more of:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole grains

And if you’re a carnivore, eat lean sources of protein like fish, chicken, and turkey.

The key is to start small: try eating one or two more servings of vegetables than you normally do this week. Eat a handful of nuts as a snack instead of potato chips. Cook yourself a healthy breakfast, lunch, or dinner instead of going out to eat. Here are some healthy recipes to get your started:

What a Day of Healthy Eating Looks Like

Breakfast:

3 scrambled egg whites with green onion, tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese

1 piece of fruit

1 glass of water

Lunch:

Turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and mustard on whole wheat or whole grain bread or pita

2 cups romaine lettuce with olive oil and red wine vinegar

Snack:

1 cup of baby carrots with 3 tablespoons of hummus

Dinner:

Grilled salmon with olive oil and fresh herbs (like oregano, thyme, rosemary, parsley, basil)

1 sweet potato with salt and pepper

1 cup steamed broccoli with lemon juice

Dessert:

Strawberries and raspberries with Greek yogurt

So there you have it. Remember, you are what you eat. So fuel your body with the right foods, and it will reward you for making healthy choices. Healthy food leads to a healthy body, which, in turn, increases your odds of a longer, happier life.

We all want to be healthy, not just because we want to look good in the mirror — it’s because we want to feel good too 7 Ways to Unleash Your Inner Superhero (and Get Insanely Healthy)

Featured photo credit: Abdullah AL-Naservia Flickr

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