I love good food. It tastes delicious, adds pleasure to life and helps us celebrate good (and not-so-good) times. Importantly it gives our bodies the energy and nutrients to stay alive and thrive. Not to mention allowing children to grow properly or pregnant women to create a healthy new bub!

People often ask me: Why should I bother to eating healthily? Why all this fuss over vegetables, vitamins, fibre and healthy meals? Do I really have to cut down on sugar, salt, trans fats and junk food? What is good nutrition anyway?

At first, these seemed strange questions to me. Nutrition and healthy eating are my life’s work and one I enjoy as well as take seriously. I’ve long accepted good nutrition and healthy eating as vital for my health, energy and well-being. Put simply, I FEEL BETTER when I eat right.

Think of your car

You wouldn’t dream of putting the wrong petrol or oil into your car. Food is your fuel. Getting your body’s fuel mix right will help you perform at your best, too. Why mooch along like an old wreck when you can be zooming into life like a well-tuned sports car?

I know that for some people it takes a lot of planning and preparation (i.e. work) to eat right and as a nutritionist I wanted to help make it easier for people to eat right. So I sat down and wrote down all the advantages – both the short and the long term – that you’ll get from healthy eating. What’s more I have a solution that will make it easier for you to understand your nutrition and make wise choices.

Short term benefits of good nutrition (AKA healthy eating)

Here are the short-term benefits:

1. A healthy diet and good nutrition ensures you get all the protein, fats, vitamins, minerals, energy-giving carbohydrate, fibre, and protective phytochemicals that you need for good health. These are the nutrients of a balanced diet, which while particularly important for the growing years when the body requires the raw materials to make new muscles, skin and organs are important at every stage of life — during pregnancy when new tissue is being created, during those months of milk production while breastfeeding and as we get older when our bodies take longer to repair themselves. A good diet underpinned by correct nutrition is important if we want to stay healthy and active whatever life stage we are at.

2. A healthy diet and good nutrition boosts your energy levels. I feel blah and lethargic if I eat junk food without enough fresh vegetables, or salad.

3. A healthy diet and good nutrition helps you maintain a healthy weight, neither too thin nor too fat. I know weight is often the main motivator for people to eat right and I don’t like making weight the only focus of nutrition but it’s on my list.

4. A healthy diet and good nutrition is the easiest way to look after your health.You still need to exercise, sleep well and reduce stress but eating is something we do every day – several times a day – and it’s quicker to substitute a healthy tuna and salad sandwich for fast food than to find 30 minutes to do some exercise each day.

5. A healthy diet and good nutrition keeps your bowels healthy and regular – fibre and resistant starch stave off constipation and create fuel for the friendly bacteria that live in your gut.

6. A healthy diet and good nutrition maintains healthy skin, hair and strong nails. Many women, and now men too, spend hundreds of dollars on skincare. The best skin care comes form a body that is well-hydrated and well-nourished.

7. A healthy diet and good nutrition gives you the energy and vitality to get through your busy day-to-day lives, including exercise.

8. A healthy diet and good nutrition helps your concentration, boosts your memory and stabilises your moods.

9. A healthy diet and good nutrition supports your immune system, so it helps keep infections at bay and allows you to recover more quickly from illness.


Long term benefits of healthy eating

Here are the long-term benefits:

10. A healthy diet and good nutrition acts as ‘insurance’ for your future health, protecting you from diabetes, heart disease, various types of cancer, high blood pressure, gout and osteoporosis. With a good diet, you can extend the years you stay alive without succumbing to these lifestyle conditions. What’s more those extra years can be enjoyed more if you’re healthy.

11. A healthy diet and good nutrition may maintain vision as you age – cataracts and macular degeneration are both influenced by weight and nutrition intake e.g. vitamin C, lutein/zeaxanthin and other phyto-chemicals.

12. A healthy diet and good nutrition holds back the clock and helps you maintain a more youthful look. There’s a lot of research into phyto-chemicals in foods and how they zap harmful free radicals that may otherwise damage cells and DNA.

The bottom line

Nutrition DOES matter! As a nutritionist, you’d expect me to say that, now wouldn’t you?

Written by guest contributor, dietitian-nutritionist Catherine Saxelby, and reproduced here with permission from www.foodwatch.com.au.

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