Food can have a huge impact on your overall health, even in ways you wouldn’t expect. Here’s why you really are what you eat.
You’ve probably heard the saying “you are what you eat” before. But have you ever considered that it might be true? Food provides all of the raw materials that your body needs to function properly. At a cellular level, you are made up of the nutrients and compounds that come from the food you eat. Depending on the quality of your diet, this can be a good thing or a bad thing.
How food can improve your health
If you feed your body a variety of high-quality foods—like healthy fats, proteins, and fruits and vegetables—you give yourself a strong foundation to function optimally. Here are some examples of the components found in healthy food that may directly translate into better health:
- Amino acids: These are the building blocks of protein found in meat, fish, eggs, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Your body uses these to create new proteins to form muscle and connective tissue.
- Micronutrients: Your body needs small, or “micro,” amounts of vitamins and minerals to kick off thousands of biochemical processes and make new cells. Eating a varied diet is usually enough to provide all that you need of these nutrients.
- Antioxidants: These compounds—found primarily in fruits and vegetables—help reverse the cellular damage caused by free radicals, which you’re exposed to daily from food, water, air, cleaning agents, and body care products. Antioxidants have powerful anti-aging properties and can help prevent or reverse some chronic health problems.
- Probiotics: These are the healthy bacteria that live in your gut, helping to regulate your immune health, brain function, and digestion. You can get probiotics directly from fermented foods and drinks like yogurt, kimchi, and kombucha.
How food can harm your health
On the other hand, eating a poor-quality diet doesn’t provide your body with all the building blocks it needs to function at its best. This can leave you feeling fatigued and depressed, struggling to manage your weight, or at an increased risk of getting sick or developing conditions like type 2 diabetes or heart disease. Here are some of the foods that may be harming your health:
- Added sugars: Sugar is inflammatory and may contribute disproportionately to unwanted weight gain, chronic disease, and even depression.
- Highly processed foods: Processed foods like frozen meals, boxed meals, and fast food are full of sugar, fat, and salt—but very little else. Eating these foods habitually can lead to weight gain and micronutrient deficiencies, both of which can harm your health.
- Pro-inflammatory foods: Some other foods may be potentially inflammatory and carcinogenic, or cancer-causing. These include refined seed oils, like vegetable oil, soybean oil, and corn oil.
As surprising as it is, you really are what you eat. Luckily, it’s never too late to improve your diet. Start by making small changes, like adding more fruits and vegetables or cutting back on sugar. You can also reach for high-quality supplements to help fill in nutritional gaps in your diet while you’re revamping your eating habits.