Eating healthy isn’t always easy, but committing to a healthier eating lifestyle can be one of the smartest decisions you ever make. Not only will it make you look and feel better, it can also save you thousands to ten-of-thousands on future health costs. If you’re confused about what “eating healthy” means, you can’t go wrong with plenty of lean meats, wild caught fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, lentils, and quinoa, according to registered dietician Debra Nessel. It also means leaving out – or rarely indulging in – added sugars, high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, and anything artificial (flavors, sweeteners, and additives). If you need some help getting motivated, here are the top reasons to sneak more nutrient-dense foods into your diet.
1. Increase productivity
Like a car, your brain needs quality fuel to run efficiently. When it comes to your job, working more efficiently can help you earn more, as high achievers tend to be first in line for promotions and raises. Nessel says her clients frequently experience increased focus shortly after improving their diets.
How much can eating healthy help? One 2012 study published by Population Health Management found that eating an unhealthy diet puts you at a 66% increased risk of productivity loss. Another study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that an unhealthy diet represented the highest risk for low productivity out of 19 possible risk factors, including lack of exercise, chronic pain and financial instability.
2. Save money on life insurance
Health insurance premiums cannot be based on health factors, since everyone is required to have health coverage. However, life insurance rates are largely based on age and health.
If you’re shopping for life insurance, the life insurer will likely ask for permission to get your medical records, and may require a life insurance medical exam. You could face double the life insurance cost if you’re obese. Switching to a healthier diet and maintaining a good weight before you apply for a policy could significantly lower your costs.
3. Enhance mood
What you eat has an impact on your brain, including the parts that regulate mood. Although there’s no single food that acts as a proven antidepressant, maintaining stable blood sugar through regular, proper nutrition will help you feel better overall most days. Foods rich in vitamins and minerals, such as fruits, whole grains and vegetables, have been associated with an overall lower risk of depression, as have foods rich in omega-3 fats, such as nuts, salmon, and other fatty fish.
True happiness isn’t just about the absence of depression; it also includes general well-being. “I frequently hear clients rave about their increased energy, more stable moods, better sleep, decreased joint pain” and greater ability to focus their thoughts after switching to a healthier eating pattern, Nessel says.
Eating healthy can reduce stress too. When your body is in a chronic state of stress, it breaks down protein to prepare for battle, but certain foods have the ability to moderate the body’s level of cortisol, the stress hormone. Some studies have found that consuming foods with omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium may help reduce cortisol levels. Eating a protein-rich diet, including fish and dairy, can help replenish protein stores and keep cortisol levels low.
4. Regulate weight
Most people know this one, but it still deserves a place on this list, as more than half of Americans are overweight or obese, and obesity contributes to nearly 1 in 5 deaths. Reducing your body weight – even by just 5-10% – can lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of Type 2 diabetes, according to the Obesity Action Coalition.
Simple healthy choices – such as replacing soda with water, choosing veggies instead of chips, and ordering a side salad in place of fries – not only helps you lose weight, but can help you save money. The average obese person spends $2,741 more on health care per year than a normal-weight counterpart, according to a 2012 study in the Journal of Health Economics.
5. Be healthier
Not everybody who is thin is healthy, and not everyone who is overweight is unhealthy, but eating right can improve health even for thin people who are junk food (i.e., high calories, not nutrients) junkies. If you’re severely lacking the vitamins and minerals your body needs, you could put yourself at risk for early death. A 2014 study published in the British Medical Journal found that eating at least five servings of fruit and vegetables per day was associated with lower risks of dying from any health-related cause.
6. Live longer
The same diseases that make you feel bad and cost a lot of money also lower your life expectancy. A diet of fruit and vegetables, in combination with exercise, was associated with extended life expectancy for women in their 70s, according to a study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Other studies have shown similar associations between a long life and calorie restriction or consumption of a Mediterranean diet, which includes lots of fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fats from fish and olive oil. No matter how you cut it, a healthy diet plays an important role in how long you’ll live.
7. Improve Sex Life
ALL body organs require proper nutrition for vitality and maximizing genetic potential; however, one of the first symptoms of nutritional deficiencies shows up in the bedroom! Women will have diminished desire and men will develop erectile dysfunction. In most cases, fixing the diet works, and in those cases where it does not, I recommend two highly effective products that can rekindle the passion.
Tips for eating healthy
If it were easy, everyone would do it. So what should you do if you’re having a hard time choosing the right foods and sticking to a healthful eating pattern?
“Small changes over time result in big payoffs,” Nessel says. Here are some of her tips for building on small changes:
- Stay hydrated – it reduces cravings and makes you feel full.
- Don’t skip meals – and eat at roughly the same times each day, if you can.
- Get active – it’s good for you and even small increases in activity can create a better mindset to eat well.
- Preplan for cravings – have a healthy alternative at the ready for those times of day when you crave salt or sugar.
- Forgive yourself when you slip up – act as if you never messed up in the first place; beating yourself up tends to unravel all of your goals.
Keep in mind that good choices and changes happen one at a time. A few small changes in the right direction adds up to big improvements in your health and your bank account.