We’ve all been there–staring longingly at that last slice of pizza in the fridge or conveniently sliding a packet of high-sodium, carb-rich potato chips into your shopping cart. You might think that you’ll turn over a new leaf but how often do we really stick through that promise?
In 2019, a national survey1 found that around 19.7% of the Malaysian adult population suffered from obesity. A report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) also found that Malaysia has the highest rate of obesity among the Southeast Asian countries. The problem is not only that we eat too much or that we don’t exercise enough–it’s also what we eat.
Our Physical and mental well-being is closely related to what we eat and drink. Therefore, a diet that is healthy and based on well-balanced meals won’t only result in better health and overall body composition, it can also make you feel great. Let’s further break down the benefits of a healthy diet and how you can implement simple changes into your lifestyle today to improve your overall health.
According to the British Nutrition Foundation2, a healthy diet is one that contains ‘all the essential nutrients the body needs to stay healthy and work properly’.
That means we would need to be consuming enough nutrients of the major food groups (carbohydrates, proteins, minerals) to supplement our energy output each day.
Think about it this way: if you work at an office and don’t do much physical activity, would you need to eat as much as a worker on a construction site whose work is centered around heavy lifting? Eating the right amount of calories through a balanced diet of healthy and nutritious foods allows you maintain a healthy weight, which is important for the overall wellbeing of your health and lowering your risk of chronic illnesses.
● Helps you maintain a healthy weight
● Reduces the risk of cancer, stroke, diabetes
● Slows down ageing and improves your memory
● Boosts immunity against sickness
● Helps you sleep better at night
● Improves skin health and radiance
● Boosts your self esteem
A healthy diet means eating balanced portions of meals from the following food groups: carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, and healthy fats. Calorie intake will vary depending upon your age, gender, size, genetics, and level of activity. Consider these options:
● Fresh fruit and vegetables
● Fish and chicken
● Rice, bread, and pasta
● Nuts and other legumes
The following breakdown3 would give you a rough idea of how many calories you should be taking in. Here are three general caloric ranges for your reference. It’s good to keep in mind that your personal daily requirements may fall somewhere between the two listed below, so it’s good to make an objective judgement for your daily caloric intake.
a) 1600 Calories – Best amount for most sedentary women and some older adults.
b) 2200 Calories – Best amount most children, teen girls, moderately active women, and most sedentary men. Pregnant and breastfeeding women fall into this ranege, but may need slightly more.
c) 2800 Calories – Best amount for teenage boys, moderately active men, and highly active women.
Snacks like biscuits and potato chips are often empty calories4, so they don’t really provide much health benefits to your body. When you stick to eating nutritious meals at regular intervals, your body is less likely to get hungry faster and crave unhealthy snacks. Your body will adapt to your meal routine eventually, and you will only feel hungry at those times, reducing your tendency to reach out for a snack.
A Harvard newsletter5 claims that eating highly processed foods may raise the risk for cancer and other health issues. While getting fast food is convenient for busy lifestyles, a fresh home cooked meal can be just as easy to prepare and a much better option for you to keep to a healthy diet. With nutritious and balanced home-cooked meals, you’ll gradually begin to notice changes in your mood, productivity and even sleep!
Studies have shown that drinking a bottle of water could increase your resting metabolism up to 30% for about an hour. This means that when you drink more water, you’ll be helping your body burn calories. Besides that, drinking water also reduces cravings and minimize unhealthy snacking, which also adds to you maintaining a healthy weight.
As Malaysians, eating out at our local mamaks is a shared and beloved pastime, but it is not always the best for our health! If you still want to eat out, choose or opt for healthier choices. For example, you could swap a sugary teh tarik for the sugar-free teh o’ ais kosong and order a tandoori chicken instead of ayam goreng, since grilling chicken involves less fat in the cooking process.
Maintaining a healthy diet requires consistency and discipline for you to fully reap all the benefits. Focus on eating balanced meals rather than binge eating and restricting your meals.
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