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We all know we should eat a healthy diet. But you may not know just how big an impact what you eat and drink has on your physical and mental health.
Research shows that a healthy diet helps prevent many serious diseases and helps you live longer. And just as important, it helps improve your quality of life — now and in the future.
For example, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) found a link between a healthy dietary routine and a reduced risk of death from any cause.
Research also shows that diet has a significant impact on mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
It’s never too late to start improving your diet. But the sooner you get started, the bigger impact the changes will have on your long-term health and quality of life.
Eating healthy means following an eating plan that includes a variety of nutritious foods and drinks. It also means getting the number of calories that’s right for you, says Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
Making smart food choices can also help you manage your weight and lower your risk for long-term, serious health problems, including:
But more than 80 percent of people in the U.S. aren’t eating enough vegetables, fruits and dairy, says the Food and Drug Administration. And most people eat too much added sugars, saturated fat and salt, according to the Dietary Guidelines for America, 2020-2025.
So what foods, and how much, should you eat? People have different nutritional needs at different stages in their lives.
Eating healthy foods not only helps keep children healthier, it also builds habits they keep as adults that will help them stay healthier throughout their lives. A diet of healthy foods also helps stabilize their energy, improve their minds and even out their moods, says the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Make these easy changes to improve your child’s diet:
About 20 percent of kids between 12 and 19 years old are obese. Small changes in eating habits and more exercise can help, says the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Try these tips for teens:
It isn’t necessary to stick to one, specific diet plan to have a healthy diet. But studies have shown that following a healthy eating plan like the DASH, MIND or Mediterranean diet can help adults of all ages maintain good long-term health and decrease the risk of death from many causes.
These diets also help lower the risk of health issues that come with aging, like high blood pressure and dementia, says the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
And the foods emphasized in these types of diets don’t just help your body. They can also help your mental health. Foods loaded with the vitamins and minerals to boost your mind include:
If your diet needs improvement, get started with these simple steps:
Remember, making improvements to what you eat and drink can have a big impact on your health throughout your life. You can start small — just get started. Talk to your doctor about the dietary changes you’re making, especially if you have health issues or take medications that may be impacted by diet.
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