For many, the New Year brings renewed focus and commitment to getting healthy and fit. In making those resolutions don't forget nutrition. Nutrition plays a vital role in a person’s commitment to health and has lasting benefits beyond the scale.
Here are five ways thinking nutrition first can set you on a path to success in 2017, according to Abbott experts:
Exercise is important to overall health, but if you're finding that to be too big a hill to climb, think nutrition first.
Finding ways to maintain a healthy, balanced diet with the right nutrients is a great first step to creating a healthier you, says Abby Sauer, a registered dietitian for Abbott.
“A balanced diet can energize your day and fuel your workouts,” Sauer says. Because an increase in exercise increases your body’s nutrient needs, making nutrition a top priority can help you power through whatever your day may bring.
“Stress eating” might not actually be such as bad thing, if done properly. Nutrients such as omega-3s, vitamin E and polyphenols, a compound found in blueberries and — you guessed it, dark chocolate — can , says , PhD, a discovery scientist and the global science lead for Abbott’s partnership with the Center for Nutrition, Learning and Memory (CNLM) at the University of Illinois.
“Nutrients from healthy foods can help improve blood flow, which combats the effects of stress,” Kuchan says. “A healthy diet has a ‘cascading effect’ on the brain because as it improves blood flow, it also helps deliver those key nutrients to the brain.”
In addition, a healthy diet builds a solid foundation for your body by reducing oxidation and inflammation, Kuchan says. And that can help reduce the weight gain associated with stress.
The human body is roughly 60 percent water, according to the , and keeping it well hydrated helps it function properly. But did you know that simply drinking water before a meal can trim your waistline? According to , water “preloading” before meals led to moderate weight loss.
In addition to its potential weight-loss benefits, proper water intake also wards off dehydration, which can lead to fatigue and hinder concentration, says Sauer. Water also helps your body maintain fluid levels and flushes wastes. On average, women need 91 ounces (11.4 glasses, or 2.7 liters) of water each day, and men need 125 ounces (15.6 glasses, or 3.7 liters), according to the . However, that water can come from multiple sources, including fruits, juices, vegetables, and even coffee.
Hydration is also crucial during exercise. , which can cause muscle cramps, dizziness, fatigue and heat illnesses, Sauer says. So if your resolutions include both diet and exercise, ensure you’re keeping well hydrated during your workouts.
Tastes change as we age, and so do our nutrition needs. The nutrients in the foods that fueled your 20- and 30-year old body may no longer be used and absorbed in the same ways as we age.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIH) as we age, we need to tailor our food choices. Often, that means eating more nutrient-dense foods, says Sauer. Nutrient-dense foods include colorful fruits and vegetables, fat-free milk and cheese, whole grains, seafood, lean meats, poultry, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds, according to NIH guidelines.
Keeping an eye on food choices, calorie counts and the different nutrients necessary for a healthy diet can help ward off malnutrition, Sauer says, which can hinder your ability to recover from an illness.
Healthy choices made at mealtimes can make an impact on your health in more ways than one — your diet also contributes to your reproductive health.
In fact, proper nutrition impacts a woman’s reproductive health beginning as early as puberty, according to new research from the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO). That’s because by the time a girl is born, she has all the eggs she’ll have in her entire lifetime, says Christina Sherry, PhD, RD, research scientist at Abbott. “It’s possible for nutrition to impact egg quality at any point, from a woman’s own conception and birth to the time she conceives her own children,” Sherry says.
However, if good nutrition hasn’t been a priority, it’s never too late to start focusing on your diet by incorporating healthy foods with the proper nutrients, Sherry says.
According to guidelines from FIGO, common nutrient deficiencies in adolescent girls and young women include iron, iodine, folic acid, Vitamin B12, calcium and Vitamin D. Women should make an effort to include foods rich in these nutrients in their diets, such as dark leafy greens, dairy, fortified cereals, fish and tofu.