Your eating habits can have a significant impact on your body. In some instances, your diet can positively impact your health, like when you eat fiber to aid in digestive regularity and enjoy omega-3-rich fish for its cardiovascular benefits. However, the food and drinks you choose to enjoy can also have negative effects on your body. When choosing the items that make up your regular diet, you likely consider flavor, texture, and ease of preparation, but you should also take into account how it can affect your overall health. And sadly, there are certain eating habits that may be destroying your body without you even realizing it.
No single diet is perfect, and it is reasonable to occasionally enjoy foods that aren’t traditionally considered to be healthy. These items may include candy, desserts, fried foods, sugar-sweetened drinks, and snacky items that provide calories with little nutritional benefit. These types of foods have the potential to become more problematic when they make up a large portion of your diet on a regular basis, and aren’t in conjunctions with nutrient-dense foods. Additionally, the timing of when you eat and how much you eat could also be negatively impacting your body.
When choosing foods to support your body, focus on a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, minimally processed whole grains, lean proteins, and plant-based fats. To further allow your eating habits to have a positive impact in your body, also practice portion control, try not to lay down immediately after eating, and ensure each meal and snack contains more than one macronutrient.
You’re eating too much sugar
First, let’s differentiate between types of sugar. The sugar that naturally occurs in fruit and dairy is not at fault here. However, the added sugar incorporated into food and drinks to enhance sweetness could be harming your body.
Research indicates added sugar, and especially sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and juice, are linked to weight gain and a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some forms of cancer. The American Heart Association recommends men consume fewer than 36 grams of sugar per day, while women should aim for fewer than 25 grams.
If you are consuming more than this recommendation, you can swap sugar for alternatives like stevia, and reduce your portions of sugar-sweetened foods.
You’re eating too much at once
If you have ever experienced indigestion, gas, or bloating after a meal, it could be because you ate too much food at once. These symptoms could also be due to specific foods you ate, but don’t underestimate the significance of portion control on digestive symptoms.
You’re eating too late
According to research, both upper and lower gastrointestinal symptoms could result from eating too much food, too rapidly. Additionally, eating large portions of food at once could promote excess calorie intake that could lead to obesity, further harming your body. To avoid these complications, try to take at least 15 to 20 minutes to eat a meal. Slowing down your rate of eating allows time for your digestive system to send fullness cues to your brain before you’re uncomfortably stuffed.
If you are eating too close to bedtime, you could be damaging your body. Research suggests time restricted eating, which means you are only eating food during specific designated times, like from 7 am to 7 pm, may generate beneficial health effects.
While research on weight gain related to eating too late is inconclusive, we do know eating an earlier dinner could reduce reflux symptoms. Additionally, nocturnal eating appears to be associated with binge eating, another habit that could be detrimental to your body. As a rule of thumb, try not to eat within two hours of going to bed. If you find yourself hungry within that window, or during the night, you may need to assess your day time eating habits to ensure you are eating enough and are getting a healthy balance of nutrients to keep you satisfied throughout the day and night.
If you are skipping out on whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, you may not be getting enough fiber. This nutrient is found only in plant-based foods, and has a long list of benefits. Fiber “feeds” the healthy bacteria in your gut, and may aid in weight loss and lower blood cholesterol.
These only name a few of benefits related to fiber, and if you aren’t eating enough, you could experience more digestive issues, have challenges with weight management, and have higher blood cholesterol. To increase your fiber intake, incorporate fruits or vegetables at each meal and snack, swap your processed grains for whole grain options, and add more nuts and seeds into your meal plan.