Want to Finally Get Healthy? Why a Nutritionist Says This Should Be Your 1st Step

Breaking up your health journey into small, attainable steps may help you achieve your goals without the struggle.

Want to Finally Get Healthy? Why a Nutritionist Says This Should Be Your 1st Step

You've been wanting to finally live a healthier life, but does it seem like a daunting task? Maybe you're thinking about all the changes you'd have to make or all the food you'd have to cut out. But it doesn't have to be a huge mountain to climb! Breaking up your journey into small, attainable steps may help you achieve your health goal without the struggle.

So what's the first thing you can do to start living healthier? Registered dietician Maya Feller says it's pretty simple: eat more plants!

Add Plant-Based Food to Your Diet

Feller says that while everyone's specific health journey is different, adding plant-based foods to your daily diet is a great single step you can take to start living healthier.

"Plants are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins and minerals that contain phytonutrients and antioxidants that support whole body health," Feller said.

Here are two clever and simple tips for transitioning to a more plant-based diet.

Nutrients in Plant-Based Foods

Here are just some of the beneficial nutrients found in plant-based foods:

  • Protein, which helps keep muscles and bones strong. Get it by eating legumes, nuts, seeds and soy.
  • Vitamin C, which has antioxidant properties and supports a healthy immune system. Get it by eating citrus fruits, tomatoes, red and green peppers, strawberries and cooked Brussels sprouts.
  • Zinc, which plays a key role in immune function and wound healing. It's even necessary for your senses of taste and smell! Get it by eating beans, nuts like cashews and whole grains like oats.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids, which help support brain and heart health and may even help improve skin texture and reduce inflammation. Get it by eating walnuts, vegetable oil, flaxseed and leafy vegetables like kale and collard greens.

Benefits of Eating Plant-Based Foods

Feller says that filling your daily diet with these plant-based foods — and the vitamins and minerals they contain — can be associated with many health benefits. Feller points to a few key effects.

"Regular and consistent plant intake has been associated with lower blood sugars, lower blood pressure and improved lipid profile (cholesterol)," she said.

These plant-based foods can influence your gut biome, which helps with several bodily functions including strengthening your immune system, aiding with digestion and improving your mood. And just by swapping processed foods and added sugar for these plant-based options, you can help decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

Maya Feller is a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Brooklyn. She provides medical nutrition therapy for the management of and risk reduction of non-communicable diseases. Maya is dedicated to promoting nutrition education that helps the public to make informed food choices that support health and longevity. Find her on Instagram, @mayafellerRD, and check out her book "The Southern Comfort Food Diabetes Cookbook: Over 100 Recipes for a Healthy Life."

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Q: I end up overeating because it makes me feel better and I never really get full. I'd like to lose weight but this makes it hard. Any suggestions?

A: Being persistently hungry can cause big trouble. So can overeating for comfort/pleasure. These two behaviors, say researchers from Baylor University's Children's Nutrition Research Center, are controlled deep within your brain by serotonin-producing neurons, but operate separately from each other — one in the hypothalamus, the other in the midbrain. They both can, however, end up fueling poor nutritional choices and obesity.

Eating for Hunger

When hunger is your motive for eating, the question is: "Does your body know when you've had enough?" Well, if you are overweight, obese or have diabetes you may develop leptin resistance and your "I am full" hormone, leptin, can't do its job. The hormone's signal to your hypothalamus is dampened, and you keep eating.

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