Eating a healthy diet can have great effects on one’s physical well-being, and, by extent, one’s sex life. But how does one eat healthy?
First off, remember that eating healthy is more about moderation than discipline or deprivation. Do not deny yourself certain foods. Instead, eat those foods less often, and in smaller portions. Rather than eliminating unhealthy foods from your diet entirely, cut down on them. No one can be perfect all the time! Healthy versus unhealthy food is a spectrum, not an all-or-nothing proposition.1 (Remember to keep a positive body image!)
That said, there are a few choices you can make that will certainly be healthier for you than the alternatives. Some basic guidelines you should follow are:
- Drink water. It is what we humans were meant to drink, after all.2 In fact, drink lots of it! It keeps you healthy and flushes waste out of your system.1 Tea and even coffee are also very healthy choices. Limit milk to one or two drinks per day, limit juice to one small drink a day, and avoid sugary drinks entirely (or as much as possible in a society full of fast food restaurants).2
- Drink alcohol in moderation, or eliminate it entirely. Moderate alcohol consumption can be healthy for some people, but not everyone. Men should limit themselves to two drinks a day, and women should limit themselves to one drink.2 This level of drinking can decrease the risk of heart attack – although it may increase the risks of some cancers, and of course the risks to your health are much greater if you become alcoholic. Different types of alcohol – beer, wine, and hard liquor – have largely the same effects.3 (Click here to read about alcohol's effects on sexual activity.)
- Eat healthy proteins – fish, chicken, beans, and nuts. Limit red meats (like pork or beef) to no more than two meals a week. These sources are high in protein, but also high in unhealthy fats. Also, they lack many healthy components – like vitamins and fibers – that can be found in the healthier protein sources.2 When in doubt, check the label.
- Eat lots of vegetables and fruit – they should make up half your diet! Eat lots of different colors of vegetables in order to get as many different types of nutrients as possible.2
- Do not rely entirely on vitamin pills to get you your vitamins!1 Vitamin supplements can be helpful, but ultimately vitamins are best obtained in food form. No pill can provide as good of a combination of nutrients as Mother Nature.4
- Try avoiding eating potatoes and other starchy foods; they are in the same category as refined grains and red meat.2
- Eat whole grains – they should make up at least half of your grain intake.5 Whole grains (like brown rice and wheat bread) have many more nutrients in them than refined grains (like white rice and white bread) and provide a plethora of health benefits.2 They are also high in healthy carbs and low in unhealthy carbs.1 These are, after all, the kinds of grains people have been eating for thousands of years.
- Use monounsaturated fats, like margarine (without trans-fat) and vegetable oils, in place of butter.2 Also eat lots of polyunsaturated fats, like Omega-3 and Omega-6, which can be found in many types of fish and vegetable oils.1 Keep saturated fats (found in red meats and dairy products) at less than 7% of your daily calorie intake, and keep consumption of trans-fats (found in processed foods) at an even lower rate – less than 1%.6
- A note on oils: Different oils have different purposes. Extra-virgin olive oil is best for dressings, while virgin olive oil and safflower oil are better for sautéing. Meanwhile, canola, peanut, sesame, and sunflower oils are best for high-heat cooking.7
- Get 1000 milligrams of calcium per day. Dairy sources have plenty of calcium, of course, but so do many green vegetables and beans.1
- Use salt sparingly, and try to avoid sweets.2 (This should go without saying.)
Some other miscellaneous tips include:
- Eat in accordance with your body weight. If you do not exercise much, eat 13 calories each day for every pound you weigh. If you exercise vigorously, eat 18 calories per pound, and if you are somewhere in the middle you should eat 16 calories per pound. This adds up to around 2,800 calories daily for average-sized men who exercise moderately and 2,000 for women.8
- Try to avoid after-dinner snacks. Your digestive system benefits from having a long (14 to 16 hour) break from eating each night, when you are least active.1 (Assuming of course you are least active at night.)
- Eat slowly and conscientiously. Our bodies do not realize we are full immediately. In fact, it takes twenty minutes for the stomach to let the brain know it is full!9 If you eat too quickly, you will overeat without even noticing.1
- Keep in mind that there are sex differences! Women need more calcium than men; men should keep their calcium levels at about 800 milligrams per day. Too much calcium in men can lead to prostate cancer. Women (who lose iron in menstrual blood) also need 18 milligrams of iron a day, while men only need 8. Men, on the other hand, need more fiber. Younger men need 38 grams of fiber daily, while younger women only need 25.8
- Finally, engage in regular physical activity! This too should go without saying, but regular exercise is the best way to lose calories.1 You should do a minimum of two and a half hours of moderate aerobic exercise a week, spread out over at least three days – although if you can increase your exercise to five or more hours a week, this is even better.10
Healthy eating is a complex topic, and no two people have the exact same dietary needs. However, if you follow these tips and use your common sense, you too can be on the way to a healthier diet and a better sex life.
- Paul, Maya W., Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. "Healthy Eating: Easy Tips for Planning a Healthy Diet & Sticking to It." Helpguide.org. Helpguide, September 2013. Web. October 10, 2013.
- "Healthy Eating Plate and Healthy Eating Pyramid." Hsph.harvard.edu. Harvard School of Public Health, 2008. Web. October 10, 2013.
- “Alcohol.” Hsph.harvard.edu. Harvard School of Public Health. Web. October 24, 2013. Zelman, Kathleen M.
- “What Vitamin and Mineral Supplements Can and Can’t Do.”webmd.com. WebMD. Web. October 23, 2013.
- “How Many Grain Foods Are Needed Daily?” choosemyplate.gov. United States Department of Agriculture. Web. October 24, 2013.
- "Know Your Fats." Heart.org/HEARTORG. American Heart Association, December 10, 2012. Web. October 10, 2013.
- “Choosing Healthier Oils.” Whole Living. April/May 2005. Wholeliing.com. Web. October 24, 2013.
- “Good nutrition: Should guidelines differ for men and women?” health.harvard.edu. Harvard Medical School, September 2006. Web. October 23, 2013.
- Miller, Christina. “How Long Does It Take Your Brain to Register That the Stomach Is Full?” livestrong.com. Livestrong Foundation, June 27, 2011. Web. October 23, 2013.
- “How Much Physical Activity is Needed?”choosemyplate.gov. United States Department of Agriculture. Web. October 24, 2013.
Last Updated 24 October 2013