Don’t try those crazy bodybuilding diets that tell you to “eat chicken and broccoli 6 times a day”. A healthy diet needs to have plenty of variety in order to be sustainable long term.
The food pyramid used to be posted everywhere. Do you remember examining it on the back of a cereal box at some point or learning about it in school? I do!
But as the information age continues to expand our awareness of nutrition and health, you might have noticed that things aren’t so simple anymore. People these days use a variety of diet programs, like veganism, the Paleo diet, and the Ketogenic diet, to find the right balance between food groups.
But no matter what diet you choose, one thing remains certain: eating a variety of foods is crucial. The human body is built to function optimally on a mix of nutrients, and variety allows you to meet all of those needs healthily.
What are the Benefits of Eating a Variety of Foods?
Eating a variety of foods isn’t just a way to prevent boredom. There are many benefits to that come with getting lots of variety in your diet.
When you eat a variety of foods, you are more likely to meet the nutrient needs of your body. Each nutrient has its job to do within the body. For example, vitamin B12 and Vitamin B9 work together to help the body build red blood cells. Protein is a nutrient that helps the body make structural units, like hair, skin, and muscle cells. Glucose is used in the brain to help fuel cellular activity.
Each nutrient has a particular job in the body, and no food contains all of the nutrients. For example, a grapefruit has plenty of vitamin C, but no vitamin b12. A piece of chicken has protein in it, but no vitamin C.
You can see that eating only chicken would lead to some serious problems! As would eating only grapefruit, or only any food, for that matter. As you introduce variety into the diet, you start to build a combination of nutrients that will take care of all of the needs of the body, not just some of them.
The best way to ensure that you are giving the body what it needs is to eat a wide variety of foods that deliver all of those individual nutrients that your body requires.
What Can Happen If You Don’t?
You might remember from your history lessons that vitamin-C induced Scurvy killed more sailors than the civil war. But the problem of missing out on nutrients isn’t just for the history books. It is still a major problem today.
Researchers estimate that 1 billion people across the globe have a vitamin D deficiency, even in developed countries. This lack can cause rickets, among other things. Vitamin B depletion was found in about 15% of the US population aged 20-59. This nutrient deficiency can cause tingling sensations, fatigue, and weakness, among other things.
How to Add More Variety to Your Meals
It has been proven scientifically that the human brain loves things that are familiar. Our minds seek out routines because they feel safe. Because of this, it’s easy to slip into a pattern of eating the same thing over and over.
This is particularly the case for people who are focused on achieving a particular diet goal, and find one meal program that seems to “work.” They’ll eat the same thing for breakfast, lunch, and dinner day after day thinking that they are doing the right thing by sticking to the program.
When you fall into a rut like that, you miss out on the variety that is necessary for health. Here are some ways that you can add variety to your meals:
See Your Patterns
If you don’t know you’re stuck in a rut, you won’t try to get out of it. Be honest with yourself as you look at your eating patterns. Do you prepare the same three or four meals for dinner each night, because you’ve got the recipe down pat? It is time to switch things up! Get a cookbook and try out some new meals.
Be Open to New Things
Be open to experiencing new foods and ingredient combinations. Fermented foods are rich in necessary enzymes, Omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, and b-vitamins. Asian and Ukrainian dishes are a great place to look for fermented foods recipes.
Indian dishes are often prepared with cumin. This ingredient contains iron, an excellent source of manganese, and a good source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin B1. If you regularly opt not to eat Indian foods, you could be missing out on these beneficial nutrients. Open up to new dishes for more variety in your diet.
If you stick to a few staple meals, and rarely switch things up, it might be because you only know of a few healthy foods and are afraid to add in anything new because it might be unhealthy. Instead of living in fear, learn more about health and nutrition so that you can feel confident expanding your menu.
Create Colorful Plates
A straightforward trick for creating variety in your meals is to aim for a colorful plate.For example, if you have a meal with tan chicken breast, brown rice, and carrots, you can add in some cilantro, a few beets, and slices of red pepper to meet this colorful plate ideal.
Variety is crucial to a healthy diet. Our bodies require a diverse range of nutrients for optimal functioning, yet no one natural food offers them all. To get the right nutrients, we need to eat many different kinds of foods that each have a unique composition.
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