Nourish Your Body and Thrive: 4 Essential Tips for Better Nutrition   

Nourish Your Body and Thrive: 4 Essential Tips for Better Nutrition

Mom and daughter preparing a healthy meal together.

December 07, 2023

Clinical Contributors to this story:
Taylor D’anna, R.D.N., C.D.N., C.L.C.

Imagine strolling through a local farmers' market. You’re surrounded by colorful fruits and vegetables, the scent of freshly baked bread, and sizzling stir-fries. While there, you discover that nourishing your body goes beyond simply choosing what to eat. It's about making mindful choices and improving the eating experience.

Instead of solely focusing on which types of food to put on your plate, nourishment goes further. It’s about having an appreciation for the role each food plays in fueling and supporting your body. It's the understanding of how the foods impact your well-being. And it’s about the enjoyment of every bite, which turns meals into enriching experiences.

But how do you get there? Registered dietician Taylor D’Anna may have the answer.

1. Change Your Approach to Nutrition

First, make sure your definition of “healthy” is accurate. What does it mean to eat healthy in a world filled with food labels shouting "low-fat" and "sugar-free"? 

The word ‘healthy’ isn't a one-size-fits-all term,” says D’Anna. “It's a label that often misleads people, coaxing them to grab foods that promise less of this or that. But health is more intricate.”

To eat "healthy" and nourish your body, follow these guidelines:

  • Start small: Rather than doing a radical diet overhaul, take gradual steps to shape your diet into a source of vitality.
  • Embrace meal-prepping: Invest time in planning and preparing your meals in advance to help you stay on track.
  • Shop the perimeter: Focus on fresh, unprocessed items by exploring the fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meats along the grocery store's perimeter.
  • Visit local farmer's markets: Connect with the vibrant offerings of the season and explore new fruits, vegetables, and products.
  • Choose smaller plates: Control your portion sizes by using smaller plates, which promotes quality over quantity.
  • Listen to your body: Pay attention to your body's hunger cues, as sometimes cravings can signal dehydration rather than hunger.
  • Practice mindful eating: Transform your meals into moments of enjoyment, savoring every bite free from the distractions of technology.

“One of the simplest ways you can improve your nutrition is by adding more good to crowd out the bad,” says D’Anna. All of the above ideas fall under D’Anna’s definition of “good”, so use them to help dismantle poor eating habits.

2. Unlock the Power of Functional Foods

It’s true that food is fuel, and eating healthy is crucial to nourish our bodies. But nutrition goes beyond sustenance. Functional foods, which are packed with specific nutrients and provide many health benefits, are key to fine-tuning your nutrition for your unique needs. 

There are many different types of functional foods, each with its own nutritional profile:

  • Fiber-rich foods: Foods like oats, legumes, and whole grains are rich in dietary fiber, which aids in digestion and can help manage conditions like constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The recommended daily intake of fiber is around 25 grams for adult women and 38 grams for adult men.
  • Probiotics: Yogurt, kefir, and certain supplements contain probiotics that foster a healthy gut microbiome. These are ideal for digestive health and may help with symptoms of conditions like diarrhea and irritable bowel disease (IBD).
  • Omega-3 foods: Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, as well as flaxseeds, are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, known for their heart-protective benefits. They help lower the risk of cardiovascular conditions like heart disease and high blood pressure.
  • Blueberries: Rich in antioxidants, blueberries support overall health and can help lower the risk of age-related eye conditions like macular degeneration.
  • Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, and other nuts are excellent sources of healthy fats and may help lower bad cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease.
  • Cilantro: This herb is known for its potential to bind heavy metals and toxins in the body, promoting detoxification and reducing the risk of heavy metal toxicity.
  • Beets: Their anti-inflammatory properties are especially beneficial for athletes, helping to reduce muscle soreness and speed up recovery.

3. Try Food Pairings That Boost Health

Another way to boost your nutrition is to eat foods that complement each other. Certain food pairings have synergistic power and promote nutrient absorption in the body. For example, the body needs vitamin C to properly absorb iron, so simply eating iron-rich foods isn’t enough — you should eat iron-rich foods with items that contain vitamin C. 

Here are some examples of complementary food pairings:

  • Beans and whole grains: Combine beans and whole grains for a complete protein source. Ideal for vegetarians.
  • Spinach and citrus: Pair spinach with vitamin C-rich citrus for enhanced iron absorption.
  • Yogurt and berries: Probiotic-rich yogurt and antioxidant-packed berries support gut health and overall well-being.
  • Avocado and tomato: Avocado's healthy fats improve the absorption of lycopene in tomatoes.
  • Salmon and broccoli: Vitamin D in salmon and vitamin K in broccoli enhance bone health.

4. Go Beyond the Basics

Another way to nourish your body through food is by embracing a fresh approach to nutrition. New research studies are constantly shedding light on the way certain foods, food combinations, and nutritional choices affect the body. While leaning on evidence-based facts, don’t be afraid to try something different.

For example, you could eat more:

  • Honey: Beyond its sweet appeal, honey boasts anti-cancer, anti-fungal, and immune-boosting properties, thanks to its unique composition. Note: Did you know that Hackensack Meridian Health harvests its own honey? Several of our hospitals have installed rooftop beehives to contribute to the preservation of bee populations and provide patients with locally harvested honey. 
  • Brazil nuts: Rich in selenium, a mineral associated with thyroid health, these nuts also benefit hair, nail, and skin health. Research shows a connection between selenium deficiency and disease.
  • Pomegranates: These vibrant fruits are loaded with phytonutrients that contribute to women's health. Their properties support urinary tract health and curb inflammation, making them a valuable addition to your diet.

Remember the vibrant scenes of the farmers' market where the colors, smells, and flavors created a pleasant experience? Just like that market, your approach to nutrition can be a vibrant and wholesome experience. Use these ideas and advice to nourish your body and thrive.

If you have any questions or concerns about improving your nutrition, registered dieticians are a great resource.

“A dietician can help manage a unique plan for you,” says D’Anna. “These professionals have a background in general healthy diets, but also nutrition for specific disease conditions. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help.”

Next Steps & Resources

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.


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