Why Adding Variety To Your Diet Can Keep You Healthy All Year Long

If you feel like you eat the same thing every day or make the same meals for your family each week, you’re not alone. Most of us have a routine that we like to stick to when it comes to meals we cook and where we tend to order takeout from. However, did you know it’s super beneficial to eat a variety of foods in your diet?  Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, protein and healthy carbs provides our bodies with the necessary nutrients we need to perform optimally and live a healthy, long life. 

Nutrition & Your Overall Health

Let’s start with why nutrition matters for our overall well being. Yes, we always hear from doctors “eat more fruits and vegetables,” but how does this really affect us? The most obvious answer is our weight. Maintaining a healthy weight by eating mostly whole, clean foods and avoiding highly processed foods as much as possible, is a huge contributor to our overall health. And eating nutritious foods filled with vitamins and minerals help reduce any unnecessary inflammation in our bodies, allowing our immune system to perform at its optimal level at any point we may need it. When looking for whole foods vs highly processed foods, it’s best to think about the ingredients and to reach for foods without a label to start with like fruits, veggies and lean meat for protein. When shopping at the store for other foods, take a look at the ingredient lists. Can you pronounce all of the ingredients? Does it seem like lots of the ingredients in an item are made in a lab? If so, it may be best to replace it with something less processed.   Eating healthy foods also provides us with the necessary energy we need to get through the day without feeling sluggish. And if we have more energy, we can do other things that are beneficial to our health, such as working out, going on walks, cooking a healthy meal, playing with the kids, and so much more. 

4 Reasons to Add Variety In Your Diet

So why does variety in our diet matter? Here are 4 main reasons that you should add new foods into your and your family’s recipe repository: 

1. Eat the rainbow for optimal nutrition

By adding in new fruits and vegetables to your meals, you can naturally get more color into your diet. Having natural colors like reds, oranges, yellows, and blues from fruits and vegetables is essential to our health. The colors of these beautiful, natural things we get to eat provide us with phytonutrients, which are compounds that protect us from chronic diseases when we eat plants, and they have anti-cancer and anti heart disease benefits.1  For instance, red bell peppers and strawberries contain the carotenoid lycopene, a phytonutrient that protects against prostate cancer as well as heart and lung disease.2 
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Eating all of the colors in the rainbow can truly make a huge difference in our overall health.

2. Improve your gut health

Eating a diverse diet with lots of different nutrients also supports your gut microbiome as it increases the diversity of bacteria in your gut. Having a consistent variety of fruits and vegetables in your routine helps support your gut health by reducing inflammation and preventing disease causing bacteria.2

3. Avoid getting bored with meals

If you eat the same thing every day or even week, it can get really repetitive and boring, which tends to cause people to choose the unhealthy, easy option or get takeout that may not be the most nutritious.  By adding in new flavors, textures and colors into your diet, you can avoid that bored feeling as you’ll be trying something new more often. I recommend trying one new recipe per week and keep a repository of recipes you like somewhere so that you can revisit them when you feel uninspired or unmotivated to make something new at home.

4. Maintain a healthy weight

By adding more healthy fruits and veggies into your diet, you’ll also naturally crowd out other foods that are highly processed and can lead to weight gain. When we eat healthy, whole foods, our bodies naturally maintain the weight they’re supposed to be to support our body’s immune function and systems. 

How To Add In New Foods

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So how can you put this into practice? One recommendation is to make a list of proteins, veggies and fruits and highlight ones you’ve tried before. With the items you haven’t tried before, aim to include at least one into a meal during the week. This will lead to you not only naturally adding in new foods to your diet, but also making new recipes you haven’t tried before!  Another helpful way to add variety is to make sure you have a balanced plate at every meal. Ideally you’re having half your plate filled with veggies and/or fruits, ⅓ with protein and healthy fats and ⅓ with whole grains and healthy carbs, such as sweet potatoes, potatoes, brown rice, and quinoa. Once a week, try a new item within one of those categories. For instance, instead of having chicken as your protein, try a chickpea recipe instead! Or instead of doing roasted broccoli, try out sauteed green beans.  There are endless combinations of foods you can try and it keeps eating healthy, exciting and something to look forward to!
References: 1https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/phytonutrients-paint-your-plate-with-the-colors-of-the-rainbow-2019042516501, 2https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/improve-gut-bacteria#TOC_TITLE_HDR_3

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