Michelle Cangelosi is a fitness enthusiast who enjoys exercise and staying fit. In the following article, Michelle Cangelosi discusses efficient ways to fuel the body for optimal health.
The human body is like a 24-hour factory, with countless machines working around the clock simply to keep us alive. These machines have many roles, from firing neurons in the brain to growing nails on our toes, but despite these differences, they all run on the same fuel: Food.
Staying hydrated and eating a well-balanced diet are two important practices to maintain a healthy lifestyle. While it’s best to focus on consuming fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, and fiber for physical health, incorporating treats can promote mental health by helping us to avoid feeling restricted or missing out on social events.
Michelle Cangelosi provides a few details on some of the best recommendations to fuel the body, stay healthy and keep the body’s many machines running optimally.
When it comes to nutrition, there’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” approach. Factors that influence a person’s dietary needs will vary widely between individuals. Some examples of these factors are:
- food access
- activity levels
- food sensitivities
- body composition
- autoimmune disease
Michelle Cangelosi of says that in addition to the factors that account for why a group of people might have different nutritional needs and eating habits, other factors can affect how an individual’s own needs change. Some examples are:
- hormonal shifts
- social background
- holidays and special occasions
- emotional state
- how tired a person is
- time available to eat
- work schedule
Michelle Cangelosi explains that food and our daily activities have an interdependent relationship—having a busy schedule can make it hard to find time or motivation to eat nutritious meals and snacks throughout the day, but without these sources of fuel, we would have no energy to do our many daily activities.
Despite the many reasons that health-promoting nutrition choices may differ both between people and within individuals, experts in the field have developed dietary recommendations to help guide the general population.
Since a person’s weight-related goals will vary based on their genetics, lifestyle and various other health conditions, population-wide recommendations on portion sizes and meal frequency are often unhelpful. As a result, many guidelines reference wide ranges or proportions as a rough estimate that can be adjusted to fit an individual’s own health needs.
These guidelines are based on data collected through research, controlled experiments, and trends over time. As eating for optimal health is not a one-and-done event, many dietary guidelines center on healthy dietary behaviors, such as:
- including at least 5 servings of fruit and/or vegetables daily
- aiming to limit highly processed foods
- staying adequately hydrated
- limiting foods and drinks high in added sugars, preservatives, and excess salt
- aiming for moderation and variety
- focusing on whole grains and plant starches instead of always choosing refined carbohydrates (for example, choosing whole wheat instead of white bread/pasta)
- incorporating all macronutrients throughout the day to help balance blood sugar levels
- eating enough healthy fats and fiber to stabilize energize levels
- paying attention to the body’s response to certain foods
- limiting fast food and restaurant meals
While these guidelines may seem broad and unspecific, they offer some valuable baseline tips for those looking to improve and maintain a healthy diet.
Michelle Cangelosi notes that in situations involving a specific health concern or a diagnosed medical condition, however, it is best to seek the help of a registered dietitian (RD) for more personalized advice. Some groups who may benefit from consulting with an RD include:
- those who have been diagnosed with or have a family history of diabetes or another autoimmune disorder.
- pregnant women
- hospital patients
- those recovering from surgery, injury or illness
- those with certain neurological conditions such as epilepsy
- those with behavioral conditions that interfere with eating such as ADHD or autism
- those transitioning to a plant-based diet
- those with severe food allergies or intolerances
- those with conditions that impact organs such as the heart, skin, kidneys or liver
- those with high blood pressure, high cholesterol or anemia
Michelle Cangelosi also says that as part of their intake process, dietitians often ask their new patients about their symptoms, daily activities, fluid intake, sleep, stress levels and current eating habits to gain an understanding of how best to help. They may also suggest a blood test to assess whether the patient is deficient in any key vitamins, minerals, or nutrients, or has any hormonal abnormalities.
Finding a diet that is both healthy and sustainable often requires trial, error, and continuous adjustment. Across the lifespan, people’s needs and tastes can undergo significant changes that impact what their bodies need to thrive.
Understanding a few basic nutritional concepts may help to promote healthy habits throughout these shifts. One place to start is by becoming familiar with the three macronutrients that make up everything we eat: protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Here are some key facts about each:
• Protein plays many important roles throughout the body, such as muscle growth, bone health and tissue repair. Good sources of protein include nuts, meat, seeds, dairy, eggs, fish, and beans.
• Fats are important for hormonal health, brain, and heart health, maintaining balanced blood sugars, promoting sustained energy, and growing healthy hair, skin, and nails. Not all fats are nutritionally equal, but some sources of healthy fats include olive oil, nuts, seeds, egg yolks and avocado.
• Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of fuel. They provide the energy we need to move, think, exercise, and carry out our daily activities. Like fats, carbs can differ in their nutritional density. Some good carb sources are whole wheat breads and pastas, oats, potatoes and other starchy vegetables and rice.
Michelle Cangelosi says that while these food groups provide fuel for the body, food is far more than just macronutrients. Whether or not they recognize it, many people use food to cope with deeper issues such as stress, self-imposed restriction, or a lack of sleep.
Michelle Cangelosi explains that since energy-dense foods set off the pleasure and reward centers in the brain, food may provide comfort when someone is struggling in other areas of life. Addressing these underlying causes may help reduce sugar cravings.
Other general tips to eat well are:
- Focus on getting in enough fiber, which can help promote satiety and bowel regularity
- Plan ahead and consider meal prepping to avoid hunger-attacks, which often lead to convenience foods that aren’t always so nutritious
- Aim for mostly complex carbohydrates, as opposed to refined carbohydrates
- Include healthy Omega-3 and Omega-6 unsaturated fats, limit saturated fats and avoid trans fats
- Eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables
- Aim to eat mostly unprocessed or minimally-processed foods
- Limit or avoid alcohol
- Drink plenty of water, especially on hot days or while exercising
- Try to limit foods high in added sugars and fats
- Eat enough to fuel yourself to avoid slowing your metabolism or having low energy
- Don’t restrict yourself or cut out foods that you enjoy
Nutrition plays an important role in maintaining overall health, but what qualifies as a “healthy diet” looks different for everyone. Instead of rigid food rules, nutrition guidelines usually focus on healthy eating behaviors. Within these guidelines, individuals should try to find what works best for them while remembering that balance, moderation, and flexibility are key to long-term success.