There are many ways to pursue a healthy lifestyle. If you’re genuinely trying to achieve or maintain good health, then you probably already work on each of the different areas of your personal health. Maybe you take a fitness class or go jogging to stay physically active. You might practice yoga to fight stress and maintain mental wellbeing. You probably keep your brain sharp through brain games or other cognitive exercises, and if you’re really ambitious you might lift weights to build-up muscle strength. These are all great ways to improve your health and fitness, but they are not the most important ones. These things don’t matter so much if they are not accompanied by a balanced diet. Proper nutrition is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle! So to really improve your health, you must start in the kitchen!

In terms of your physical health, if your fitness regime is accompanied by poor nutrition, you will struggle to lose weight. You may also struggle to summon the energy to workout if your diet is full of too much sugary carbohydrates and foods full of fat, rather than getting your energy from natural sources like fruit and vegetables. If your goal is to build strength, you need a diet that is rich in natural sources of protein (such as eggs and fish) and calcium (such as dairy products) to allow for muscle-growth and repair. These essential nutrients are often missing from diets that are filled with too much high-fat or sugary junk-foods. So without proper nutrition you won’t achieve the benefits you want, no matter how much exercise you do.

Nutrition is also vital for your mental health. This might surprise you to know, but there is now a large body of evidence that proper nutrition is just as important for mental health as physical health. In fact, the entire professional field of nutritional psychiatry has recently emerged based on this evidence. To put it simply: When you eat well, you feel well! Science has linked, for example, a healthy gut with better brain health because when you eat well, you build up healthy bacteria in the gut and this bacterium are vital for your brain to function well. Folates, found in healthy foods like vegetables, are also super important nutrients for the brain as they help it to regulate your mood through chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. In contrast, junk-food and sugary drinks have been shown to have a negative effect on the brain and can leave you feeling tired, and unable to concentrate or focus.

Proper nutrition is also essential for healthy ageing, as a healthy diet helps to build up defences against general physical and cognitive decline and also age-related diseases. Maintaining a healthy, nutritious diet in mid-life is the foundation of healthy ageing, as it gives you the best possible chance of staying physically active in later life. Nutrients like calcium for strong bones and protein for muscle growth and maintenance are essential to remaining active as a senior, and these vital nutrients are often lacking in high fat junk-foods. Poor nutrition also increases the risk of all the major age-related illnesses, like Alzheimer’s, stroke, heart-attacks, high blood-pressure and certain cancers. The key to fighting these illnesses is a combination of healthy diet and exercise, but you can only remain active as you age if your diet is a healthy and full of all essential nutrients.

For more specific advice around what to eat and what to avoid, check out the recipes section on the MindMate app and build yourself the perfect foundation for a healthy lifestyle!