Humans are complicated, and there are many things that influence our health. There are things we can’t change, like our age or genetic makeup, and the things we can, such as our choice of food and drink. There are also the trillions of bacteria that live in our guts – collectively known as the microbiome – that have a significant impact on our health and digestion.
The foods we eat are mixtures of many nutrients that affect the body and microbiome in different ways, so unraveling the relationship between diet, metabolism and health is no simple matter.
We all have personal tastes and preferences when it comes to food, so it makes sense to assume that our personal metabolisms and responses to the foods we eat should be different too. But we’re only now coming to the point where scientific research is catching up with this gut feeling, proving that everyone is unique and that there is no one true diet that works for all.
Of course, there are healthy eating messages that apply to everyone, such as eating more fibre and increasing diverse plant-based foods and cutting down on ultra-processed products. But the take-home message is that there is no one right way to eat that works for everyone, despite what government guidelines and glamorous Instagram gurus tell you.
It's easy to get confused when it comes to health and nutrition. Even qualified experts often seem to hold opposing opinions. Yet, despite all the disagreements, a number of wellness tips are well supported by research.
1. Don’t Drink Sugar Calories
Your brain doesn't measure calories from liquid sugar the same way it does for solid food. Sugary drinks are strongly associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and many other health problems.
2. Eat Nuts
They're loaded with magnesium, vitamin E, fiber, and various other nutrients. Studies demonstrate that nuts can help you lose weight and may help fight type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
3. Avoid Processed Junk Food (Eat Real Food Instead)
They're usually low in fiber, protein, and micronutrients but high in unhealthy ingredients like added sugar and refined grains. Thus, they provide mostly empty calories.
4. Don’t Fear Coffee
It's high in antioxidants, and studies have linked coffee intake to longevity and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, and numerous other illnesses.
5. Eat Fatty Fish
Studies show that people who eat the most fish have a lower risk of several conditions, including heart disease, dementia, and depression.
6. Get Enough Sleep
Poor sleep can drive insulin resistance, disrupt your appetite hormones, and reduce your physical and mental performance. One study linked insufficient sleep to an 89% and 55% increased risk of obesity in children and adults, respectively.
7. Take Care of Your Gut Health with Probiotics and Fiber
A disruption in gut bacteria is linked to some of the world's most serious chronic diseases, including obesity. Good ways to improve gut health include eating probiotic foods like yogurt and sauerkraut, taking probiotic supplements, and eating plenty of fiber.
8. Drink Some Water, Especially Before Meals
This can amount to 96 additional calories burned if you drink 8.4 cups (2 liters) of water per day. The optimal time to drink it is before meals. One study showed that downing 2.1 cups (500 ml) of water 30 minutes before each meal increased weight loss by 44%.
9. Don’t Overcook or Burn Your Meat
Problems occur when meat is overcooked or burnt which can lead to the formation of harmful compounds that raise your risk of cancer.
10. Avoid Bright Lights Before Sleep
When you're exposed to bright lights in the evening, it may disrupt your production of the sleep hormone melatonin. One strategy is to use a pair of amber-tinted glasses that block blue light from entering your eyes in the evening. This allows melatonin to be produced as if it were completely dark, helping you sleep better.
11. Take Vitamin D3 If You Don’t Get Much Sun Exposure
If you're unable to get adequate sun exposure, vitamin D supplements are a good alternative. Their benefits include improved bone health, increased strength, reduced symptoms of depression, and a lower risk of cancer. Vitamin D may also help you live longer.
12. Eat Vegetables and Fruits
Vegetables and fruits are loaded with probiotic fiber, vitamins, minerals, and many antioxidants, some of which have potent biological effects. Studies show that people who eat the most vegetables and fruits live longer and have a lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other illnesses.
13. Make Sure to Eat Enough Protein
High protein intake can boost metabolism significantly while making you feel full enough to automatically eat fewer calories. It can also reduce cravings and your desire to snack late at night. Sufficient protein intake has also been shown to lower blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
14. Do Some Cardio
It's particularly effective at reducing belly fat, the harmful type of fat that builds up around your organs. Reduced belly fat should lead to major improvements in metabolic health.
15. Don’t Smoke or Do Drugs, and Only Drink in Moderation
If you smoke or abuse drugs, tackle those problems first, diet and exercise can wait. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation and consider avoiding it completely if you tend to drink too much.
16. Use Extra Virgin Olive Oil
It's loaded with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and powerful antioxidants that can fight inflammation. Extra virgin olive oil benefits heart health, as people who consume it have a much lower risk of dying from heart attacks and strokes.
17. Minimize Your Sugar Intake
High sugar intake is linked to numerous ailments, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and many forms of cancer.
18. Don’t Eat a Lot of Refined Carbs
Refined carbs have been highly processed to remove their fiber. They're relatively low in nutrients and can harm your health when eaten in excess.
19. Don’t Fear Saturated Fat
Saturated fat raises cholesterol levels, it also raises HDL (good) cholesterol and shrinks your LDL (bad) particles, which is linked to a lower risk of heart disease.
20. Lift Heavy Things
Lifting weights is one of the best things you can do to strengthen your muscles and improve your body composition. It also leads to massive improvements in metabolic health, including improved insulin sensitivity.
21. Avoid Artificial Trans Fats
Artificial trans fats are harmful, man-made fats that are strongly linked to inflammation and heart disease.
22. Use Plenty of Herbs and Spices
Ginger and turmeric both have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, leading to various health benefits. Due to their powerful benefits, you should try to include as many herbs and spices as possible in your diet.
23. Take Care of Your Relationships
Social relationships are incredibly important not only for your mental well-being but also your physical health. Studies show that people who have close friends and family are healthier and live much longer than those who do not.
24. Track Your Food Intake Every Now and Then
The only way to know exactly how many calories you eat is to weigh your food and use a nutrition tracker. It's also essential to make sure that you're getting enough protein, fiber, and micronutrients.
25. If You Have Excess Belly Fat, Get Rid of It
Belly fat is particularly harmful. It accumulates around your organs and is strongly linked to metabolic disease. For this reason, your waist size may be a much stronger marker of your health than your weight. Cutting carbs and eating more protein and fiber are all excellent ways to get rid of belly fat.
26. Don’t Go On a Diet
Diets are notoriously ineffective and rarely work well in the long term. Instead of going on a diet, try adopting a healthier lifestyle. Focus on nourishing your body instead of depriving it.
27. Eat Eggs, Yolk and All
Whole eggs are so nutritious that they're often termed "nature's multivitamin."Studies show that they have no effect on blood cholesterol in the majority of people. Instead, eggs are one of the planet's most nutritious foods. Notably, the yolk contains almost all of the healthy compounds.
The Bottom Line
If you're trying to live a healthier life, don't just focus on the foods you eat. Exercise, sleep, and social relationships are also important.
With the tips above, it's easy to get your body feeling great every day.
Time-restricted eating is just what it sounds like. It's a form of intermittent fasting where you eat all of your meals for the day within a restricted window of time, ranging from two to eight hours. That means you're avoiding food (fasting) for 16 to 22 consecutive hours. Eating within a four- to six-hour window is likely close to metabolic ideal for most. As noted in the paper "A Time to Fast," published in the November 2018 issue of Science:
"Adjustment of meal size and frequency have emerged as powerful tools to ameliorate and postpone the onset of disease and delay aging, whereas periods of fasting, with or without energy intake, can have profound health benefits.
The underlying physiological processes involve periodic shifts of metabolic fuel sources, promotion of repair mechanisms, and the optimization of energy utilization for cellular and organismal health …
In general, both prolonged reduction in daily caloric intake and periodic fasting cycles have the power to delay the onset of disease and increase longevity."
Time-restricted eating (TRE) is a form of intermittent fasting where you eat all of your meals for the day within a restricted window of time. Your eating window could range from two to eight hours a day, fasting for the remaining 16 to 22 hours
Recent research found eating all meals between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. resulted in greater metabolic flexibility, reduced hunger and increased sense of fullness, resulting in weight loss
In another study, an eight-hour time-restricted feeding schedule was found to produce mild caloric restriction and weight loss, without calorie counting
Compared to controls, strength training athletes who trained while adhering to a time-restricted eating schedule saw a decrease in fat mass after eight weeks, while maintaining muscle mass and maximal strength
A similar study found men who performed resistance training for eight weeks while eating all meals within four hours on non-workout days (four days a week) lowered their calorie intake while increasing strength and muscular endurance
Research overwhelmingly supports the notion that ditching the three square meals a day approach in favor of time-restricted feeding — a form of intermittent fasting — can do wonders for your health. Contrary to modern belief, your body isn't designed to be fed throughout the day, and the near-continuous grazing that most engage in can have serious health consequences.
Research by Satchidananda Panda, Ph.D., suggests 90% of people eat for more than 12 hours a day, and over time this habit will wreak havoc on your metabolism and limit your ability to metabolize fat as a primary fuel.
When you eat throughout the day and never skip a meal your body adapts to burning sugar as its primary fuel, resulting in the down-regulation of enzymes that utilize and burn stored fat.
As a result, you become progressively more insulin resistant and start gaining weight. Efforts to lose weight also become ineffective for this very reason, since to lose body fat, your body must first be able to actually burn fat.
Many biological repair and rejuvenation processes also take place while you're fasting, and this is another reason why all-day grazing triggers diseases while fasting prevents them.
A large and growing body of medical research supports the use of time-restricted feeding (intermittent fasting), showing it has a wide range of biological benefits. Aside from facilitating fat loss while protecting and even promoting muscle strength, studies show various forms of fasting,including a variety of intermittent fasting protocols and time-restricted feeding, can:
Promote insulin sensitivity, which is crucial for your health as insulin resistance or poor insulin sensitivity contributes to nearly all chronic diseases
Improve leptin sensitivity: leptin reduces intracellular lipid stores and improves insulin sensitivity
Improve blood sugar management by increasing insulin-mediated glucose uptake rates
Lower triglyceride levels
Increase human growth hormone production (HGH) — Commonly referred to as "the fitness hormone," HGH plays an important role in maintaining health, fitness and longevity, including promotion of muscle growth, and boosting fat loss by revving up your metabolism.
Suppress inflammation and reduce oxidative damage
Promote multisystem regeneration by up-regulating autophagy and mitophagy, natural cleansing processes necessary for optimal cellular renewal and function, and promoting regeneration of stem cells
Prevent or reverse Type 2 diabetes, as well as slow its progression
Improve immune function by regenerating damaged stem cells
Lower blood pressure
Reduce your risk of heart disease
Boost mitochondrial energy efficiency and biogenesis
Reduce your risk of cancer, in part by optimizing autophagy
Increase longevity — There are a number of mechanisms contributing to this effect. Normalizing insulin sensitivity is a major one, but fasting also inhibits the motor pathway, which plays an important part in driving the aging process
Regenerate the pancreas and improve pancreatic function
Improve cognitive function and protect against neurological diseases (such as dementia, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease) thanks to the production of ketone bodies(byproducts of fatty acid breakdown, which are a healthy and preferred fuel for your brain)
Animal research also shows intermittent fasting increases neurons resistance to excitotoxic stress
Eliminate sugar cravings as your body adapts to burning fat instead of sugar.
So, what's the evidence that time-restricted eating actually promotes weight loss? Aside from a number of animal studies, consider the following research, published in the July 2019 issue of Obesity.
This study was founded on the premise that by eating earlier in the daytime, you properly align with the natural fluctuations in the circadian rhythm that regulates your metabolism. As a result, weight loss is enhanced.
The question it sought to answer was whether this benefit is mediated through increased energy expenditure or simply lower energy intake. To find out, 11 overweight participants first adhered to an early time-restricted eating schedule, eating all meals between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. for four days.
For the next four days, they ate all meals between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. They were also required to maintain a regular sleep schedule throughout. On the last day of each trial, energy expenditure and substrate oxidation levels were measured.
Results revealed meal-timing primarily facilitates weight loss by reducing appetite and increasing fat oxidation. Energy expenditure remained unaffected. As explained by lead author Courtney Peterson, Ph.D., associate professor of nutrition sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham:
"We think the longer daily fast gives people's bodies more time each day to dip into their fat reserves and burn fat. The body is typically maximally efficient at burning fat when people fast for at least 12-24 hours at a time."
Overall, eating all meals earlier in the day, between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., resulted in greater metabolic flexibility, lower ghrelin (known as the hunger hormone) levels, reduced hunger and increased sense of fullness, and this is thought to drive the weight loss.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of maintaining good health, and can help you feel your best.
This means eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions, and consuming the right amount of food and drink to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
This page covers healthy eating advice for the general population.
People with special dietary needs or a medical condition should ask their doctor or a registered dietitian for advice.
come in all shapes and sizes, and different fruits have different
health benefits. For the best results, add a variety of fruits to the
By eating fruit, a person is providing their body with key vitamins, antioxidants, and dietary fiber. This can have significant benefits for heart health, digestion, weight management, and skin health.
People can enjoy a wide variety of fruits to improve their health and lower the risk of inflammation, heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes.
Fruit and vegetables are a good source of vitamins and minerals and fiber, and should make up just over a third of the food you eat each day.
It's recommended that you eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. They can be fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juiced.
There's evidence that people who eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers.
A portion is:
80g of fresh, canned or frozen fruit and vegetables
30g of dried fruit – which should be kept to mealtimes
150ml glass of fruit juice or smoothie – but do not have more than 1 portion a day as these drinks are sugary and can damage teeth
Just 1 apple, banana, pear or similar-sized fruit is 1 portion each.
A slice of pineapple or melon is also 1 portion, and 3 heaped tablespoons of vegetables is another portion.
Adding a tablespoon of dried fruit, such as raisins, to your morning cereal is an easy way to get 1 portion.
You could also swap your mid-morning biscuit for a banana, and add a side salad to your lunch.
In the evening, have a portion of vegetables with dinner and fresh fruit with plain, lower fat yoghurt for dessert to reach your 5 A Day.
Starchy foods should make up just over a third of everything you eat. This means your meals should be based on these foods.
Choose wholegrain or whole meal varieties of starchy foods, such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and brown, whole meal or higher fiber white bread.
They contain more fiber, and usually more vitamins and minerals, than white varieties.
Potatoes with the skins on are a great source of fiber and vitamins. For example, when having boiled potatoes or a jacket potato, eat the skin too.
Go for lower fat and lower sugar products where possible. Choose semi-skimmed, 1% fat or skimmed milk, as well as lower fat hard cheeses or cottage cheese, and lower fat, lower sugar yoghurt. When buying alternatives, choose unsweetened, calcium-fortified versions.
Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins, these foods are all good sources of protein, which is essential for the body to grow and repair itself.
to eat at least 2 portions of fish a week, including 1 portion of
You can choose from fresh, frozen or canned, but remember that canned and smoked fish can often be high in salt. Pulses, including beans, peas and lentils, are naturally very low in fat and high in fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals.
Nuts are high in fiber, and unsalted nuts make a good snack. But they do still contain high levels of fat, so eat them in moderation.
Some fat in the diet is essential, but on average people in the UK eat too much saturated fat.
It's important to get most of your fat from unsaturated oils and spreads.
Swapping to unsaturated fats can help lower cholesterol.
Remember that all types of fat are high in energy and should be eaten in small amounts.
Too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which increases your risk of developing heart disease.
Regularly consuming foods and drinks high in sugar increases your risk of obesity and tooth decay.
Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure, which increases your risk of getting heart disease or having a stroke.