Your overall health, mood, and energy levels are affected by your diet, and that is doubly true if you have a chronic illness. The food you eat has a real effect on how well you are able to function on a daily basis, and in some cases, a healthy diet can even help to slow down the progression of a disease. If you are chronically ill, think of a good diet as medicine, not just sustenance. Here are five things you can do to make sure your diet is boosting your overall health and wellness.
Eat a Plant-Based Diet
You don't have to be a vegetarian or vegan for your diet to be healthy. However, it's a good idea to fill the majority of your plate with plant-based foods rather than meat, dairy, or eggs. Plant-based foods tend to be nutrient-dense but low in calories, which means they nourish you and fill you up while helping you maintain a healthy weight. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains are some staples of a healthy plant-based diet.
Avoid Sugar, Alcohol, and Caffeine
When you live with a chronic illness, it's important to avoid substances that have a high likelihood of throwing your body's internal balance out of whack. Sugar, alcohol, and caffeine are three of the main things that can make your symptoms flare up when you're sick. Stay away from these substances (or cut way back on your intake) to sleep better, keep your blood sugar stable, and avoid mood swings.
Increase Your Intake of Healthy Fats
Dietary fat isn't an enemy -- in fact, it's essential to have some fat in your diet for good health. But the type of fat you eat matters, so choose carefully. "Bad" fats include trans fats and hydrogenated oils, which are found in many processed and fried foods. Saturated fat, which is found in many animal foods, isn't as bad as trans fat, but it should still be consumed in small quantities. Unsaturated fats, like vegetable oils and fatty fish, are the healthiest to consume regularly.
Choose Your Meats Carefully
Red meat, such as beef and pork, contains a lot of saturated fat, so it's best to eat it sparingly or not at all. Leaner meats like chicken and fish are a healthier source of protein. If you do eat meat, go for grass fed and grass finished meat.
Listen to Your Body
Everyone's body is a little bit different. You may not have all the same nutritional needs as someone else with a chronic illness. While it's a good idea to follow the general guidelines of healthy eating, you should also talk to your doctor about which foods and supplements are most beneficial for you. It's also important to get into the habit of listening to your body and noticing how certain foods make you feel. If you notice that certain foods make your symptoms flare up (or leave you feeling great), you can adjust your diet accordingly. Keeping a food journal can help you track how particular foods affect your health and well-being.