Metabolism is the process of how the body turns the food and liquids a person consumes into energy. Your metabolic health is influenced by your diet, hydration, exercise, stress, mental health, age, gender, and heredity.
According to research, a person’s metabolic health significantly defines their quality of life. Therefore, to be metabolically healthy is to have a minimal chance of acquiring metabolic illnesses and have good overall health. One of the best ways to assess one’s metabolic health is by looking at a blood test characterised by complete metabolic panel testing. Your blood parameters can give you a synopsis of your metabolic health. After that, a consultation with the HealthifyPro coaches can help you design a diet and activity plan based on your metabolic health.
Why is Metabolic Health Important?
As per research, the current coronavirus pandemic has brought attention to our poor metabolic health, with metabolic illnesses linked to the severity of COVID-19 and worse outcomes. According to a study on the risks of COVID-19 hospitalisations, the four cardiometabolic diseases accounted for the bulk of these admissions. The COVID-19 pandemic has given the world a wake-up call regarding its inaction toward metabolic diseases.
Since metabolic health is an indicator of your overall physical health, maintaining it is essential for improving your quality of life. It helps to live free from metabolic disorders like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Therefore, regardless of the pandemic, maintaining good metabolic health is crucial. Poor metabolic health can attract an array of health disorders and lead to several complications.
Consequences of Poor Metabolic Health
Although there is no single definition of “poor metabolic health”, it is typically correlated with metabolic syndrome. According to studies, metabolic syndrome is a set of risk factors that raises the risk of cardiovascular diseases. This also means that an individual is not metabolically healthy.
After eating, there may be mild fluctuations in blood sugar, insulin, and fat levels. These changes are typical and reflect how your body processes and reacts to food. On the other hand, having poor metabolic health suggests an unusual blood sugar increase or high-fat levels. Although there won’t be any immediate harm, over time, these occurrences build up and lead to an unfavourable metabolic response. Such a reaction can have a variety of harmful impacts on your body.
Dietary inflammation is the terminology characterising this intricate web of adverse metabolic side effects. Research links high inflammation to health issues such as atherosclerosis, issues pertaining to insulin, and possible weight gain.
Adverse Impact on Mental Health
Research shows that poor metabolic health or metabolic syndrome might be linked to depression and anxiety disorders. Furthermore, as per studies, people with uncontrolled blood sugar levels and insulin resistance have an increased risk of mental health and mood disorders. Since blood sugar is an essential factor in assessing metabolic health, it is evident that it impacts mental health and mood instability.
Since the brain can no longer use glucose to produce energy, mitochondrial dysfunction may contribute to depression by decreasing the amount of dopamine in the body. This neurotransmitter is also known as the ‘feel-good’ hormone.
Research suggests that mitochondrial dysfunction also impairs neurogenesis in people with diabetes. Neurogenesis (brain cell growth) is vital since studies link it to treating severe depression. Studies also prove that changes in mitochondrial function can lead to heightened anxiety. Also, a decreased cellular energy production in critical neural circuits causes an overall lack of motivation and self-esteem. Therefore, having good metabolic health is crucial for not just good physical health but also good for mental health.
Can Lead to Metabolic Syndrome or Similar Metabolic Disorders
If your metabolic health is poor, you will likely see significant blood glucose and insulin fluctuations after eating. Studies show that metabolic health is a more important determinant for diabetes development than obesity. Additionally, aforementioned, poor metabolic health can lead to chronic inflammation. According to research, chronic inflammation is associated with an increased risk of visceral obesity and insulin resistance. Therefore, poor metabolic health can contribute to the development of metabolic syndrome and other chronic health issues.
The HealthifyMe Note
Type 2 diabetes, stroke, similar metabolic disorder, high blood pressure, low levels of good cholesterol, hyperglycaemia, and high BMI are risk factors for metabolic syndrome. Therefore, good metabolic health is absolutely imperative to maintain a healthy mind and body.
Foods Which Worsen Metabolic Health
According to research, refined grains might be terrible for metabolic health. Since they don’t fill you up being low in fibre you may eat more of them. Thus, consume more calories and experience increased fatigue and sluggishness. High consumption of refined grains can rapidly spike your blood sugar because they are easier to digest and thus lead to chronic fatigue and metabolic disorders like diabetes. Therefore, nutritionists recommend avoiding the following refined grains:
- White Flour (Maida)
- White Rice
- White Bread
Several studies associate increased processed food intake and detrimental metabolic and mental health effects.
Studies link excess sodium consumption to increased water retention, potentially leading to puffiness, bloating, and weight gain. In addition, long-term consumption of excess sodium can lead to high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and kidney stones. As per studies, consuming processed meats, particularly those high in nitrates and sodium, increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Ultra-processed foods contain high amounts of trans fat produced during manufacturing. Therefore, processed foods are terrible for metabolic and overall physical health. You should avoid processed foods that have high amounts of sodium, such as:
- Potato Chips
- Salted Nuts
- Salted Butter
- Frozen Dinners
- Cured meats
- Packaged Rice and Pasta Mixes
- Canned Vegetables
Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils – Trans Fat
In most nations, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are the primary dietary source of trans fatty acids (TFAs). According to research, consuming trans fatty acids can cause metabolic dysfunction and systemic inflammation. A high intake of trans fatty acids can contribute to higher abdominal fat, body weight, and insulin resistance. Therefore, it negatively impacts circulating lipid levels and induces systemic inflammation. Thus, it’s advisable to always read ingredient labels on processed foods and look for “trans fats” or “partially hydrogenated fats,” which indicates their presence. Avoid foods that contain them, including:
- Frozen Fried Foods (Nuggets, Fries)
- Frozen Pizza
- Microwave Popcorn
Refined Vegetable Oils/Seed Oils
Many refined oils are high in Omega-6 fats, which research links to obesity, type 2 diabetes, inflammation and higher rates of heart disease. Also, these oils are highly processed and lead to increased chronic inflammation. Also, when the body transforms linolenic acid (the most prevalent Omega-6 fatty acid) into arachidonic acid, a different fatty acid component of compounds can trigger inflammation.
As discussed earlier, chronic inflammation leads to a complex chain of unhealthy metabolic effects, such as a higher risk of blood clotting, heart attack and strokes. Furthermore, these oils are much cheaper to produce. Hence, most brands load their processed foods and fast food options with these inflammatory oils. The following oils contain more than 20% of pro-inflammatory fats like linoleic acid:
- Soybean Oil
- Canola Oil
- Peanut Oil
- Grapeseed Oil
- Sunflower Oil
- Corn Oil
- Rice Bran Oil
Sugary Foods and Beverages
According to studies, foods high in sugar are bad for your metabolic health. A high-sugar diet can trigger insulin resistance, negatively affecting mitochondrial function. Additionally, research suggests excessive consumption of sugary foods and beverages will produce pro-inflammatory cytokines called TNF in the body.
Studies establish that artificial sweeteners in packaged foods and soft drinks can raise blood sugar levels and increase the risk of diabetes. Therefore, avoiding sugary foods and beverages can go a long way in maintaining a healthy body (by preventing insulin resistance) and good mental health (by avoiding the onset of depression and anxiety).
Common sugary foods and drinks include:
- Baked Goods like pies, cakes and cookies
- Soft Drinks
- Energy Drinks
Most fast food items are highly processed and contain refined flour, salt, and hidden sugars. Research proves that frequent fast-food consumption impairs insulin function and causes chronic inflammation. Also, studies link organic food consumption to better metabolic health, including reduced incidence of metabolic syndrome.
Ways to Avoid Foods Bad for Metabolic Health
The best way to avoid such foods is to find healthy alternatives that you can add to your diet. Given below are some healthy options that you can choose.
Alternatives for Refined Grains
Unlike processed/refined grains that lack nutrients, whole grains are good for heart health, type 2 diabetes and obesity, according to research. Also, they contain an outer coating called bran, which is rich in fibre and nutrients and can keep you full for longer. Therefore, we highly recommend substituting white bread with whole-wheat bread and white rice with brown rice or other whole-grain alternatives. Additionally, you can easily substitute white flour in many recipes with whole wheat flour, almond flour, oat flour or chickpea flour.
Alternatives for Highly Processed Foods
It would help if you reduced the consumption of processed foods and instead opted for fresh foods in their whole and natural forms, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition, substituting processed foods high in sodium with natural alternatives is a good idea. For example, avoid salted nuts and eat unprocessed dry fruits and nuts. Likewise, unsalted butter is healthier than its salty counterpart. Finally, if you cannot avoid buying frozen meals, you should consider picking those with no added sugar or trans fat.
Alternatives for Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils and Processed Meat
You can opt for heart-healthy vegetable or plant oils, such as olive or avocado oil instead. Replace frozen chicken nuggets with healthier and more delicious alternatives such as fresh meat, eggs and salmon. Likewise, you can substitute frozen fries with homemade potato wedges.
Alternatives for Refined Vegetable Oils and Seed Oils
Ultra-processed and packaged foods contain refined, pro-inflammatory vegetable oils. Therefore, it might be wise to look for foods with avocado, olive, or coconut oils in their ingredient lists. Also, use small amounts or replace them with animal fats like butter and ghee when cooking at home.
Alternatives for Sugary Foods and Drinks
Checking packaged foods’ labels and ingredient lists for added sugars is crucial. Healthier alternatives can substitute sugary drinks, such as soft and energy drinks. For instance, you can try drinks such as fresh fruit juice or homemade beverages such as lemonade and iced tea. Moderating the consumption of baked goods and candy is also essential.
Alternatives for Fast Food
It might be difficult to avoid fast foods such as pizza, burgers and fried chicken altogether. The best alternative would be to make them at home with healthier ingredients and controlled amounts of cheese and oil. You can also consider switching to healthier fast food alternatives, which use fresh ingredients and serve whole foods such as salads or whole-grain bread.
The HealthifyMe Note
You don’t have to completely give up eating your favourite foods. However, switching to healthy snacks like makhana, boiled corn, and sweet potato fries and reducing intake or opting for homemade alternatives can improve your metabolic health.
For the sake of your general health and well-being, taking care of your metabolic health is crucial. Your metabolic health significantly influences your susceptibility to metabolic disorders like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, renal disease, and liver disease. Several variables affect metabolic health. These include your age, gender, and genetic makeup which cannot be changed. However, you can alter your diet to ensure that the food and beverages you consume help you achieve optimal health. Therefore, steer clear of food items harming your metabolic health and replace them with nutritious, healthier options. All these adjustments can lessen your chance of developing any metabolic disease by preventing significant increases in blood sugar, insulin, or high cholesterol levels.