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Healthy diet, healthy life

A balanced diet includes eating foods that are as close to their natural state as possible and eating in moderation, says a BYUH science professor

Martinez eats vegetables and fruts
Martinez says a healthy diet means a balanced portion of food.
Photo by Yui Leung

Nutrient-rich food keeps people healthy and away from illnesses, allowing them to function properly throughout their days, said BYU–Hawaii students and a professor.

There are specific types of diets such as keto, paleo, vegan, Whole30, the Zone and more, said Dr. Benjamin Chase, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Sciences. Although diet simply means the food you eat, he said, “According to Werner Hoeger, a former professor at BYUH and an Olympian, ‘A well-balanced diet entails eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods and monitoring total daily caloric intake.’” He said this doesn’t mean a person must carry a food scale and measure everything they eat. Chase said, “What it means is eating whole foods, [which are] foods that aren’t processed or are minimally processed and close to how they are found naturally.”

He said it is essential to get the right amount of macronutrients, like carbs, protein and fat, and micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals. He said the essential vitamins people should take are vitamins A,B, C, D, E and K. “The good news is these are found in and best absorbed from a variety of foods,” he explained. If people are eating a balanced, nutritious diet, including a wide range of different types of food, they don’t need to take a vitamin supplement, he said.

How food affects the body

“Food is fuel, and it is also a huge part of our culture,” said Chase. He said the university offers great activities like the Food Fest, which allows people to experience different foods and the sights, smells and feelings that come from eating with good people. “This happens in the cafeteria and anywhere we eat with others. Shout out to those who work in the Food Services on campus and at the Polynesian Cultural Center,” said Chase.

Klarisa Amos, a freshman from Virginia majoring in health and human sciences, said, “Food is how we get our energy for the day and for everything we do.” She said she believes if people start a day with a bad meal, it will mess up their day. It is hard for people to focus when they’re hungry, Amos said, so starting the day with a healthy meal will allow the brain to function.

What people eat can affect their mood, said Amos. “I get really hangry if I don’t eat.” She said it is important to know yourself and your body to understand how your eating habits affect how you feel throughout the day and how you treat other people.

Vivien Faye Martinez, a sophomore from the Philippines majoring in social work and minoring in health and human science, shared, “I love eating.” She said food affects her mood. Martinez explained when food is good, the body releases dopamine, making people feel satisfied.

Why eat healthy?

Eating healthy foods help people keep their bodies healthy and helps students focus on their studies, said Martinez. She explained, “If we are provided with proper nourishment, we will have the energy we need and we will be more alert.” Martinez said a healthy diet for her means having a balanced portion of food. “Whether you eat protein, carbs or fat, it should be the right portion. No more and no less.” Chase said students should eat a wide range of fruits, vegetables and protein sources. He said, “Students should have a good balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and water.” Students must do their best to establish a healthy eating practice, Chase cautioned.

Martinez said drinking water is important. She shared, “I learned from our class that water keeps our brain from shrinking.” She also said too much water can be bad for people’s health despite its importance. “If you feel thirsty, drink a cup, but if you don’t feel thirsty, just drink enough,” she explained.

Some of the downsides of not having a balanced diet are low energy, greater susceptibility to sickness, negative acute and chronic health conditions, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer, said Chase.

He said, ‘‘As far as the Lord is concerned, sticking to the Word of Wisdom is wise.” However, it is important for people to treat themselves occasionally with food that they really like and is considered unhealthy, he said. “As a wise person said, ‘All things in moderation,’” he added.

Martinez smiles and eats healthy food.
Martinez eating a salad at the Banyan Dining Hall
Photo by Yui Leung

Advice for students

Balancing a proper diet and a busy work and school schedule is challenging, Martinez said. She said because of the responsibilities of a working college student, some choose to eat instant meals to save time. “I strive to make time to cook proper meals,” she said. “But there are times when you have too many assignments and you’re too tired from work, you just settle with instant foods.”

Especially while living in a dorm-style hale, Amos said it is really hard to eat a balanced diet. She said although the people working at the dining hall are doing the best they can, it is still difficult for her because there is little nutrition information available about the foods they serve. Amos said she focuses on eating foods that will help her with physical activities because she likes to run and going to the gym. She said she still makes sure she keeps a balance between all the food groups and drinks a lot of water.

To know which diet fits an individual’s body, Martinez said it is best to consult with Seasider Wellness first. She said people can know which diet they should focus on after knowing their body composition and needs.

Chase advised, “Don’t be afraid to try new foods.” He said BYUH students should take advantage of the easy exposure to different global delicacies. “Do things you enjoy. Get enough physical activity and have good sleep hygiene. All of this will contribute to your overall health and well-being,” Chase said.

“Sugar and carbs are not evil,” Chase added. He said consuming dietary fat does not mean a person will get fat. “Fat is necessary for your health.” He explained overconsuming calories from any source is what adds to one’s weight.

Furthermore, Chase said supplements are not required to achieve health. “They are supplementary and should not replace eating whole foods,” he said.

“When you use a scale [to measure your weight], please understand that the number shown on the scale is not a measure of your health. It is just a piece of all that can encompass what health is,” Chase said. “It is just a snapshot in a given moment in time of the force of gravity on your body. It does not tell you how much you are worth. We are children of God, and we come in all different shapes and sizes.”