Healthy Eating for a Healthy Nurse

Maintaining proper health is difficult even in the best of times. Making sure you get all the right nutrients, the right number of calories, enough exercise, and enough sleep seems like an impossible task. For a nurse, it can be even more difficult. Odd schedules and unpredictable shift work can make finding an exercise routine, and homecooked meals become more and more rare.

However, it is absolutely imperative that nurses stay in good health. It’s very difficult to tend to patients if we are constantly getting sick ourselves due to our bad health habits. While there are a lot of things to think about, here we will focus on healthy eating. Since you have to eat every day anyway, this is an easy place to start learning how to take the healthiest route available to you. Here are a few things you need to consider when it comes to staying healthy through diet.

The Myths Around Eating

Many people go to the gym every day for hours at a time in order to get in shape. They might work for months and months and never see that much of a change in their body. Even if they do see some change, blood pressure exams and cholesterol tests may reveal that while they look healthy on the outside, the inside is suffering. When you take a closer look at their eating habits, everything becomes clear. It is virtually impossible to stay healthy if you are not eating the right foods, even if you work out every day. The phrase “abs are made in the kitchen” is so true; even if you are building muscle at the gym, what you eat could prevent that layer of fat from disappearing, so you’ll never see those muscles. Diet is the quickest and most reliable way to lose fat.

Even if you aren’t trying to lose weight, what you eat is still important. Our bodies demand certain nutrients for optimum performance. If you are at a healthy weight, you can still suffer some of the side effects of not having enough carbs or protein or lacking certain vitamins and minerals.

The Glycemic Index

The Glycemic index is a measuring tool that assesses the effects of certain foods on blood sugar levels. Foods with lots of sugar, like a candy bar, fall high on the index, indicating that they will make the blood sugar rise quickly. Foods with lower GI numbers are more slowly digested and carbs more slowly absorbed, meaning the blood sugar levels rise only a little and very slowly. This can prevent too rapid a rise in blood glucose.

Finding the right balance is key. A rise in blood sugar can often have a stimulating effect and increase mood, while too low of a blood sugar level means your energy and mood drops as well.

Carbs

It is important to note that our brain relies on glucose as its sole energy source, so going on a low-carb diet as a nurse often isn’t the best choice. It can result in fatigue and difficulty concentrating. Instead, you should focus on getting the right carbs and sugars. Whole fruit (not juice), whole grains, and some vegetables are good sources of slow-burning carbs that will give your brain the energy it needs without adding too many calories.

Protein

Our bodies need protein to break down into amino acids, which it then uses for other purposes. For example, the amino acid tyrosine has recently been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, something that nurses can surely benefit from. It can also help with concentration and focus, another necessity for successful nurses. To get enough protein, try to incorporate fish, eggs, and small amounts of meat into your diet. Beans, lentils, spinach, and broccoli all have good amounts of protein as well if you follow a more plant-based diet.

Folic Acid

Folic acid, also known as vitamin B9, has been the center of attention in recent years, due to its association with the prevention of depression. In the human body, low levels of folic acid resulted in lower levels of serotonin, a necessary hormone for regulating mood. The lower the amounts of serotonin, the higher the prevalence of depression. Since nurses are already susceptible to depression simply due to the nature of the job, it is vital to get enough folic acid to keep serotonin levels up. It may not cure existing depression or have much effect on serious mood disorders, but it will most likely help in the majority of cases. Foods rich in folic acid are vegetables, fruit, seeds, and nuts. Getting your daily servings of these foods will ensure you’re getting the vitamins you need.

Final Thoughts

There are so many more things that you can do to make sure you are eating healthily, but if you focus on the above list, you’ll already be on the right track to getting and staying healthy. As long as you can avoid junk and fast food, for the most part, even just a few small changes will get you going.