Eating nutritious foods can help you feel your best physically and mentally, which is why you may notice a difference if you start eating more whole foods in place of processed snacks. But how long does it take to see results from eating healthy?
First things first, here's what we mean by eating healthy: It's a diet that includes a variety of nutritious whole foods that you enjoy, rather than a style of eating that restricts foods labeled as "bad."
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In fact, there's no such thing as "good" or "bad" food. Assigning a moral value to what you eat can make you feel guilty or wrong for having certain foods, and shaming yourself over your diet can harm your emotional wellbeing.
Instead, craft a diet full of foods that you find delicious. Per the Mayo Clinic, here are some categories to include:
With that said, here's how long it takes to see results from eating healthy and what changes to expect over time.
Working with your doctor or dietitian can help you develop an eating plan that best supports you and your health needs, according to the Mayo Clinic.
What Happens When You Start Eating Healthy?
As you incorporate more nutritious foods into your diet on a regular basis, you may start to notice changes rather quickly within the first days and weeks, all while progressing toward bigger changes long term.
Here's a quick overview of when to expect certain benefits of eating healthy:
- Within the first few days you may feel more energized, alert and less bloated.
- After the first full week or two, you may experience changes in body composition, skin complexion and your mood.
- After a month and onward, you may have dropped some extra weight, lowered cholesterol levels and decreased high blood pressure.
The Immediate Changes
Here's how long after eating healthy you'll see results: When you begin munching on more nutritious foods, you may feel certain changes immediately.
Replacing some high-calorie, fat-laden or extra-salty foods with whole foods can make you feel less bloated after a meal, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Opting for more plant-based meals and eating smaller portions may also help you experience fewer incidences of indigestion, per Harvard Health Publishing.
Choosing whole grains over refined carbs (like those in baked goods) will help keep your blood sugar steady throughout the day, so you may experience higher and more consistent energy levels, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Indeed, feeding your body usable nutrients instead of empty calories (like those in processed foods such as candy or chips), you may notice an overall increase in energy and alertness.
Over the Next Few Weeks
Within a few weeks, you may notice a decrease in bloating as your body adjusts to the high fiber content of a more plant-heavy diet, per the Mayo Clinic.
You may also notice a small drop in weight, and your energy levels may increase or stabilize due to eating more lasting sources of fuel, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Choosing and preparing the right foods may also become easier, and you might find yourself enjoying more nutritious foods as you discover ingredients and meals you love.
Eating nutrient-dense meals can also help improve your mood, according to the Cleveland Clinic. For instance, a lack of vitamin D is linked to more anxiety and depression, so getting your fill of the nutrient through natural sources like mushrooms and fish may help support mental health.
Over the Next Few Months
After a few months, your weight may be noticeably lower, and extra pounds may continue to drop at a slow but steady rate (which, according to experts, means 1 to 2 pounds a week, per the Mayo Clinic).
Here's how else your body changes once you start eating healthy, high-fiber foods: High blood pressure may decrease, according to the American Heart Association. Cholesterol levels might also drop, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
You may also notice a decrease in appetite, as fibrous foods keep you satiated for longer, per the Mayo Clinic. Regularly eating fiber-rich foods can also help normalize bowel movements and improve overall digestive health.
High-fiber foods to incorporate into your diet include fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains, per the Mayo Clinic.
Life-Enhancing Benefits of Eating Healthy
How long it takes to see results from eating healthy can be a matter of days, although you'll continue noticing changes months into your new diet.
The benefits of eating healthy may also be evident when you look at the before and after in terms of how you feel physically and mentally. According to the CDC, the perks of a nutritious diet include:
- Skin, teeth and eye health
- Improved muscle strength and function
- Better immunity
- Stronger bones
- Lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers
- Improved digestive system function
- Weight loss and/or maintenance
- Supports healthy pregnancies and breastfeeding
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Eating to boost energy"
- Mayo Clinic: "Diet plans"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Feel Bloated? 5 Odd Reasons for Your Stomach Pain"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "9 ways to relieve acid reflux without medication"
- Mayo Clinic: "Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet"
- Mayo Clinic: "Why do doctors recommend a slow rate of weight loss? What's wrong with fast weight loss?"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "How to Lower Cholesterol with Diet"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Benefits of Eating Healthy"
- Cleveland Clinic: "The Connection Between Food and Your Mood"
- American Heart Association: "Managing Weight to Control High Blood Pressure"