Digital wellness can be defined as:
The pursuit of a healthy and authentic relationship with technology, that balances a person’s physical & mental health and social well-being; can be achieved through moderating exposure, intentional engagement, and a healthy and holistic lifestyle.
Having good nutritional habits and a healthy diet is the first step to living a healthy lifestyle, to living a life of digital wellness.
The Importance of Nutrition
Nutrition, as a field of study, is the branch of science that deals with nutrients and nutrition, primarily in humans. It is the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth. Your body uses what you consume to fuel its daily activities, from your morning workout or late wakeup to working from home in the afternoon or reading your newest novel before bed. Even when you aren’t being physically active, your body still needs the necessary nutrients to maintain proper functions of all your bodily systems, including your brain, cardiac vascular, and respiratory system.
The human body requires six essential types of nutrients: vitamins, minerals, protein, fats, carbohydrates, and water. Each nutrient supports a human’s health, growth, and reproduction in their own way. Poor nutrition can lead to an imbalance or lack of necessary nutrients, which in turn leads to health problems.
Over the years, scientific understanding and public perception has shifted around diets. Since 1943, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has created nutritional guides to help inform the public what and how they should be eating to maintain a healthy lifestyle. With the depth and breadth of nutritional sciences advancing in modern times, there is now a more comprehensive understanding of what you need to consume to fuel your body. The USDA encourages consumption of fresh foods over processed alternatives.
When you think of fresh foods, fruits and vegetables immediately come to mind. The Pew Research Center has found that the American public is paying more attention to healthy eating now than 20 years ago. In recent years, there has been a steady increase of plant-based diets not only for the health benefits, but also for ethical reasons and dietary needs. As society became focused on health during a global pandemic, more people began to adopt plant-based diets. During 2020, the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global market revenue of plant-based meat reached 6.7 billion USD.
A common misconception is plant-based is associated only with veganism. But, there are many different types of diets that have a focus on plant-based foods, including semi-veg or flexitarian, pescatarian, Mediterranean, vegetarian, and veganism. Plant-based diets focuses on consuming foods from plants, which doesn’t always mean cutting out meat and seafood.
Your New Best Friend: Antioxidants
A consequence of living in the modern digital world is the increased exposure to EMF radiation, which is invisible radiation produced by the electromagnetic fields of technology. (To learn about EMF radiation, visit DefenderShield to discover more).
EMFs can trigger a cellular stress response, sending cells into a state of oxidative stress and causing cells to overproduce reactive oxygen species (ROS). While cells naturally produce ROS for normal cellular function, an overproduction of them turns them toxic and creates free radicals. Free radicals are unstable atoms that can attack and damage cells. Excessive amounts of free radicals can lead to cancers, necrosis (neuron death), and neuronal damage in brain tissue, as well as neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s, spinal injury, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy. Oxidative stress plays a significant role in damaging DNA.
Enter: antioxidants. Antioxidants are molecules in your body that inhibit oxidation. These molecules help control and protect against the excessive ROS that turn into free radicals and begin attacking your body.
Antioxidants create a natural defense system for your cells. They help protect and support cells from free radicals. Researchers found that among a population of male rats, supplemental antioxidants decreased oxidative stress markers in heart and liver tissues. Furthermore, another study’s research findings indicated that specifically vitamin C and E may mitigate the oxidative stress of cells.
Your body naturally produces antioxidants, including alpha lipoic acid and glutathione. Other antioxidants—a whole range of them, but including vitamin C, flavonoids, and zinc—come from the food we consume. The majority of antioxidants come from fruits and vegetables. When you snack on watermelon in the summer, you are ingesting lycopene. The thyme and oregano used to season your dinner provides polyphenols.
Not only do fruits and vegetables provide natural antioxidants, but you can also add supplements to your diet to increase your antioxidant intake to address any gaps in nutrients in your diet.
Problems Caused by a Digital Lifestyle that Nutrition can Help Address
As we can see, antioxidants are incredible defenders and protectors of your cells from EMFs and other harmful toxins. A healthy diet can help address even more issues associated with the modern digital lifestyle.
Having a diet consisting of predominantly plant based food helps your immune system and decreases inflammation. Exposure to EMF radiation is linked to increase inflammation in your body because your cells are put under stress. An anti-inflammatory diet can help counterbalance the state of stress EMFs induce in cells.
The brain is the most important organ in the body. As EMF radiation stimulates cellular stress in brain tissue and disrupts the natural processes, it can cause neurological issues, from minor headaches to brain tumors to cognitive impairment. One longitudinal study found a connection between EMF exposure and higher risk of dementia or cognitive impairment.
It is not all bad news, though. By monitoring your exposure to EMF radiation and consuming more plants, you can help your brain health. A review of nine studies found that eating an extra 100 grams of fruits and vegetables per day decreases your risk of developing cognitive impairment and dementia by 13 percent.
Overall mental health and wellbeing also benefits from a nutritional standpoint. Research shows that a person is more likely to be at risk of developing psychiatric symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, if they eat a highly processed diet. On the contrary, the more plant-based a person eats, the less likely they are to develop mental problems. A lot of research has focused on the Mediterranean diet benefitting mental health because that diet is rich in fiber, antioxidants, magnesium, zinc, and other micronutrients needed for brain health. In a longitudinal study of 10,000 Spanish adults, researchers found that consuming a Mediterranean diet helped protect against major depressive disorders. The key to maintaining a healthy brain, and overall health, is having a diet that is rich in micronutrients.
Another consequence of a digital lifestyle is a sedentary lifestyle. This in turn has led to increased rates of obesity, to the point that it has been deemed an epidemic in the United States. Due to the increased financial burden of the obesity epidemic on the U.S. healthcare system—one study found that the rising rates of obesity in America accounted for over $200 billion USD in health care costs—physicians are trying to find low-cost solutions to deal with the high rates of obesity and the other negative health effects associated with it. Research has found plant-based diets to be cost-effective, low-risk interventions that may lead to lower body mass index, blood pressure, HbA1C, and cholesterol levels. A healthy diet, combined with regular physical activity, can help mitigate the negatives of a sedentary lifestyle.
Other health benefits from a balanced diet include lower blood pressure and increased heart health, decreased risk of cancer, minimized risk of stroke, increased longevity, and boosted immunity.
So, What Can You Do?
Take advantage of our plant friends. That doesn’t necessarily mean go full on-vegan but try to increase your daily fruit and veggie intake. Incremental changes can lead to big results. The CDC recommends 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables a day.
Begin a supplement regimen. Supplements help address gaps in nutrients that your diet may not fulfill, whether that’s because of personal preferences to food, an allergy or intolerance that prevents you from eating something, or lack of access. It is important to consume all the necessary micronutrients, which supplements can help achieve.
Challenge yourself to Veganuary or Whole 30, which emphasizes eating whole, unprocessed food. If you are feeling up to it (and have consulted the necessary nutritionist or doctor), a short-term food challenge offers the opportunity to break out of your comfort zone to find new and different foods you may not have tried before. It creates the chance to integrate more natural and whole foods, which are the type that have the most micronutrients, into your diet to seek out the health benefits associated with them.
**Please consult your doctor before making any dietary changes or starting a supplement regimen**