We're constantly preaching the benefits of healthy eating, but have you ever thought about why we do it, beyond a general, vague idea that it's better for us? Do we know how long it takes for our bodies to benefit from an increase in nutrients and a decrease in inflammatory foods? According to our experts, it takes only minutes to see positive change. Here's what starts to happen in your body in the minutes, days, and years after you adopt a healthier diet:
1. Within 20 minutes, you're healing your gut.
According to Dr. Terry Wahls, "The bacteria living in your bowels, on average, divide every 20 minutes. That means what you eat is continuously either fertilizing the health-promoting bacteria or the disease-promoting bacteria, minute by minute."
2. Within a few hours, you'll experience healthier brain function.
"Because of the gut-brain connection, the food you eat impacts your brain within hours," says Dr. Wahls. More sugar tends to create more inflammation, which has a negative impact on your brain. On the flip side, more "microbial accessible carbohydrates," which, in non-doctor speak, means simply resistance starch and nonstarchy vegetables, will create less inflammation and healthier brain function. The bottom line: Grabbing a bagel before that big meeting isn't a great idea.
3. Within 72 hours, your hormones begin to stabilize.
According to hormone expert Dr. Sara Gottfried, within just three days of eating a clean diet with no processed food, balanced carbs, and tons of plants, your insulin and cortisol levels will normalize. This results in far more energy and your belly fat beginning to melt away.
4. Within two weeks, your productivity will go up by 20 percent.
"One of the first things I see improve in patients' lives once they start eating a clean, nutrient-dense diet is an increase in energy and a decrease in brain fog," says Dr. Will Cole. "Often these happen within the first two weeks. According to the World Health Organization, healthy eating can increase productivity by 20 percent!"
5. Within one month, your skin will be clear and glowy.
Our body's largest organ, the skin can really benefit when we adopt a healthier diet. Studies have shown that certain food groups (high in vitamins and minerals) are linked to improvements in how our skin looks and feels. "Simple carbohydrates, sugar, alcohol, and caffeine can really dry out your skin," says Dr. Jill Javahery, a California-based dermatologist. "When you start eating better, you'll immediately notice a rehydration of your skin and extra glow! If you're struggling with acne, look to your diet first. Being overweight or eating too many simple carbs can make you more likely to develop acne problems, and eating a clean diet will result in clear skin, often in as soon as four weeks!"
5. Within six weeks, your thyroid and estrogen are back on track.
According to Dr. Gottfried, this means you'll be able to keep weight stable, you'll find yourself experiencing fewer mood swings, you'll have normal pap smears, and your hair will stop falling out.
6. Within five years, you won't be aging as quickly.
Your telomeres get shorter as you get older and are one of the parts of DNA that scientists believe are responsible for signaling your body to age. Studies have shown that after five years on a plant-heavy diet, telomeres were significantly longer than those in a control group. Forever young? We'll take it.
7. For a lifetime, you'll experience more effortless weight management.
Countless studies support the notion that a plant-based diet can help with weight loss, and people who eat a diet high in vegetables and fruits are more likely to maintain a healthy weight throughout their lives.
With the many temptations we face each day, sticking to a healthy routine can be really tough! But it's so motivating to know that within just a few hours we start to heal and that just a couple of months of effort can totally transform our hormones, skin, and brain function.
When we commit to giving our bodies what they need to be happy and healthy, they will work just as hard to support us too—keeping us strong, sharp, and beautiful.