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Urgent Signs You Need to Eat Better Now, According to Science

Do your meals come with a side of hunger, exhaustion, and digestive problems?
FACT CHECKED BY Kiersten Hickman

Whether you're consistently grabbing fast food burgers on the way home from work or haven't seen a vegetable grace your plate in what feels like an eternity, many of the signs that you should eat better are obvious. However, how you feel before and after eating is an equally important part of the puzzle.

From feeling sluggish throughout the day to aches and pains that just won't go away, read on to discover the surefire signs you need to eat better, according to experts. And if you want to revamp your food choices, start with The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.

You're tired all the time.

Woman experiencing a bad headache

While everything from poor sleep to stress can leave you feeling exhausted by the end of the day, in many cases, persistent fatigue stems from what you are—or aren't—eating.

"If you are eating a lot of refined carbohydrates and sugar without enough healthy fats, protein and fiber, your blood sugar can become erratic," explains registered dietician Carielle Nikkel, MS, RD, vice president of nutritional support at Persona Nutrition.

This leads to a subsequent blood sugar spike and crash, which can leave you feeling worse than before you ate. To help combat this persistent problem, Nikkel recommends focusing on keeping each meal balanced with healthy portions of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, and adding a multivitamin to your routine to address any potential nutritional gaps that could have you feeling worse for wear. And if you want to shake off that sluggishness, try the 30 Best Foods That Give You All-Day Energy.

You're always hungry.

eating cookies

Feeling famished all the time? It could be what you're eating.

"Some dieters try to cut calories too much and feel chronically hungry," says Julie Miller Jones, PhD, LN, CNS, an emeritus professor of nutrition at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN, and a member of the Grain Foods Foundation's Scientific Advisory Board.

In fact, keeping your calories below a medically advisable threshold may actually make the numbers on the scale move in the wrong direction. According to Miller Jones, persistent deprivation "sets [people] up to make poor food choices or to eat way too much."

And if you want to ditch that persistent peckishness, avoid these 25 Foods That Make You Hungrier.

Your skin, hair, and nails are dry or brittle.

Woman use hand cream on dry hand

Instead of buying new nail polish, shampoo, and moisturizer to combat that perpetual dryness, try tackling those issues from the inside out.

"The dryness is telling you something—you're not drinking enough water and you're not eating enough good fat," says certified nutrition specialist Jonny Bowden, PhD, author of The Great Cholesterol Myth.

Fortunately, the solution is relatively simple. Bowden says that omega-3 supplementation and the addition of healthy fats, like olive oil, to a person's diet, can help combat dry, brittle hair, skin, and nails in no time.

You have frequent digestive issues.


While everyone experiences digestive problems, like bloating or acid reflux, from time to time, if they're a consistent problem, a dietary overhaul may be the solution.

"[These] are signs something is not functioning optimally, and problems with the gut are often the culprit," says Bowden.

In order to combat these unpleasant problems, Bowden recommends adding more anti-inflammatory foods to your diet and reducing your intake of sugar, saturated fats, and alcohol.

"That means more salmon, onions, and apples, and [fewer] chips and dips and beer."

Want to ditch those digestive disturbances? Start by avoiding the 25 Unhealthiest Habits for Your Digestion.

Your skin is always cold or pale.

Woman having throat ache

Cold, pale skin that sticks around regardless of the temperature outdoors could be a sign that you're lacking critical nutrients in your diet.

"[These] could be a sign that your iron levels are low," says Becca Noren, MS, RDN, and director of product, partnership, and nutrition at MingsBings.

Luckily, boosting your iron levels is as easy as it is delicious, as the critical nutrient is found "in a variety of food that we eat regularly, including spinach, broccoli, and edamame," says Noren.

Your skin heals slowly.

Young Man Cleaning His Teeth In Front Of Mirror

Whether you find that your cuts stick around for a long time or your gums bleed after flossing, skin that's slow to heal is often a sign your diet needs some reworking.

"You might be lacking in vitamin C," says Noren. "[It] helps wounds heal because of its antioxidant power."

To increase your vitamin C intake, Noren recommends adding fruits and vegetables like oranges, watercress, and bell peppers into your regular routine.

You catch every bug going around.

Young Business Man Sneezing. Coughing Into His Sleeve or Elbow to Prevent Spread Covid-19. Corona Virus

Avoiding every cold getting passed around your home or office may be impossible, but if you can't seem to avoid getting sick, it's high time you revamped your way of eating. Registered dietician Keri Gans recommends giving your immune system a leg up by boosting your gut health with the addition of fermented foods, like kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, or kefir, or with the addition of a postbiotic supplement.

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Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more about Sarah