Eating Healthy & Getting Good Daily Nutrition
Eating right and making sure you are getting optimal daily nutrition is all about making the right choices, and making simple changes. Keys to healthy eating include increasing your intake of whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. Cutting back on eating foods with solid, or saturated fats is also very important.
Grains are divided into two subgroups, whole grains and refined grains. Whole grains contain the whole kernel (the bran, the germ, and the endosperm). People who eat more whole grains as part of a healthy diet reduce their risk of developing certain chronic diseases. Refined grains, when compared to whole grains, have been significantly modified from their original natural composition. They are often mixed and bleached with other, less healthy ingredients.
Although refined grain products may be “enriched” with thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, or iron, these added nutrients represent only a fraction of the nutrients lost during processing, still leaving them nutritionally inferior to whole grains. Increasing whole grains in your diet can be very simple; just replace white bread with 100% whole wheat bread, or replace white rice with brown rice.
Dietary proteins include both animal (meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs) and plant (beans, peas, soy products, nuts, and seeds) sources. We all need protein, but how much is enough? Most people should eat 5 to 7 ounces of protein rich foods per day. Animal proteins should be at least 90% lean.
Eating one egg each day does not increase the risk of developing heart disease, so it is safe to include them as part of your regular protein choices. Remember, the yolk is the only part of the egg containing cholesterol and saturated fat, so if you plan on eating more than one egg in a day, add more egg whites instead of whole eggs. Choosing plant based proteins such as beans, peas, hummus, or soy products for the protein component of your meal is best since they are naturally low in saturated fat and high in fiber.
Consuming at least three servings of dairy products each day is important for adding calcium, vitamin D, potassium and other nutrients to your diet. Dairy products include milk, yogurt, and cheese and should be low in fat.
Eating more vegetables and fruits, as part of a healthy diet, also reduces a person’s risk of developing certain chronic diseases. Fruits provide nutrients such as potassium, fiber, vitamin C, and folic acid that are vital for good health. Most fruits are naturally low in fat, sodium, and calories. Fruit sources can be fresh, canned, frozen, dried, or in 100% fruit juice. Always remember to properly wash fresh fruit to remove dirt, microorganisms, or pesticides before eating.
For a healthy diet, you do not need to eliminate all dietary fats. Some dietary fats are actually good for you. Dietary fats, along with proteins and carbohydrates are the three macronutrients that provide energy for your body. Fats are essential to your health because they support a number of your body’s key functions. For example, some vitamins must have fats to dissolve them, allowing those vitamins to be incorporated into your body.
The harmful fats that you need to avoid include saturated fat and trans fat. Both of these fats are in a solid state when at room temperature. Saturated fat raises total blood cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Trans fat is created through a hydrogenating process. Two healthier and helpful types of fat that you want to keep in your diet are monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat.
Foods containing mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, and corn oil are liquid at room temperature. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are also found in avocados, nuts and seeds. Studies show that eating foods rich in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) improves blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of heart disease.
In summary, healthy meals start with reasonable overall portion sizes containing more vegetables and fruits with smaller protein and grains components. Get creative with combinations and see how improving your nutrition can have a positive impact on your health.
For more information, go to www.ChooseMyPlate.gov