Posted on Nov 27, 2023, 6 p.m.
Despite mountains of research, most people really don’t understand just how important nutrition is, good nutrition is a critical part of health and development, and better nutrition is related to improved health at all ages and walks of life, a lower risk of disease, and happier longevity.
Apart from simply being too lazy to bother, another part of the problem is that people can find it difficult or even confusing to navigate around the amount of nutritional information that is available, and many sources can have differing views adding to the confusion. This article contains science-based nutritional tips that may help with making some more healthful lifestyle choices.
Including some protein, whatever your preferred source, with every meal, can help to balance blood sugar levels. Studies suggest higher protein diets may help with type 2 diabetes, and other studies suggest that balancing blood sugar levels can support weight management and cardiovascular health.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for cell signaling, gene expression, brain development, and eye development. Studies suggest that it can help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and other studies suggest that its anti-inflammatory properties can help to effectively manage the early stages of degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
The AHA recommends that people consume whole grains rather than refined grains as whole grains contain many vitamins and minerals that are removed in the process of refining which are essential for body functions such as carrying oxygen in the blood, regulating the immune system, and balancing blood sugar.
Consuming a variety of plant foods ensures that a person gets a wide variety of anti-aging antioxidants that are beneficial to health. The saying Eat The Rainbow can help to remind people to choose a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables. Dark leafy greens, for example, are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, including folate which may help to protect against cancer, and vitamin K which helps to prevent osteoporosis according to the USDA. Additionally, varying foods and cuisines help to achieve the required nutrient intake.
While dietary recommendations suggest that we should limit intake of saturated fats and avoid trans fats, according to the USDA these can be replaced with unsaturated fats such as those found in avocado, olives, and oily fish. Additionally extra virgin olive oil, as part of the Mediterranean diet, can provide benefits to the heart, blood pressure, and weight.
One serving of nuts every day in place of red or processed meat, french fries, or desserts may provide health benefits and prevent long-term weight gain, according to the AHA. Brazil nuts, for example, may help to stabilize blood sugar while helping a person to feel full for longer.
Fiber is important in many ways such as aiding in digestion, eliminating waste, assisting in weight management, improving blood cholesterol levels, and lowering the risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, according to the AHA. Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of fiber.
Following a plant-based diet has been shown to help prevent obesity and being overweight, this is important because obesity is associated with many diseases. Some studies indicate that including more plant-based food in the diet could help to reduce the risk of developing diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. A study published in the British Medical Journal indicates that adults eating more red and processed meat had higher mortality rates.
Including more beans and pulses as a source of protein to replace meat in the diet is a good way to partake in a more plant-based diet, even if only for a few days a week which would be considered flexitarian (eats both animal and plant-based foods). Along with protein, beans and pulses also contain a good portion of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Studies suggest that pulses may help with weight management as they help one feel fuller for longer.
Water is also a vital part of nutrition, drinking enough water every day is important to overall health and well-being as well as helping to manage body weight according to the CDC. Not drinking enough can make one become dehydrated which carries health risks. If you don’t like plain water, try adding some mint leaves or fruit slices to infuse some taste or try herbal teas.
Coffee is another one of those confusing topics, some studies suggest it is best to avoid it, some suggest limiting it, and some say it is beneficial. One study suggests that 3 cups a day can help to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.
Herbal, green, and black teas contain catechins which have antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. They are also available as caffeine-free and can help you to stay hydrated.
Dietary sugar, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, and added sugars may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome according to a large body of scientific evidence. It is recommended to check for hidden sugars by reading manufacturers’ labels, most common ones end in “-ose” such as glucose, sucrose, and fructose. Even natural sugars like honey can contribute to weight gain if eaten in excess.
Alcohol is recommended to be consumed in moderation, with adult females drinking no more than one drink per day and adult males drinking no more than 2 drinks per day according to the Dietary Guidelines For Americans. When a person engages in excessive drinking it increases the risk of chronic disease and violence, and over time this practice can impair both short and long-term cognitive function. However, it is worth noting that recent research suggests that no amount of alcohol is “safe”.
It is best to avoid sugary drinks as they are associated with weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, tooth decay, cavities, non-alcoholic liver disease, and gout.
A study published in the British Medical Journal indicates that adults eating more red and processed meat had higher mortality rates. Another study published in Nutrients indicates that eating ultra-processed foods increases the risk of many diseases including cancer, IBS, and depression. It may be best to consume more whole foods and avoid those with long lists of processed ingredients.
A study published in Nutrients suggests that maintaining a high-quality and balanced diet supports beneficial microbial flora diversity and can influence the risk of chronic disease. The study concluded that including fiber and vegetables is beneficial to the microbiome, and eating too many refined carbs and sugars is detrimental to the microbiome.
Other studies suggest that the vast majority of people do not get enough vitamin D, the recommended amount for adults is 15 micrograms of 600 international units per day for adults. While many people get vitamin D via sunshine, it is also available in supplements and some foods. Vitamin D is important to the immune system, and regulating the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body which are needed to keep bones, teeth, and muscles healthy.
Most people eat way too much, this is evident when dining out with the super-sized portions. Be mindful, you do not have to clean the plate, and when eating be aware of the portion size, this can help manage weight. Keeping a food journal may help you to track how much you are eating and recognize food habits. Mindfulness, such as chewing slowly for longer can help to bring a greater awareness of food habits and triggers for those trying to manage weight and diabetes.
Herbs and spices not only add a nice touch to any bland dish, but they also have additional health benefits. Ginger may help to prevent oxidative stress and inflammation that occurs in the aging process. Curcumin has a protective anti-inflammatory effect on health. Garlic is loaded with many benefits attributed to its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties.
Recent studies suggest that intermittent fasting may help to improve blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and heart health. Giving your body a rest by fasting may reduce energy intake and may have health benefits.
Be sure to wash raw produce before you eat them to remove any harmful germs and bacteria to avoid getting sick as the CDC suggests a large portion of foodborne illnesses are caused by contaminants.
If you must heat food in a microwave please do so in a glass or ceramic container that is microwave-safe, as studies indicate that heating in plastic containers can release phthalates that can disrupt hormones.
Good nutrition is very important to health and well-being, most people can lead a more healthful lifestyle by simply making small changes to their diet. While diet is essential to health it is just one of the key aspects of health that pairs with exercise, physical activity, managing stress, getting enough sleep, and having a positive attitude.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
Opinion Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of WHN/A4M. Any content provided by guest authors is of their own opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.
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T.W. at WHN