Every day, we hear something new about nutrition. With information coming at us from every direction, it often seems like something is good for you one day but reported as unhealthy the next! It’s easy to get confused about what is nutritious and what is not. One thing that’s important to keep straight is that whole foods are much better for you than processed foods, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up processed foods altogether.
01. Eat Your Vitamins
Many people worry that they are not getting the daily amount of vitamins their bodies need. This results in people taking multivitamins as a way to reach the recommended daily amount, but the best way for people to get their vitamins is by eating them. Why? A diet of whole grains, vegetables and fruits offers the vitamins and minerals that meet the body’s needs. A person who takes multivitamins can easily exceed the daily recommended amount of vitamins that his or her body needs. That’s why it’s important to consult with a doctor or dietitian about what supplements or multivitamins make sense for you!
02. Herbal Supplements Aren’t Always Safe
Herbal supplements come from roots, seeds, fruits and plant leaves, but they are not regulated. In fact, there is no guarantee that what is on the package is what is actually in the herbal supplement. You can’t be certain that an herbal supplement will actually do what it claims to do if it has not been tested.
03. Juice is Filled with Sugar
Fruit juice is yummy, but it’s filled with sugar and can be pretty bad for us. Many types of fruit juice contain lots of highly-concentrated added sugar, which is hard for the body to process. One-hundred percent juice is a healthier option, as it doesn’t contain added sugar: just the natural sugar that comes from fruit. Whole fruits are filled with many nutrients and antioxidants, including fiber, which can slow down the body’s absorption of sugar.
04. “Natural” Doesn’t Mean Healthy
Using the term “natural” can sometimes be deceptive. There is no standard definition set in place by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to determine if a food is natural. However, the FDA does say that “natural” can be applied to foods that have no added color, artificial flavors or substances. Foods that claim to be natural are not always low in fat, calories or carbs and aren’t always the healthiest option.
05. You Can Eat Fats
There are many kinds of fat, some which are good and some that are bad. Our bodies depend on fat to protect the organs and retain body heat. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble, meaning they depend on fat to be transported throughout the body. People who give up fats to be healthy are actually giving up these essential vitamins, which could result in a vitamin deficiency. Trans and saturated fat intake should be limited, as these fats can raise cholesterol levels. Unsaturated fats do the opposite. They can lower bad cholesterol levels and offer many heart health benefits. Foods rich in unsaturated fats are:
- Olive oil
06. Real Food is the Key to Health
What do we mean by real food? Eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains that haven’t been overly processed will keep you healthy. By eating whole foods, you can avoid over-processed foods that are packed with sugar, sodium, carbohydrates and fats.
07. Carbs Aren’t Evil
Information you hear about carbohydrates is confusing. Which are good and which are bad? What matters when it comes to carbohydrates is what kind you are choosing. The best sources of carbs are unprocessed whole grains, fruits and vegetables. White bread, highly processed foods and pastries are unhealthy sources of carbs that can contribute to weight gain.
08. Protein Isn’t the Best Source of Energy
For an athlete, exercise breaks down proteins in the muscle, making protein an important nutrient to consume regularly. Despite an athlete’s need for protein, using protein as a source of energy can actually compromise the restoration of muscles. It’s often believed that consuming protein in large amounts results in muscle mass, but that is false! Only physical activity can increase muscle mass.
09. Sodium Isn’t Always Bad
This one is tricky. Sodium helps regulate blood pressure and volume, but too much sodium over time can cause high blood pressure. Foods that are highly processed are often packed with sodium. Changing the diet to lessen salt intake could lead to a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney damage and high blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends that we take in less than 1,500 mg of sodium daily; check with your primary care provider or a dietician to determine what number is right for you.
10. Drink Plenty of Water
Water is essential as it is in every part of us! Water is in every organ, tissue and cell in our body. It helps keep your body temperature normal, protects your spinal cord and lubricates the joints. If that’s not enough to convince you, water also flushes through our vital organs, which helps them stay in tip-top shape. If you don’t have enough water in your body, you can become dehydrated.
11. Red Meat is OK
Red meat is OK to eat, but in small amounts. Large amounts of red meat have been connected to some chronic conditions. Research has linked red meat to diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. That doesn’t mean you have to give up steak completely, but don’t eat it regularly. Substitute red meat with other protein sources, like fish or nuts.
12. Your Diet Affects Your Health
Unhealthy diets can lead to long-term effects on the body. Diets filled with oils, refined carbohydrates, fats and highly processed foods can lead to obesity. Obesity is linked to chronic conditions and diseases like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep apnea and some cancers. A diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables gives us the nutrients that we need to fight disease and maintain wellness.
13. Know Your Food Labels
Food labels can be difficult to understand. Knowing what the information means and what do with it can allow you to make healthy and informed decisions about your diet. The FDA will soon propose an initiative to require food producers to put ingredient/nutrition labels on the front of packages to help consumers make informed choices.
14. Eat Small Portion Sizes
It’s hard to avoid oversized portions, especially when eating at restaurants, which usually results in overeating. The amount you eat plays a role in how much energy you have. Figure out the proper portion sizes for you. If you are an overeater, be aware of what triggers you to ignore choosing reasonable portion amounts.
15. Eat Your Favorite Foods in Moderation
Is your favorite food pizza? That’s totally fine! Make sure to eat your pizza in moderation. If you deprive yourself of your favorite foods, you’ll tend to overindulge when you do eat them. Consider making your pizza a healthier option by ordering it with veggies or opting for Canadian bacon, which has less fat than pepperoni.
16. Breakfast Really is an Important Meal
Feeling rushed or too busy are common reasons people skip breakfast. Skipping a meal may make you hungrier, causing you to eat more throughout the day. Research has discovered a link between heart disease and skipping breakfast. By eating this morning meal, people have more energy and could make healthier decisions throughout the day.
17. “Low-Fat” or “Fat-Free” Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Healthy
Fruits, vegetables and whole grains contain little fat in their natural state. But don’t be fooled! Processed foods that are labeled “low-fat” or “fat-free” are usually higher in salt and sugar to make up for the flavor that is lost when the fat is removed.
18. Fiber Lowers “Bad” Cholesterol
Soluble fiber found in barley, oatmeal, apples and beans, reduces the “bad” cholesterol by reducing the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream. Ten grams of fiber per day can decrease both your total and LDL cholesterol, but more is often recommended. The National Fiber Council offers this calculator to help determine how much fiber your body needs. Eating oatmeal mixed with fruit for breakfast is a good way for a person to incorporate fiber into their diet.
19. Good Nutrition Lessens Your Risk of Chronic Disease
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, seven of the 10 leading causes of death among men and women in the United Stated are chronic diseases. Foods high in sugar are associated with the risk of diabetes and foods high in sodium have an effect on blood pressure, which is a major risk for stroke. A diet filled with vegetables, fruits and whole grains could help prevent major conditions such as stroke, diabetes and heart disease.
20. Kids Need Good Nutrition, Too
Don’t forget about your kids! A healthy diet is what helps children grow, play, run, walk, sleep and everything in between. Children are also at risk for developing conditions like diabetes. It can be a battle to get your child to eat well, but a child who is healthy grows into a healthy adult.