Eating is essential to life and to our physical and mental health. The nutrients in foods and beverages give our bodies energy and allow our body to perform daily functions and prevent illnesses/infections and chronic diseases. Eating a variety of foods and nutrients is essential for providing the building blocks necessary to sustain healthy bodies and to allow it to perform at optimal levels.
A healthy diet full of nutritious foods is essential for good health and to prevent many chronic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, chronic kidney disease, and cancer. These chronic diseases are the leading cause of death and disability in the United States. Poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol use contribute to the risk of having one of these chronic diseases. According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, six in ten adults in the United States have a chronic disease and four in ten adults have two or more chronic diseases. These can be prevented in part by choosing more nutritious foods.
Healthy foods are those that provide your body with energy-producing nutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fat), water, as well as vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting compounds called “antioxidants”. These nutrient-rich foods provide a healthy foundation for the body and are also low in “nutrients of concern” for health, such as salt/sodium, added-sugar, and saturated fats that may increase the risk of chronic disease. Healthy foods help you maintain your physical and mental health, feel energized during the day, and perform your best physically and mentally.
A healthy eating pattern consists of a combination of nutrient-rich foods and beverages that you tolerate well while limiting foods that are nutrient-poor or contain excess amounts of sodium, added-sugar, saturated fats. A healthy diet may include:
- Vegetables (a variety of fresh, frozen, and canned unsalted vegetables)
- Fruit (a variety of fresh, frozen, dried, and canned without added sugar)
- Plant Protein sources (beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas, soy foods, quinoa, nuts/seeds)
- Animal Proteins sources (eggs, fish, skinless poultry, lean beef/pork)
- Grains (with whole grains for a least half of grain selections, including whole wheat, oats, barley, corn, brown and wild rice, quinoa, rye, buckwheat, millet, etc.)
- Dairy products and dairy substitutes (low-fat or fat-free and low in added sugars)
- Healthy fats and oils (unsaturated vegetable oils, margarines without trans fats, avocado, nuts/seeds)
- Low-calorie, low-added-sugar beverages (Water, unsweetened coffee/tea, and 100% fruit juice limited to one serving per day)
Trying to get the majority of foods eaten throughout the day from the nutritious options above while having other options in moderation may help you follow a healthy eating pattern with balance, variety, and moderation. It’s important to allow for fun foods in moderation, but having the majority coming from healthy options will help keep your mind and body healthy as well!
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