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Nutrition 101

Why is Good Nutrition Important?
At least four of the 10 leading causes of death in the United States—heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes—are directly related to the way we eat; diet is also implicated in scores of other conditions. But while the wrong diet can be deadly, eating right is among the cornerstones of health. Of course, food alone isn't the key to a longer and healthier life. Good nutrition should be part of an overall healthy lifestyle, which also includes regular exercise, not smoking or drinking alcohol excessively, stress management and limiting exposure to environmental hazards. And no matter how well you eat, your genes play a big part in your risk for certain health problems. But don't underestimate the influence of how and what you eat. For example, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) can begin in early childhood, but the process can be halted--even reversed--if you make healthy changes in your diet and lifestyle. The gradual bone thinning that results in osteoporosis may be slowed if you consume enough calcium, maintain adequate Vitamin D levels, and participate in weight-bearing exercise. You may be genetically predisposed to diabetes, but keep your weight within a healthy range through diet and exercise and the disease may never strike you.

Why is Eating Right Important?
Eating right is vital to promoting health and reducing the risk for death or disability due to chronic diseases such as heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, stroke, and osteoporosis. In fact, it has been estimated that dietary changes could reduce cancer deaths in the United States by as much as 35 percent. Nevertheless, a large gap remains between recommended dietary patterns and what Americans actually eat. Very few Americans meet the majority of recommendations of the Food Guide Pyramid or the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Only three percent of all individuals meet four of the five recommendations for the intake of grains, fruits, vegetables, milk products, and meat and bean food groups. Only one-fourth of U.S. adults eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Unfortunately, poor eating habits are usually established during childhood. And more than 60 percent of young people eat too much fat, and less than 20 percent eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables.

What is the Food Guide Pyramid?
The Food Guide Pyramid is an outline of what to eat each day, and it calls for a variety of food and nutrients. Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals, fiber, and other substances that are associated with good health. Low fat diets rich in fiber-containing grain products, fruits, and vegetables may reduce the risk of heart disease and some types of cancer. Milk products provide protein, vitamins, and minerals and are the best source of calcium. However, fats, oils, and sweets provide calories and little else, and should be used sparingly. Drinking enough water is also essential to keeping hydrated, converting food into energy, carrying nutrients through the body, and removing waste.

For more information on Nutrition:

Nutrition.Gov

Healthfinder.gov

Portion Distortion - Take this short quiz to see if you know how today's portions compare to the portions available 20 years ago.

Test your food label knowledge.


Last Modified: 07/08/2008 11:21:00 AM
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Office of Minority Health
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