Are you concerned about obesity? Have you ever thought of using that energy to do something about good nutrition? Perhaps if you did, the weight would simply take care of itself.
Good nutrition is not about starving yourself or pleasure-free dieting, but about balance and wholesome eating that includes all food groups.
“Research clearly shows that a variety of foods is the key to getting all the necessary nutrients,” said Washington DC registered dietitian Katherin Tallmadge and spokesperson from the American Dietetic Association (ADA).
It seems good nutrition works like a good investment: a diversified portfolio is the key, and that means, “a diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish, nuts, and vegetables oils, and that includes low-fat dairy, and lean poultry and meat,” said Tallmadge, also author of the book Diet Simple .
March is National Nutrition Month, a nutrition education and information campaign sponsored annually by the ADA, that calls attention to the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.
“Obesity is caused by taking in too many calories, or overnutrition,” explains Tallmadge , “so, if people learn a healthy way of eating, they'll control their weight.”
According to Tallmadge , the research shows that the overweight problem we have in our hands as a nation is caused by only a 13 calories per day imbalance... Really! This extra 13 calories a day causes a weight gain of about a pound a year.
“We know that if people add more vegetables to a meal, they'll be eating 100 less calories; if you add that to lunch and diner, you are cutting 200 calories per day. That alone will lead you to a weight loss of 20 pounds in a year!” said Tallmadge .
If you add physical activity to the mix, certainly the obesity epidemic would become a thing of the past. “Just walking an extra 2,000 steps per day would amount to losing ten pounds in a year,” affirms Tallmadge .
“We believe in people making small healthy changes they can stick to, instead of a total overhaul in diet, only to gain back all those pounds, and then some.”
Racial and ethnic minorities have a higher risk of almost all diet-related diseases compared to whites, including heart disease, high blood pressure, type II diabetes, obesity, and cancer. However, the good news is that it can be controlled!
Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables as part of an active lifestyle can help lower the risk for all of these diseases. Yet, African Americans have the lowest fruit and vegetable consumption among all ethnic groups.
Eating six or more servings of whole-grain foods like brown rice or whole-wheat toast every week was associated with slower buildup of artery-narrowing plaque in women already diagnosed with certain heart conditions, according to a USDA study.
America 's 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend eating at least three servings of whole-grain foods every day, but most of us eat less than a single daily serving.
Good sources of whole grains include breakfast cereals made with these grains. Other options: oatmeal, barley, popcorn, whole-grain bread and bran muffins.
Have you heard about 'good fats'?
Recent news about low-fat diets seem to be conflicting. The results of a Women's Health Initiative study that involved nearly 50,000 postmenopausal women across the United States indicated that eating less fat may lower breast-cancer risk, but have little impact on colon-cancer and heart-disease risk.
“This study shows that just reducing total fat intake does not go far enough to have an impact on heart disease risk. While the participants' overall change in LDL “bad” cholesterol was small, we saw trends towards greater reductions in cholesterol and heart disease risk in women eating less saturated and trans fat,” said Jacques Rossouw, M.D., WHI project officer.
Did you notice that? Keywords there were: saturated and trans fat.
“This was not a particularly revolutionary study,” said Tallmadge . “We have known for a very long time that low fat doesn't mean much.”
Again, for Tallmadge , the importance of any element of the diet has to be considered in the context of the whole picture. “Some women who were eating a low fat diet were not actually having a good overall nutrition, and they might even have eliminated the good fats which are essential.”
Good fats come from vegetables oils, nuts, fatty fish, all sources of the essencial fatty acids Omega 3, etc. The unhealthy fats, you guessed them, are animal fats, and you can avoid them by consuming non or low fat dairy products and lean meat and poultry.
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults keep total fat intake between 20 and 35 percent of calories, and saturated fats less than 10 percent of calories, with most fats coming from sources of polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats, such as fish, nuts, and vegetable oils. For people with heart disease or at high risk for heart disease, targets for saturated fats may be further lowered.
Make those three meals worth the while
“I always recommend people to eat a big breakfast!” said Tallmadge . “And eat it at home, so you can pick healthier things. When you eat a big breakfast it will save you from the temptation to grab one of those doughnuts at the staff meeting.”
“Try to get an oat based cereal, because it's important to diversify your grains. I eat an oat based cereal, some fruits, nuts, milk and orange juice. So, I got my whole grains, protein, healthy fats, fiber and protein.”
Soy is a wonderful food that is packed with all the good stuff. “Soy foods are great. The soy bean is the only complete protein from a vegetable source, with all the amino acids, similar to meat,” explains Tallmadge .
Also, remember the deep colored foods are the richest in nutrients. Choose wisely, and chose veggies often.
Get the most nutrition out of your calories. Choose the most nutritionally rich foods you can from each food group each day, those packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients but lower in calories.
Read on for some snippets of good news on the food front.
Be nutrition savvy
Eating vegetables on a regular basis for two weeks helped volunteers in a nutrition study reduce levels of stress-related molecules and boost their blood levels of vitamin C ( Journal of Nutrition, volume 134, pages 3021-3025).
Twelve healthy men and women participated in this collaborative study, which was funded in part by ARS. In addition to other foods, each volunteer ate two daily servings of gazpacho--a chilled soup made with tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, onions, garlic and olive oil. By the seventh day of the two-week-long study, volunteers' blood levels of vitamin C had increased by at least 20 percent and remained elevated for the rest of the study.
Levels of four stress molecules decreased significantly. For instance, by the halfway point in the study, uric acid was reduced by 8 to 18 percent. High levels of uric acid can cause gout, a form of arthritis, and may increase risk of cardiovascular disease.
Carrots that come in an array of unconventional hues owe their coloration to natural pigments that have impressive health-promoting properties. ARS scientists at Madison , Wis. , use conventional plant-breeding techniques to develop these and other specialty carrots.
Attractive, yellow carrots from this research get their color from xanthophylls, which have been linked to good eye health. Red carrots contain lycopene, also found in tomatoes and thought to guard against heart disease and some cancers. Purple carrots' anthocyanins are regarded as powerful antioxidants that help protect our cells from damage.
Nutrition studies conducted in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin , Madison , showed that the yellow carrots' lutein was 65 percent as available to the body as it is from lutein supplements ( American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, volume 80, pages 131-136). Lycopene from red-pigmented carrots is 40 percent as bioavailable as it is from tomato paste, giving people who don't like tomatoes another choice among food sources of lycopene. The findings might encourage growers to try out the novel carrots.
USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service funded part of the research.
Eating at least three or more servings of whole-grain foods every day may lessen your chances of metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions that increase risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Metabolic syndrome comprises abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, poor blood-sugar control, low HDL cholesterol and high blood fats (triglycerides).
Scientists at the ARS Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, Mass., reported that finding ( Diabetes Care , volume 27, pages 538-546) from their evaluation of food questionnaires and medical tests from 2,834 healthy men and women volunteers aged 26 to 82.
Easy ways to get more whole-grain foods into your meals include choosing a whole- grain cereal at breakfast, whole-grain bread instead of white bread for your sandwich at lunch or brown rice instead of white at dinner.
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From the Label to the Table!
For current recommendations on eating patterns for heart health, please see the new Your Guide to a Healthy Heart book available at http://emall.nhlbihin.net/.
For information on women and heart disease, see www.hearttruth.gov .
For information on weight loss, see Aim for a Healthy Weight, http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/lose_wt/index.htm
For information on eating for general health, see www.health.gov/dietary guidelines/dga2005/recommendations.htm
For more on the Women's Health Initiative, see http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/whi/
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