Essay Preview: Nutrition
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Youve heard it all before. For as long as you can remember, your parents, perhaps even your doctor, have all told you to eat your vegetables, limit sweets, drink your milk. Now, in your adult years, this advice takes on new meaning for a lot of very different reasons: How can you maintain a healthy weight instead of putting on fat? Whats a healthy weight for you? How can you squeeze in a good, quick meal after work and before bed? All good questions, and because of the many changes that are going on in your body, the way you decide to deal with your nutrition needs now can make a big difference not only in how you feel today, but also in your well-being in years to come. So what is the right approach to healthy eating? A good start is to eat a variety of foods, as suggested in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published by the U.S. departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services. Get the many nutrients your body needs by choosing a variety of foods from each of these groups:
* breads, cereals, rice, and pasta
* milk, yogurt and cheese
* meat, poultry, fish, dried beans and peas, eggs, and nuts.
Whats So Junky About “Junk” Food?
Todays pace is fast and only getting faster. Added to pressures from work this often means eating on the run. Stack that on top of the snack foods you eat, and the balance of your nutrients can get way out of kilter. Many snacks, such as potato chips, fast-food cheeseburgers, and fries, have high levels of fat, sugar or salt ingredients that are usually best limited to a small portion of your diet. Healthy eating does not mean that you cant have your favorite foods, but the Dietary Guidelines advise you to be selective and limit the total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium you eat. Our main source of saturated fat comes from animal products and hydrogenated vegetable oils, with tropical oils, coconut, and palm, providing smaller amounts. Only animal fat provides cholesterol. Sodium mostly comes from salt added to foods during processing, home preparation, or at the table. Fats are our most concentrated source of energy and supply about 40 percent of the total calories in typical American diets. Scientists know that eating too much fat, especially saturated fat and cholesterol, increases blood cholesterol levels, and therefore increases your risk of heart disease. Too much fat also may lead to overweight and increase your risk of some cancers. Dietitians recommend that no more than 30 percent of your calories come from fats, and not more than 10 percent of these calories should be from saturated fat. Choose lean meats, fish, poultry without skin and low-fat dairy products whenever you can. When you eat out, particularly at fast-food restaurants look for broiled or baked rather than fried foods. Try the salad bars more often, but pass up creamy items and limit the amount of salad dressing you use to keep down the fat and calories. Look for milk-based high-calcium foods with reduced fat.
Spare the Sugar and Salt.
Most people like the taste of table sugar. But did you know that other sweeteners are sometimes “hidden” in foods? There are sugars in honey, dried fruits, concentrated fruit juices, and ingredients such as corn syrup that are added to soft drinks, cookies, and many other processed foods. You can see what sugars are in packaged foods by looking at the ingredient list. If you are very active with high-energy needs, sweets can be an additional source of calories. But keep in mind that they contain only limited nutrients and that both sugars and starches can contribute to tooth decay. A moderate amount of sodium in your diet is necessary, because sodium, along with potassium, maintains the water balance in your body. But for some people, too much sodium can be a factor in high blood pressure. Since processed foods often contain large amounts of sodium, its wise to use salt sparingly when cooking or at the table–and to avoid overeating salty snacks like pretzels and chips. When you exercise heavily and sweat profusely, you can deplete your sodium reserve, unbalance your body chemistry, and possibly become dehydrated. In extreme cases of profuse sweating, such as during training or competition, a dilute glucose-electrolyte drink may become necessary, but always with an abundance of water to make up for sweat losses.
Whats All This About Fiber?
Whole-grain breads and cereals, dried beans and peas, vegetables, and fruits contain various types of dietary fiber essential for proper bowel function. Eating plenty of these fiber-rich foods may reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease. The benefits from a high-fiber diet may be related to the foods themselves and not to fiber alone. For this reason, its best to get fiber from foods rather than from the fiber supplements you can purchase in a store.
Be Aware of Alcohol.
Alcoholic beverages deserve special mention. Drinking them risks good health and can cause other serious problems. People that drink risk impaired judgment in their social relationships and endanger their own and others lives if they drive after drinking. Alcoholic beverages contain calories but few if any nutrients. Drinking heavily can lead to poor nutrition if alcoholic beverages replace foods with needed nutrients, and alcoholism is a deadly disease.