Tips for a Good Diet

Heart Health
A diet low in fats, cholesterol and sodium can lower your risk of heart disease. The types of fat in your diet play a major role in your level of risk. Saturated and trans fats -- commonly found in red meats, fried foods, coconut oils, palm oils, margarines and packaged snack foods -- increase your risk and should be avoided. Diets that reduce your risk of heart disease are rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy. Aim for four to five servings of fruits and four to five servings of vegetables per day.

Bone and Teeth Strength
A diet rich in calcium keeps your bones and teeth strong and helps prevent bone loss associated with osteoporosis. Low-fat dairy products, such as milk, cheese and yogurt; dark green vegetables, such as bok choy and broccoli; and fortified foods, such as soy products, fruit juices and cereals are good sources of calcium. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily for average adults ages 19 to 50. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium; choose products fortified with vitamin D to balance your nutrition.

Increased energy levels are the immediate benefits of switching to a healthy diet. Eliminating excess fats, sugars and refined carbohydrates helps prevent blood sugar fluctuations. Examples of refined carbohydrates include candy and white breads. Unprocessed carbohydrates including whole grains, fruits and vegetables are most nutritious. This allows you to maintain steady blood sugar and constant energy levels as a result. Small, frequent meals also help maintain energy. In addition, eating a healthy breakfast helps keep you energized throughout the day. All of the concerned councils & institutions recommend breakfasts, such as oatmeal with fruit, or a light sandwich.

Brain Health
Proper nutrition increases blood flow to your brain, protecting brain cells and helping to prevent Alzheimer's disease. For a brain healthy diet, avoid fried foods and favor baked, steamed and grilled foods. Also, eat dark fruits and vegetables such as kale, spinach, broccoli, prunes, raisins, blueberries, raspberries, plums and cherries. Almonds, walnuts, pecans and other nuts are great sources of vitamin E, which along with other vitamins, also helps fight Alzheimer's disease.

Weight Control
To prevent weight gain, you must eat no more calories than you burn each day. For weight loss, you must eat fewer calories than your body burns daily. Healthy and nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins, typically contain fewer calories than sodas, sweets and fast food meals. Shedding excess pounds reduces your risk of obesity-related conditions such as type-2 diabetes, clogged arteries and thyroid dysfunction.

6 Elements of Nutrition
Proper nutrition is complex, and exact recommendations depend on the individual. When determining the proper nutrition, you must consider your weight, height, age, gender and activity level. While the best nutritional plan is individualized, six major elements form the basis of all nutritional requirements.

Carbohydrates are your body's major source of energy. The fiber found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables also helps reduce your risk of obesity, cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. The Food and Nutrition Board recommends getting 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories from carbohydrates. If you follow a 2,000-calorie diet, this means you should consume 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates every day.

Fat has developed a bad reputation over the years, but it is actually a major nutritional element and a vital aspect of a healthy diet. Fat helps insulate your body, allowing you to maintain your body temperature. Fat also cushions your organs, which can help protect them from trauma. Although fat is important, too much can be bad for your health. Limit your total fat intake to 20 to 35 percent of your daily calories. Aim to meet your fat requirements from unsaturated fats, such as nuts, nut butters, seeds, avocado and olive oil.

Protein has more physiological roles than other any major nutrient. Like carbohydrates and fat, protein can provide your body with energy when necessary, but it also helps maintain water and pH balance. Protein keeps your immune system strong and allows your body to move and bend. Foods rich in protein include meat, poultry, fish, nuts, eggs, milk and milk products. Women should aim to consume 46 grams of protein daily, while men should consume 56 grams per day.

Your body needs vitamins to grow and develop. There are 13 vitamins in total, categorized by how your body absorbs them. The fat-soluble vitamins, which include vitamins A, D, E and K, need fat to be absorbed properly. The water-soluble vitamins -- vitamin C and the B vitamins, which include vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12, thiamine, niacin, folic acid, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and biotin -- dissolve in water before entering your bloodstream. The recommended daily value for each vitamin differs, but it is important to consume all of the vitamins each day to keep your body healthy.

Like vitamins, minerals are substances that allow your body to grow and develop properly. Minerals are divided into two classes based on how much of each nutrient your body needs. Your body needs the major minerals – sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur and chloride – in large amounts, while the trace minerals – copper, fluoride, zinc, iron, chromium, selenium, iodine, molybdenum and manganese – are needed in small amounts. The exact amount needed varies by mineral.

Water is more than a thirst quencher. It is a major nutritional element that helps regulate body temperature, lubricate your joints and protect your major organs and tissues. Water also helps transport important substances, like oxygen, throughout your body. Aim to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day.

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