Good Nutrition Basics

Nutrition
March 15, 2012

If you’re looking to incorporate better nutrition in your diet, here are five great starting points.

Incorporating good nutrition into your diet can lead to a healthier you, potentially decreasing your risk of diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. Good nutrition can be broken down into five basic components.

Hydration. Water comprises about 60 percent of your body weight, reports the Mayo Clinic. Every organ relies on water to flush out toxins. Water also transports nutrients to cells, lubricates joins, regulates body temperature and helps prevent constipation. If you don’t maintain proper hydration, you are depriving your body of an essential component. The Institute of Medicine states that for a man, an adequate intake of water is about 13 cups while the adequate intake for a woman is about 9 cups.

Eat more fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are a natural source for the vitamins and minerals your body needs. While many people can benefit from increasing their intake of fruits and vegetables, the daily requirements can vary by age, sex and physical activity levels. To determine how many fruits and vegetables you should be eating each day, try the calculator provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Simply click on the blue highlighted sentence that reads, “How many fruits and vegetables to you need?”, and follow the prompts. Fruits and vegetables contain essential nutrients such as vitamins A and C, potassium, folate, calcium, fiber and more.

Don’t forget the fiber. A diet rich in dietary fiber may decrease your risk for heart disease and diabetes. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble dissolves in water and, according to the Mayo Clinic, can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Intake soluble fiber by eating grains such as oats and barley or from fruits and vegetables such as apples and beans. Whole-wheat bread contains insoluble fiber, which is needed by your body's digestive system. Insoluble fiber also can be found in nuts and vegetables such as carrots, cabbage and cauliflower.

Limit processed foods. Processed foods often contain artificial ingredients such as colors and flavorings. This type of food may be fast and convenient, but it is not necessarily the most health-smart choice when striving for good nutrition. Become a label reader. Before purchasing processed foods, read the ingredients list and the nutritional label. Specifically check for sodium content, as many processed foods contain high levels of salt. Reducing your sodium intake can help reduce hypertension.

Protein, carbs and fat are needed in moderation. The amount of protein, carbohydrates (carbs) and dietary fat needed in your daily diet depends on your age, sex and activity level. To determine your levels, visit ChooseMyPlate.gov, part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Be sure to choose "good" fats such as monounsaturated (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated (PUFAs) fats and protein in the forms of lean meats, nuts, legumes and even eggs.

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