What You Eat Matters!
The old adage, “You are what you eat” is true. What you eat
can really make a difference in your health, and making even small changes
in our diets can have a big impact. In fact, the foods we eat can affect
not only our physical health, but our mental health as well, and can even
help prevent disease.
Many foods add calories, but unfortunately add little or no nutrition to
our bodies. For example, those wonderful, creamy, delicious, sugary smoothies
that have become so popular are often full of sugar in addition to the
We want to feel empowered to know what good nutrition looks like, and how
you can you can focus on eating more nutritious foods and not “waste”
your choices on foods with empty calories.
What to Eliminate
We all know that a little bit of sugar goes a very long way! Did you realize
that there is the equivalent of 10 sugar cubes in a can of soda, and you’ll
find just as much in those energy drinks. They are just served in a smaller can.
Simply put, sugar adds calories to your food without contributing nutrients.
When food labels list sugar as one of the first ingredients, that food
is mostly sugar. The primary culprits for added dietary sugars are sweetened
beverages, such as soda, fruit juices and sports drinks. Most fast foods
and prepackaged goods are also full of sugar (and other unhealthy ingredients)
that make them taste great but add no nutritional value. Try to limit
your consumption of added sugars to less than 10 percent of your daily calories.
There are several different names for “sugar” that the food
industry uses that can trip us up when we are trying to stay healthy and
watch our calorie intake.
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Corn sweetener
- Malt syrup
- Raw sugar
- Turbinado corn syrup
- Invert sugar
That’s why it’s important to take a few seconds when you are
making food choices to read the labels. It seems so simple, but the food
industry makes it a little tricky.
When you check your labels, make sure sugar (or any of the words used to
describe sugar), is not one of the first or second ingredients listed.
You also want to watch what you drink. The primary culprits for added sugar
are sweetened beverages (soda, fruit juices, sports drinks—and those
yummy coffee drinks!) Don’t be fooled by the name “fruit juice”
or by the picture of an athlete on the label of the sports drink. Many
times, these drinks are loaded with sugar, which add calories but offer
no nutritional value.
Now let’s talk about fat. There’s a lot of talk about the difference
between saturated and & trans fats.
What’s the difference?
Saturated fat. Your body needs saturated fat, but you make enough to meet your own requirements
without adding saturated fats from unhealthy food choices. Limit your
consumption of dietary saturated fats from red meat, butter and solid
fats (such as lard) to less than 10 percent of your daily calories.
Trans fats. Trans fats, which are found in manufactured products such as baked cookies,
coffee creamer, cakes, crackers and fried foods, have absolutely no health
benefits and actually raise levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL)
while lowering levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL). Read ingredient
labels and skip foods that list trans fats.
In fact, in 2015, the
Food and Drug Administration (FDA), ruled that trans fat is not “generally recognized as safe”
for use in human food, and they gave food manufacturers three years to
remove partially hydrogenated oils (or trans fats) from their products.
The FDA made this ruling when researched showed that eating a diet full
of trans fat is linked to higher body weight, memory loss, and heart disease.
Too much dietary salt (sodium chloride) can lead to high blood pressure
and other health problems. Limit your daily salt consumption to less than
2300 mg/day, which is equal to one teaspoon of salt. Most of your daily
sodium intake comes from hidden salts in processed foods, such as canned
soup, dressings, luncheon meats, breads and even pizza. The amount of
added salt in these products varies widely; check labels and select those
that are lowest in salt.
What TO Eat
Although making healthy food choices can seem overwhelming, it doesn’t
have to be. Focus on eating primarily plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables,
beans, and nuts) and lean protein sources, such as poultry, fish, and
low-fat dairy. These foods will fuel your body and your brain and help
you maintain a healthy weight.
The healthiest diet consists of a wide range of natural—not man-made—foods.
When selecting produce, think color and variety and include plenty of
both to take advantage of the extensive array of nutrients in plants.
Chose organic or locally grown produce, if possible. Cold water, wild-caught
fish, such as salmon and sardines, are great sources of lean protein and
essential omega-3 fatty acids. Health experts recommend you eat fish twice weekly.
An easy rule of thumb to help you make good food choices is to primarily
shop the perimeter of the grocery store, where you’ll find produce,
dairy, seafood and poultry. Limit purchases from the middle aisles, where
stores stock most of the processed foods.
#1—Be sure to talk to your doctor about your diet and ask questions
about how you can fine-tune what you are eating to optimize your health
and lower your risk of disease.
#2—Read food labels and familiarize yourself with tricky words meant
to disguise sugar, and be sure to limit your salt and fat intake.