Healthy Diet

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The Healthy Diet

For a healthy diet you need to eat a wide variety of foods in moderate-sized portions that give your body the nutrients and energy it needs. You also need to limit foods in your diet that can be harmful to your body.

The Foods to Limit

Some foods contain very little nutritional value or have ingredients that can cause disease. Eating healthy doesn't mean giving up all sweets, salt, and snacks. It means eating such foods in moderation.

The food ingredients you need to limit include saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, alcohol, and sugar.

Eating foods high in cholesterol and saturated fat can cause atherosclerosis (narrowing of blood vessels from buildup of fatty deposits).

This is critical for everyone but especially important if you have a family history of high cholesterol levels or diabetes. Atherosclerosis can lead to heart disease and strokes.

Cholesterol is a substance found in animal products such as meat, eggs, dairy products, and baked goods made with eggs and milk.

Vegetables and vegetable oils do not contain cholesterol.

Of the various types of fats, saturated fats and trans fats are the least healthy. They tend to increase the level of cholesterol in your blood. In fact, the amount of saturated fat in food is at least as important as the amount of cholesterol.

Foods labeled "No Cholesterol" sometimes contain high saturated fat. Saturated fats are generally solid at room temperature.

Foods that contain saturated fat include butter, cheese, some margarines, shortening, tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil, and the fats in meat and poultry skin.

Some margarines and many processed foods contain trans, or hydrogenated, fats.

To reduce the saturated fat in your diet, limit the amount of butter and margarine you eat.

Drink nonfat or low-fat milk instead of whole milk. Choose lean cuts of meat and take the skin off poultry before you cook or eat it. Healthy oils to use are canola, soy, olive, peanut, or corn oil. Try not to eat foods containing tropical oils such as palm or coconut oil.

Sodium, one of the ingredients in table salt, can contribute to high blood pressure if it is eaten in excess. Sodium is found in many foods, not just in table salt.

Fast foods usually contain high amounts of sodium. An average healthy person should have at least 500 mg (milligrams) of sodium a day but no more than 2300 mg a day. Read the labels on food packaging to check how much sodium is in the food.

As a general guide, "low sodium" means each serving contains less than 140 mg of sodium. "Moderate sodium" is 140 to 400 mg per serving. "High sodium" is more than 400 mg of sodium per serving. Also, taste food before you add salt to it at the table. Try adding other spices or herbs to the foods you cook and eat instead of salt.

The following chart shows the amounts of sodium in various foods:


 Approximate mg of Sodium

Big Mac or Whopper


Bread (2 slices)

200 to 600

Cheese, cheddar (1.5 oz)


Fruit (1)

 2 to 5

Milk (1 cup)


1 teaspoon of salt


Drinking too much alcohol can lead to weight gain, liver disease, brain damage, and other disorders.

Women should have no more than 1 drink a day. Men should not have more than 2 drinks a day. A drink equals about 5 ounces of wine, 1 can of beer, or 1 ounce of distilled spirits.

Sugar and foods that contain a lot of sugar supply a large number of calories but often very little nutrition. Sugar also may cause tooth decay.

Many foods and drinks are sweetened with high fructose corn sweetener. Eating too much of these foods may increase triglycerides (an unhealthy blood fat).

The Foods You Need

A healthy diet depends on eating a variety of foods. If you eat a variety of foods you are more likely to get all the necessary nutrients. Your diet should contain the following nutrients:


Proteins form the basic structure of body tissue and organs. The body uses proteins for growth and repair of cells.

Proteins are found in eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, tofu, nuts, meat, fish, poultry, dried beans, split peas, and lentils. About 15% of your daily calories should come from protein.


Carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy.

Carbohydrates are found in potatoes, bread, cereals, grains, pasta, dried beans, milk, yogurt, vegetables, and fruit. They should make up at least half of your daily calories.


Fats provide energy and are used for growth and repair of tissues.

They are found in meat, fish, poultry, nuts, cheese, vegetable oils, avocados, olives, mayonnaise, and dairy products such as butter, milk, and cheese. They are also found in many processed foods.

Saturated fats are less healthy than polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Saturated fats are found mostly in butter, margarine, meat, cheese, poultry skin, tropical oils, and whole-milk dairy products.

Monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, and avocados.

Polyunsaturated fats are found in fish and some vegetable oils. There are some unsaturated margarines available. Look for those made without hydrogenated fats or labeled "no trans-fatty acids."

Fats should contribute no more than 30% of your daily calories. Only 10% of the fat you eat should be saturated fat. There are 9 calories in a gram of fat. So, to calculate the maximum grams of fat you should eat each day, use these formulas:

  • Multiply the maximum number of calories you should eat in a day by 0.30 (30%) to calculate the maximum number of calories you should get from fat.
    Number of calories a day x 0.30 = Number of calories from fat in a day

  • Divide the daily number of calories from fat (the answer from the calculation above) by 9 to find the maximum number of grams of fat you should eat each day.

  • Number of calories from fat / 9 = Number of fat grams a day

For example, if you need 1800 calories per day, no more than 30% of those calories should come from fat: 1800 x 0.30 = 540 calories from fat. Divide 540 by 9 to find out the maximum number of grams of fat you should consume each day: 540/9 = 60 grams of fat.


Fiber is found in plants and is not broken down by the body.

There are 2 forms of fiber, soluble and insoluble.

Insoluble fiber provides what is called bulk. It is used by the large intestine to help remove waste in bowel movements.

Soluble fiber can slow glucose (sugar) absorption and help lower your cholesterol levels. Both types of fiber are an important part of your diet.

Usually both types of fiber are contained in foods. Many food labels do not tell you the amounts of each type of fiber contained in the food. What is most important is that you get 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day.

Lack of fiber in your diet can worsen intestinal problems, such as constipation, and can lead to more serious problems in the future.

Sources of insoluble fiber are whole grains such as wheat and rye, flax seeds, nuts, brown rice, and vegetables.

Sources of soluble fiber are citrus fruits, apples, oatmeal and oat bran, and beans.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins are important nutrients that help to regulate metabolism and help the brain, nerves, muscles, skin, and bones function properly.

The major vitamins are A, C, D, E, K, B-12, and seven B complex vitamins.

Minerals are necessary in very small amounts for the body to function properly.

For example, calcium is necessary for healthy teeth and bones, and zinc and magnesium are needed to control cell metabolism. Iron is important for healthy blood and many chemical reactions in your body.

Vitamins and minerals are found in nearly all foods, which is all the more reason to eat a variety of healthy foods. Some foods, such as cereal, are often fortified or enriched with vitamins and minerals to make them even more nutritious.


Water is necessary to replace the fluid your body loses every day when you breathe, go to the bathroom, and sweat. Healthy people who have routine access to fluids and who are not exposed to heat stress usually consume enough water to meet their needs.

There is no absolute recommendation for water because different people have different needs, and you can get fluids come from other beverages and foods as well as water.

A good rule of thumb that still can be used is to drink 6 to 8 glasses of water or other liquids (including soups and other beverages) every day. Caffeinated beverages are not a wise choice because caffeine is a diuretic and causes your body to lose water and become dehydrated.

Limiting Meat in the Diet

Meat, including poultry and fish, is a very nutrient-rich food.

Red meat, pork, and poultry are the best sources of iron and protein.

Fish is also an excellent source of protein. It is also low in saturated fat and some varieties are rich in healthy omega-3 oils.

Most people get much more protein than they need. You should limit the amount of meat you eat because all meats (excluding fin fish) contain significant amounts of cholesterol.

Choose lean cuts of meat to reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet. Try to use the meat as a side dish rather than a main course. You can include meat in a casserole or stew, using the meat as a flavoring for the main dish without overeating the meat portion.

It is possible to have a healthy diet without eating meat. Vegetarians do have to be careful to make sure they get enough iron and protein, however.

Guidelines for Eating Healthfully

For best nutrition, choose foods containing high-fiber, complex carbohydrates and monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats instead of refined, low-fiber carbohydrates and saturated fats.

Learn more about nutrition and healthy living. Read the ingredients on all packaged and canned foods you buy. Some contain more fat, sodium, sugar, and preservatives than you expect.

In addition:

  • Bake or broil food instead of frying it.

  • Don't eat more than 4 egg yolks a week. Egg whites are healthy because they are mainly protein. Egg yolks hold all of the fat and cholesterol that is in the egg.

  • Have a green leafy salad at least once a day. (Leaf lettuces and spinach are much more nutritious than iceberg lettuce.) Use oily dressings sparingly on the salads or try low-fat or nonfat dressings or vinegar.

  • Eat more whole-grain products.

  • Eat raw vegetables or cook them only slightly. Steam or microwave vegetables rather than fry them.

  • Limit the amount of red meat you eat. Try to eat more fish and poultry.

  • Remove the skin from poultry before cooking or eating it.

  • Limit fat, cholesterol, sugar, alcohol, salt, and caffeine in your diet.

  • Avoid prepared foods and frozen dinners as much as possible. Many of these foods have very high amounts of salt and fat and contain few nutrients.

  • Limit dining at fast-food restaurants. When you do eat fast food, leave off the bacon, cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, and fatty salad dressings. Order broiled instead of fried items.

If you follow these guidelines, you will usually not need additional vitamins, minerals, or supplements. You may need supplements if you have a medical condition that makes it harder for your body to absorb enough nutrients or that causes some very high nutritional needs. Examples include:

  • vitamin supplements for pregnant and lactating women

  • calcium supplements to prevent osteoporosis

  • iron supplements for treatment of anemia

  • fat-soluble vitamins for children with cystic fibrosis

  • supplementation for wasting or malabsorptive diseases.

Ask your health care provider if you need nutritional supplements. Keep in mind that more and more packaged foods are fortified with vitamins and minerals, some with 100% of the recommended daily intake. Do not exceed the Dietary Reference Intake (also known as DRI) for a vitamin or mineral supplement. The further you stray above or below the DRI, the greater risk you have of developing nutrition problems.

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The above opinionated views and information serves to educated and informed consumer. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. It should not replaced professional advise and consultation. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions

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