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Healthful Eating

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Many people do not understand the food pyramid or how to eat nutritionally. The food pyramid has recently changed and now includes physical activity. There are many ways to begin changing one's diet. Simply by changing one thing at a time until it is habit will greatly benefit a person's health. Adding exercise, even just a 30-minute walk, will be beneficial to one's health. Making these changes can also affect various cancers and heart disease. While there are many different foods available, if a person can learn how to eat healthier, one can reduce the risk of certain diseases, lower stress, and have healthier bodies.

Healthful Eating

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases [NIDDK], between 1960 and 2004, overweight adults have increased from 44.8 to 66 percent in the U.S. for people age 20 to 74. During this same time obesity among adults in this same age group more than doubled from 13.3 to 32.1 percent, in which most of this increase occurred since 1980. These are startling statistics. With all the information available on healthy eating, there are still many questions about what types of food are healthy and how much exercise is needed. The problem is there is so much information; people just do not know where to start. While there are many different foods available, if a person can learn how to eat healthier, one can reduce the risk of certain diseases, lower stress, and have healthier bodies.

Knowing the nutritional value of foods can help in the decision of what to prepare. Vegetables offer many nutrients, such as fiber, magnesium, folate, iron, potassium, and vitamins A and C. Eating vegetables that have a deep color, such as broccoli, sweet potatoes, and kidney beans, offer the greatest concentration of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants (Barston, Larson, Segal, & Segal, 2007). According to the United States Department of Agriculture [USDA], 2007), people need to consume less red meat because of saturated fat, and consume more fish and poultry. Some general tips for eating healthy include avoiding refined sugar; reaching for vegetables or a high protein snack instead of sweets will give a body more energy. Skipping meals is not a good choice as it will slow down metabolism. Eating four to six meals a day will keep metabolism going strong throughout the day. Skipping breakfast can make a person hungrier throughout the day; therefore consuming more calories. Understanding nutrition can therefore help make food decisions easier at the grocery store.

Learning the differences between organically and non-organically grown and raised foods can make a difference to what is purchased. The USDA has defined organic foods as those grown without the use of most pesticides, petroleum- or sewage-based fertilizers, genetic engineering, or radiation. In order for dairy products, meats, and eggs to be called organic, farmers cannot feed animals anything with antibiotics or growth hormones. Animals also cannot be fed parts of slaughtered animals, and they must be allowed outside. Non-organically grown foods do not have the same restrictions as organically grown foods. Non-organics are allowed to use pesticides and other chemicals. Children who ate non-organic vegetables and fruits had more pesticide in their urine than children who ate the same organic foods, yet there has been no evidence found to link pesticides as a health risk. The USDA makes no claims that organic is either safer or more nutritious than non-organically produced foods (Sacks, 2006, p. 37). Either option is still a healthy way to eat. Whether a person decides to purchase organic or non-organic foods becomes a personal decision, depending on how one feels about the use of chemicals to grow food.

Knowing healthy food guidelines according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will help a consumer make decisions on types of food to consume. According to the USDA, grains, vegetables, dairy, and fruits are highest on the pyramid. Meat, beans and oils are lowest on the pyramid. Solid fats are higher in saturated and/or trans-fat, and should be avoided. For example, cream cheese, cream, and butter have little or no calcium; therefore are not considered dairy products. These foods are considered as solid fats and are to be limited in daily diets. Physical activity is now part of the food pyramid. There should be physical activity every day. Examples of activities that can be done every day are walking, cycling, running, or swimming. The most important aspect of physical activity is to have fun. The USDA has made the pyramid easier to follow and understand. (United States Department of Agriculture [USDA], 2007) Remembering the pyramid will help a consumer make better decisions on what foods to eat.

Some cancers and heart disease can be prevented or lessened by eating healthier. According to the Mayo Clinic (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2006), eating foods from plant-based sources, such as green and dark yellow vegetables, can reduce the risk of colon and stomach cancers. Eating other foods from plant sources several times a day, such as whole grains and beans will also help reduce the risk. Limiting fat and choosing fewer high-fat foods may reduce the risk of prostate, colon, rectum, and uterine cancer. Oral and esophageal cancers can be reduced by limiting alcohol consumption. As much as two drinks a day for men, and one drink a day for women can increase the risk. Heart disease can also be prevented by a healthy diet, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. Limiting saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and trans-fat will greatly reduce the risk of heart disease. Adding Omega-3s, which are present in fish, canola and soybean oil, and vitamin supplements, can be a healthy addition to everyday food. Omega-3s are important for brain function, reducing risk of heart attacks and helping to reduce the risk of cancer. Omega-3s may even help inhibit the growth of cancer. (MedlinePlus, 2007) Maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, and having regular health screenings are all important factors in reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease.

More energy can be attained by eating properly and including physical activity every day. Not only can eating more fruits and vegetables help one feel better, adding physical activity can help reduce a number of conditions. Improving one’s



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