Health & Wellness / Home & Family

Watching One’s Diet for Better Health

Eating a healthful diet is an essential key to wellness. Today, it’s hard to know what is good to eat as scientific and medical information is constantly evolving. We do know that many food products we buy and eat are doctored up with preservatives and additives to maintain freshness and enhance food flavors. It is widely accepted that these types of foods may not be good for us. Most medical professionals contend that processed foods are generally unhealthy. It’s likely best to stick with consuming nutrient-rich foods and well-balanced meals to maintain health. However, this requires reducing intake of non-nutritious foods, some of which may cause bodily harm. Here are four categories of foods that should be carefully monitored in the human diet:

Saturated fat – This kind of fat is typically solid at room temperature. It is found in animal-based foods like beef, lamb, pork, poultry, full-fat dairy products, lard and cream, cheese, eggs, and tropical oils. Saturated fat can contribute to problems with cholesterol levels which can increase one’s odds of having heart disease; thus, intake limits are often recommended. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that in a 2,000-calorie diet, no more than 120 calories should come from saturated fat. WebMD, a leading source of health information, notes that fermented dairy products such as yogurt, kefir, and cheese may have positive effects on your heart; thus, it’s important to seek a balanced diet.

Trans fat – This kind of fat has two broad types, naturally occurring and artificial. Natural trans fats are produced in the gut of some animals, and foods made from them may contain some. Artificial trans fats, also called trans-fatty acids, are produced when hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oils to make them solid. Trans fats raise bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and lower good levels (HDL), and thus people who regularly consume trans fats are at increased risk of developing heart disease and stroke. The AHA recommends that roughly 25% to 30% of daily calories come from fats, and of this, less than 1% should come from trans fats.

SodiumSodium is a mineral. Sodium Chloride is the most common type found in nature. Bodies require small amounts of sodium to function properly, but too much can lead to high blood pressure, a major cause of stroke and heart disease. Sodium is often added to foods to enhance flavor or to control microbial growth. It is frequently found in smoked, cured, salted, or canned meats, frozen meals, canned entrees, salted nuts, potato chips, fast food, take out, and more. Sodium does not have any calories, but since it is often overloaded in processed foods, most people consume too way much sodium without realizing it. About 1 teaspoon (2,300 milligrams) of table salt per day is roughly the maximum recommended amount for a healthy adult as per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And many should limit that amount to about 1,500 milligrams per day per the AHA.

SugarSugar is a type of carbohydrate that can be naturally occurring or added to food. Examples of naturally occurring sugars are found in fruit (fructose and glucose) and milk (lactose). Added sugars are found in products like candy, cakes, cookies, sweetened cereals, sugary beverages, and so forth. While sugar can deliver some energy to the body, most people consume more than they need. Added sugar lacks nutritional benefits. Per the American Heart Association, the body does not need added sugar to function well, but it does require some naturally occurring sugars for the body to stay healthy. Consuming too much sugar can lead to the development of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay, and more. Per the FDA, the  Daily Value for added sugars is 50 grams per day, based on a 2,000-calorie diet for healthy and active people. Those with medical conditions should consult their doctors to determine dietary guidelines.

Monitoring intake of foods that contain ingredients from these four groups and replacing unhealthy foods with healthier options are great ways to decrease one’s risk of developing medical conditions related to poor eating habits. Healthy options to consider consuming include whole grains, lean and plant-based proteins, and fruits and vegetables. However, before making any dietary changes, it is always best to consult one’s doctor. A few extra things a person can do for the promotion of health include reading food labels to understand which products are safest to consume, using important resources such as those supplied by the American Heart Association, the FDA, the CDC, and other trustworthy medical sources, and establishing daily limits on these four categories to maximize health benefits.

This article is purely informational and is not intended as a medical resource or substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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