No matter how healthy you think you are eating, look no further than the basic food groups to find the magic pill to health. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says that the best way to promote optimal health is to eat a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods
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Among the most important healthy foods to eat every day are whole grains. Grains have a balance of carbs, proteins and fats, providing a good source of energy. Whole grains also contain high amounts of B vitamins, which are important for your health. Look for the word “whole” as the first word in the ingredients list when you buy whole grains, which are not refined. The refining process removes many of the nutrients that grains naturally provide, including fiber. Whole grains are rich in dietary fiber, an important nutrient that helps you lower your cholesterol and control your weight. The American Diabetes Association states that most people get only one-half of their daily fiber recommendation.
Fruits and Vegetables
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Even though they vary both in botany and nutritive value, fruits and vegetables contain powerful scavengers like vitamin C that prevent disease. Choose a colorful variety, as the different colors indicate phytonutrients, such as carotenoids that make carrots orange and lycopene in red tomatoes, which aid in disease prevention. The American Cancer Society recommends eating 2 1/2 cups of these foods every day.
If you want to live long and strong for many years, include dairy foods every day as part of your meals, snacks and beverages. Dairy foods, including those that are lactose-free like soy milk, are chock full of vitamins and minerals that your body needs every day. Calcium is one of the most important minerals and plays a critical role in forming and maintaining healthy bones and teeth, and it is vital for muscle movement and carrying messages to and from the various parts of your body and brain.
Legumes, which include beans, peas, lentils and peanuts, are great sources of nutrition because they are high in protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. This combination helps your body build new blood cells, metabolize cholesterol, deliver oxygen to your cells, absorb calcium, boost immunity and fight disease. While legumes are not complete proteins like meats, soybeans are an exception, and you can pair them with complementary foods like grains to provide a complete source of amino acids necessary for building proteins. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests that you choose legumes as part of a healthy diet. And unlike meat, legumes are low in fat and cholesterol, high in fiber easy on the wallet. Including daily doses of various legumes supports your health and longevity.
- The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Position of the American Dietetic Association: Nutrient Supplementation
- American Diabetes Association: Carbohydrates
- USDA Agricultural Research Service: Phytonutrient FAQs
- American Cancer Society: Add Fruits and Veggies to Your Diet
- Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010: Chapter 4: Foods and Nutrients to Increase
Jaime J. Larese is a registered dietitian and expert in food science and human nutrition. She applies nutrition therapy to assist her clients in weight management and disease prevention/management using a variety of educational tools and evidence-based methods.