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The Basics of Nutrition

Last Updated on October 19, 2017 by Jeff

The food you choose helps determine your physical appearance, your daily energy levels, your personal comfort, and your physiological and psychological health. Unfortunately, however, most Americans do not make good choices in this regard. Obesity, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease are all on the rise — and experts agree that nutrition plays a large role in these distressing trends.

Here’s the good news: we know what can be done to change this. As Harvard Health puts it:  “Scientists know what diet is best for health. The fine print has changed and is likely to change some more, but the key facts are in.”

By making simple, healthy choices, you can improve your quality of life — whether you are enthusiastically athletic or self-admittedly out-of-shape. Below, you will find a quick summary of the basics of good nutrition:

Veggies over animal products

  • There is no need to become a vegetarian or vegan — but, as a general rule, most Americans consume more animal products that they need to. (Which can lead to excessive fat consumption and stomach issues, along with other problems.) Replacing animal proteins with legumes, opting for a salad snack over a meaty treat, and getting calcium through leafy greens rather than through dairy are all healthy ways of limiting consumption of animal products.

Don’t forget about fruit!

  • Loaded with vitamins and nutrients, fruits are far and away the healthiest way of satiating your sweet tooth. Just watch out for juices and smoothies, which tend to be low in fiber and high in sugar!

Fresh over processed

  • Processed foods are convenient — but they tend to be high in added sodium and sugar, while simultaneously lacking the same nutritional value of their fresh counterparts.

Choose good fats

  • Fat gets a bad rap sometimes. While saturated fats found in most animal products do increase your risk of heart disease, healthy fats found in veggies, nuts, and fish are actually crucial to good health.

Choose good carbs

  • Similarly, carbs are often demonized — but the truth is that complex carbohydrates, such as those found in whole grains, starchy veggies, and legumes, are actually a heart-healthy source of energy and nourishment.

Choose smart protein sources

  • Protein is one of the most crucial nutrients that your body needs. Unfortunately, common protein sources such as red meat (and, to a lesser degree, poultry,) often carry with them large amounts of unhealthy fat and sodium. But eggs, fish, nuts, seeds, and legumes also contain protein without any of the negatives! (For more info on egg yolks, which tend to be controversial in the health community, check out this article published by Healthline.com.)

Reduce your sodium intake

  • If you are American, it is a near statistical certainty that you consume too much sodium. The more you can limit your intake, the better.

Increase your calcium and potassium intake

  • Dairy products are one of the most convenient sources of these two vital nutrients — but veggies can also help, especially for those with lactose intolerance.

Seek variety

  • There is no perfect food — and limiting your diet is likely to limit the range of nutrients that you ingest. Trying new foods and keeping an open mind can help you nutritionally, while also making eating a more interesting and enriching experience!