Healthy Eating: The Top Benefits & Why it Matters
Why is healthy eating so important?
Healthy eating, implementing the right food and nutrition into our daily life, plays a crucial role in health promotion and chronic disease prevention. Good nutrition means getting the quality nutrients our bodies need to help us feel better and function with greater ease – physically and mentally – while reducing our risk for a variety of diseases.
Despite the critical role that proper nutrition plays in maintaining overall health, most Americans don’t make nutrition a priority in their everyday lives. Recent statistics for Nutrition-Related Health Conditions in the United States report:
- 75% of adults are overweight or have obesity
- About 40% of children are overweight or have obesity
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death
- 18.2 million adults have coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease
- Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death
- About 45% of adults have hypertension
- 11% of Americans have diabetes
- Almost 35% of American adults have pre-diabetes, and more than 8 in 10 of them don’t know they have it
- 90% of adults with diabetes are also overweight or have obesity
- Obesity cost the US health care system $147 billion a year
Before we jump into exactly what healthy eating means or looks like, it’s important to explain why it matters.
First, food is what fuels you and delivers the calories and nutrients your body needs to function. If your diet is deficient in calories or nutrients, your health may suffer. In contrast, if you eat too many calories, you may experience weight gain which can lead to obesity.
Healthy eating is important for many reasons, including fueling your body, acquiring necessary nutrients, lowering your disease risk, increasing longevity, and promoting optimal mental and physical well-being.
Do you have to follow a certain diet to eat healthily?
However, some people do need or choose to avoid certain foods or follow diet guidelines for health reasons. Most people don’t have to follow any specific diet to feel their best but that’s not to say that certain eating patterns can’t benefit you in many ways.
Healthy eating doesn’t have to involve following a particular diet. Rather, it means prioritizing your health by fueling your body with nutrient-rich foods
The Basics of Healthy Eating
When thinking about healthy eating, your first thought might be calories. Even though calories are important, your primary concern should be focusing on nutrients. Nutrients include protein, carbs, fat, vitamins, and minerals.
The term “nutrient-dense” refers to the amount of nutrients in food in relation to the calories. They provide vitamins, minerals and other health-promoting components and have little added sugar, saturated fat, and sodium.
All foods contain calories, but not all foods are nutrient-dense. If a food is high in calories, it doesn’t always mean it’s bad for you. And if a food is low in calories it doesn’t always mean it’s a healthy choice. A healthy dietary pattern consists of nutrient-dense forms of foods and beverages across all food groups, in recommended amounts, and within calorie limits.
Adapting good nutrition through a healthy eating routine should be a priority in our lives. However, it takes time to make lasting lifestyle changes. Let’s discuss some basic steps that will help guide you towards making better health choices.
2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines
Every 5 years. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) publishes the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the nation’s go-to source for nutrition advice. The purpose of the Dietary Guidelines is to give Americans evidence-based information on what to eat and drink to promote health and prevent chronic disease.
The major topic areas of the Dietary Guidelines are:
- Follow a healthy dietary pattern at every life stage
- Customize and enjoy nutrient-dense food and beverage choices to reflect personal preference, cultural traditions, and budgetary considerations
- Focus on meeting food group needs with nutrient-dense foods and beverages, and stay within calorie limits
- Limit foods and beverages higher in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium, and limit alcoholic beverages.
The Dietary Guidelines encourage the following nutrient-dense food choices:
- Vegetables, including a variety of dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy and other vegetables
- Fruits, especially whole fruits
- Grains, at least half of which are whole grains
- Dairy, including fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages and yogurt
- Protein foods, including seafood (8 or more ounces per week), lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans, peas, lentils), soy products, and nuts and seeds
- Oils, including those from plants, such as canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean, and sunflower oils, and those present in whole foods such as nuts, seeds, seafood, olives, and avocados.
The Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting the following:
- Added sugars – Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars starting at age 2. (Avoid foods and beverages with added sugars for those younger than age 2.)
- Saturated fat – Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fat starting at age 2.
- Sodium – Consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium – and even less for children younger than age 14.
- Alcoholic beverages – If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed only in moderation (up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men). Drinking less is better for your health than drinking more.
The Dietary Guidelines have a public health mission- that is, health promotion and disease prevention. These guidelines are applicable to the overall U.S. population, including healthy individuals and people at risk for diet-related chronic conditions and diseases.
In addition, people living with a diet-related chronic illness can benefit from a healthy dietary pattern. Health professionals can also help adapt the dietary guidelines to meet the specific needs of individuals with chronic diseases.
We can help you!
For most individuals, no matter their age or health status, achieving a healthy dietary pattern will require changes in food and beverage choices. Some of these changes can be accomplished by making simple substitutions, while others will require greater effort to accomplish.
If you are struggling to make these healthy changes on your own, Give us a call at 513-791-9474 to get started with our Nutrition Guidance Program (for current or future Hormone Therapy patients only) or our Weight Loss Program (if you’re looking to lose 10-20% of your body weight).
We’d love to sit down with you to discuss your goals and help you achieve a healthy lifestyle.