Proper diet is essential to maintaining good health. Keeping the body well-nourished and at a healthy weight has been proven to improve mood, quality of life and longevity. It may also go a long way in preventing or controlling many serious illnesses. Obesity, which has now reached epidemic proportions in the United States, and an enemy of good health, can be kept at bay through proper nutrition along with a program of healthy exercise.
Benefits of Good Nutrition
Not only do people feel more energetic and happier when they eat well, they also keep their bodies in the best possible condition. The benefits of good nutrition include developing and maintaining physical strength as well as preventing or controlling disease processes. Research has shown that the following disorders may be avoided, controlled, or mitigated by life styles that include well-balanced nutrition:
- Certain cancers
- Heart disease
- Liver and gall bladder disease
- Type 2 diabetes
While there are complex causes for diseases to occur, some hereditary or unknown, proper nutrition can make a noticeable difference in keeping individuals healthy.
A Healthy Diet
Generally speaking, a healthy diet is a varied one, containing the balanced nutrition needed for cell growth, cell regeneration and the maintenance of healthy organs and tissues. It includes an appropriate balance of protein, fiber, carbohydrates and unsaturated fats in reasonable portions. A good diet is one that:
- Is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat milk products
- Includes protein sources such as lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
- Is low in saturated fats, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars
- Contains a balance of appropriate vitamins and minerals
Calorie intake should be determined by age, activity level and weight goal. While our culture tends to focus on avoiding obesity, being underweight or malnourished is also a serious and often life-threatening problem. In some cases, depending on age and physical condition, certain individuals may require vitamin or mineral supplements in order to maintain proper nutrition and an appropriate weight. Some patients, particularly some infants and geriatric patients, who are unable to ingest sufficient caloric intake in their diet, may require nutritional supplements to maintain a healthy weight.
Obesity, which affects approximately a third of all adults and a fifth of all children in the United States, is avoidable with proper diet and nutrition and a program of regular exercise. Through refraining from overeating and from ingesting foods high in calories and low in nutritional values, individuals can improve their health immeasurably. A regimen of physical exercise is also a very important part of a program designed to avoid obesity.
Since avoiding obesity requires making wise food choices, the more informed individuals are about what they eat, the better. Reading labels, eating fresh foods whenever possible and keeping informed about nutritional research -- may all contribute to leading a healthier, and often a longer, life. Nutritional counseling is invaluable in pursuing this goal. Since more and more children have become obese, it is extremely important that nutritional counseling begin at an early age.
Nutritional counseling services include initially taking a medical, and sometimes psychological, history and establishing a customized dietary plan for each individual patient. A specific diet takes into account each patient's weight goals, personal food preferences, overall health and particular medical conditions. Anyone can benefit from nutritional counseling, especially patients with food allergies or eating disorders. Ongoing nutritional counseling allows for evolving dietary guidelines.
- National Institutes of Health
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
- U.S. National Library of Medicine
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