Nutrition Column – Make Healthful Eating a Resolution in 2006

If you are among the many Americans who have decided to live a more healthful life as part of your New Year’s resolution – congratulations! Each New Year, millions of people make resolutions to eat more nutritiously, lose weight and/or be more active. However, people often try to adopt radical changes that are difficult to sustain for a long period of time.

When it comes to eating more healthfully, making moderate changes may prove to be more beneficial for long-term success. Here are several healthful eating tips that can easily be incorporated into your daily plan to help you have a healthier 2006.  

Fruits and vegetables: Most people are well aware that fruits and vegetables are among the healthiest foods available, but it bears repeating. Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins, minerals and fiber essential for the normal, everyday functioning of the human body. They also are rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants, which may help lower the risk for some cancers, heart disease and other chronic health problems. Adults are advised to consume around 2 cups of fruits and 21/2 cups of vegetables each day for optimal health.

Whole grains: Last year, as part of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommended that Americans make half their grains whole. By that, the USDA means Americans should eat at least three ounce-equivalent servings of whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice or pasta each day. The reasoning? Like fruits and vegetables, whole grains are packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals. Further, consuming a diet rich in whole grains has been associated with reducing one’s risk for metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  

Fish: Diets high in fish, especially cold-water fish like salmon, herring, mackerel and whitefish, have been linked to a reduced risk for heart disease, stroke and some cancers. The high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are believed to be the reason. To realize the health benefits fish offers, the American Dietetic Association recommends eating fish two to three times per week

Nuts: Nuts are packed with several important vitamins and minerals such as vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and zinc. In addition, nuts contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are considered healthier for your body than the saturated fat and trans fat commonly found in cookies and chips. Walnuts, in particular, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which, like the omega-3 fatty acids found in cold water fish, may help ward off certain chronic diseases. Because nuts are also high in calories, they do need to be eaten in moderation. A small handful of nuts eaten four to five times per week is all you need.

Calcium rich foods: Calcium has long been known to help prevent osteoporosis, the bone-crippling disease, and recent research indicates that it may help reduce the risk for colon cancer and high blood pressure. Most health professionals recommend people look first to food for their calcium because food sources of calcium tend to supply other nutrients such as phosphorus, vitamin D and lactose, which help the body absorb and use calcium. Adults are advised to drink or eat the equivalent of 3 cups of low-fat dairy products daily to help meet their calcium requirements.

Cheers to a healthier 2006!

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by Pat Kendall, Ph.D., R.D., Food Science and Human Nutrition Specialist, Colorado State University, Cooperative Extension