You Are What You Eat: A Guide to a Healthy Life
If your goal is to eat healthier, you’re not alone. Losing weight and making wiser food choices routinely shows up at the top of New Year’s resolution lists. Here at Fulton County Medical Center, we recognize the vital role that healthy eating plays in your quality of life. We’re here to help you wade through the bounty of information with practical solutions.
Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, once said, "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Truer words have never been spoken. What you eat gives your body the building blocks it needs to produce new tissues, cells, and DNA while providing the essential fuel to accomplish all these things and more. However, it can be a challenge knowing what foods you should and shouldn’t eat.
A good place to start is the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The US Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and of Agriculture (USDA) update this document every five years with the latest scientific evidence. The main recommendations include:
- Vegetables of all types and colors
- Grains, especially whole grains
- Proteins such as lean meat, poultry, and seafood
These are some general tips for improving your diet that only scratch the surface of what healthy eating means. That’s where a nutritionist can offer additional advice. You also have to consider portion size, servings, and, in some cases, preparation method. That’s why making good decisions becomes a more complex task. We can give you sound advice that will cut to the chase about what you need to know.
We understand that it’s easy to get confused with all the mixed messages you may hear and read on the internet and on social media. Some promise this diet is the best for good health. Others boast about the power of so-called "superfoods.” Marketers may speak of the need to detox.
The truth is that many fads like clean eating, ketogenic, and the raw diets are simply marketing ploys that are not necessarily based on science. They can even be dangerous for some individuals. Unfortunately, proponents of these diets muddy the water by mixing some common-sense nutrition advice with misinformation.
Sifting through the good, bad, and ugly is difficult. But there are a few clues that can help you make better eating decisions. Anecdotes and testimonies are major red flags. Evidence-based science depends on carefully controlled experiments that account for outside factors that may bias results. Just because something appeared to work for your friend’s Aunt Jane doesn’t mean it’ll do the same for you.
You may hear references about how science is always "changing its mind” about what you should eat. It’s essential to understand that research is provisional. That means that it evolves with the changing evidence. For example, you probably remember a time when eggs were considered bad for your health. That was then, this is now. Today, a dietitianmay recommend them as part of a healthy diet.
Eggs can provide an excellent source of protein and other nutrients, explains Harvard Medical School. And while eggs do content cholesterol, research has shown that an egg a day consumed by the average healthy adult will not negatively impact their cholesterol levels—an excessive consumption of eggs, however, might. This is one way to help understand the relationship between moderation and healthy choices.
Dietary Shortfalls and Limits
Unfortunately, many people fall short of meeting their goal to eat right. The Dietary Guidelines for Americanscontain some sobering statistics about the way that Americans eat. Many fail to get the proper number of daily servings of the recommended food groups. The percentages of people getting enough includes:
- Less than 20 percent eat the proper number of servings of vegetables
- Less than 30 percent eat the proper number of servings of fruits
- Less than 20 percent consume the proper number of servings of dairy products
Our mission at the Fulton County Health Center is to help you realize the importance of a healthy diet that includes a variety of nutritious choices. But as with many things in life, there are always two sides to the story. Your diet is no exception. We can help you see the entire picture.
While we know some things are part of a good diet, there are also things you should limit or avoid. Equally upsetting are the numbers of the unhealthy choices that people make. The guidelines have figures about the percentages of individuals that overindulge in certain foods. They include:
- Over 60 percent consume more than the limit for added sugars
- Over 60 percent consume more than the limit for saturated fats
- Over 80 percent consume more than the limit for sodium intake
The problem with sugary foods and beverages is that they add calories with little, if any, nutritional value. All of these foods can increase your risk of becoming overweight or obese. A paper by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) estimated being overweight or obese caused 4.5 million deaths worldwide in 2013. It’s a risk factor for a variety of conditions including:
- Heart disease
That makes a healthy diet essentially a form of life insurance because even a modestweight loss offers many benefits.
Benefits of Healthy Eating
Perhaps the best perk of eating right is that you’ll get all your recommended daily allowances for essential vitamins and minerals. You may think that missing out on a few fruit servings won’t make a big difference.
The truth is you need to replenish some nutrients every day. Some vitamins like the B-complex and vitamin C are water-soluble, explains the Colorado State University Extension. That means your body doesn’t store them. Your diet needs to include a fresh supply each day. If you make an effort to eat better, the benefits will include:
- Better functioning immune system
- More energy
- Less chance of becoming overweight
- Lower risk of chronic diseases
When you get the nutrition your body needs, you’re less likely to get sick. Your immune system can respond to potential threats and germs quicker. Your body also will be able to produce more energy to keep it running efficiently. However, there are a few other crucial factors you need to consider when choosing what foods to add to your diet.
How Nutritional Counseling Services Can Help You
Knowing what you should and shouldn’t eat form a strong basis for healthy eating. However, to put it into action, you’ll also need to know how to make it work for you. Even filling up on good foods without thinking about calorie intake won’t put you on the road to good health. That’s where your dietary limits come into play.
Good nutrition is the yin to the yang of balance. In other words, you must match the calories you bring in with the ones you burn off so that you can manage your weight effectively. The amount will depend on your gender, age, and activity level. For example, a sedentary adult will burn fewer calories than an active one. The latter can eat more without risking weight gain because of her greater activity level.
It’s not enough to know what you should eat but also how much you can indulge. A counselor can help you put the numbers in perspective to help you define realistic dietary goals. The key is focusing on a plan that is reasonable and which meets your nutritional needs. Whether you’re trying to manage your weight or have a pre-existing health condition, we can give you the tools and information you need to make sensible choices.
Begin your journey on the road to healthy eating. Call us today at (717) 485-6166 for an evaluation so that we can help improve your diet for long-term health benefits.