Good nutrition is a key ingredient to looking and feeling your best. When you eat right, you not only fuel your body with energy and boost your immune system, you may also reduce your risk for diseases such as stroke, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain cancers.
Even though a person's nutritional needs may vary somewhat from early adulthood and later in life, the need for balanced nutrition is constant. Frequent eating out, skipping meals, and an on-the-go lifestyle can make eating well a challenge. Factors such as stress, smoking, or a predisposition to certain diseases increase a person's need for high-quality, nutrient-rich foods.
The following are a few general dietary guidelines to help improve your overall health:
- Eat a variety of foods from all food groups
- Select foods low in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sugar
- Eat more whole grains and less prepared (or convenience) foods
- Don't skip meals
- Use less salt
- Drink alcohol only in moderation
Many people don't meet the recommended levels of vitamin E, folic acid, and calcium. These and other nutrients are needed to maintain a healthy body.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant vitamin, which means that it helps prevent oxidation damage on a cellular level. This process may help protect against the development of coronary artery disease, cancer, and a number of chronic diseases. Good sources of vitamin E include wheat germ and wheat germ oil, dry roasted almonds and peanuts, safflower, corn and soybean oils, liver, egg yolks, and dark green vegetables.
Calcium is necessary for building strong bones and reducing the risk of osteoporosis. Adequate calcium intake is important, beginning in early childhood. Good sources of dietary calcium are milk, cheeses, yogurt, and green vegetables. Vitamin D, which can be synthesized in the body following exposure to the sun, increases calcium absorption. The RDA for vitamin D is 400 I.U. and good dietary sources are fortified milk, fortified cereals, egg yolks, saltwater fish, and liver.
Folic acid is important for older men and women who may be at risk for heart disease. Folic acid is found in abundance in raw green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals, and wheat germ.