Nutrition is a powerful thing; it sets the table for the rest of our health and the rest of our lives.
Nutrition helps to protect us from chronic disease, which in many cases is caused by inflammation from an unhealthy diet.
It boosts our immune system with essential vitamins and minerals.
It manages our weight without requiring extreme, unsustainable diets. The right foods can help us retain our energy and intellectual vigor as we age.
Nutrition increases happiness by raising the level of neurotransmitters in the brain that boost our mood and reduce the risk of mental health disorders.
While there’s lots of evidence to prove the importance of nutrition to our lives, we often get conflicting messages on how to eat the most balanced diet for long-term health — fat or nonfat? How low-carb should you go? Just how bad is processed food?
But a consensus has formed around some building blocks for a diet that will keep us fortified with the energy we need for our daily lives; exercise included:
- Consume healthy vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and healthy fats including monounsaturated. Try to meet daily goals set by federal nutrient guidelines or medical providers.
- Protein and carbs are critical to building and fueling our bodies, but we should steer away from red meat and refined carbs and toward healthier sources of these nutrients, including lean proteins and whole grains.
- About half our diet should come from whole fruits and vegetables because of the wide variety of nutrients and antioxidants they supply to the body. The other half should be split about evenly between grains and plant-based or animal protein.
- Dairy is an excellent source of calcium, vitamin D and protein; low-fat versions are preferable, and alternate sources can be found for vegan eaters.
- Avoiding added salt and sugar, saturated and trans fats and limiting alcohol intake can prevent a lot of health issues. Excessive salt, sugar and trans fats (which should be avoided in any amount) are often used in highly processed food.