The amount and kinds of food you eat affect your health and wellness. That is why it is important that we follow a proper healthy nutritional guide to gain more and more knowledge on this concept.
The importance of good nutrition for optimal health is well-established. Eating patterns have been related to four of the seven leading causes of death, and poor nutrition increases the risks for numerous diseases, including heart disease, obesity, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis, and many cancers (e.g., colon, prostate, mouth, throat, lung, and stomach). The links to cancer are probably not fully appreciated in today’s society, but the American Cancer Society estimates that 35 percent of cancer risks are related to nutritional factors.
In addition to these health risks, proper nutrition can enhance the quality of life by improving appearance and enhancing the ability to carry out work and leisure time activity without fatigue. Most people believe that nutrition is important but still find it difficult to maintain a healthy diet. One reason is that foods are usually developed, marketed, and advertised for convenience and taste rather than for health or nutritional quality.
Another reason is that many individuals have misconceptions about what constitutes a healthy diet. Some of these misconceptions are propagated by so called experts with less than impressive credentials and those with commercial interests. Others are created by the confusing, and often contradictory, news reports about new nutrition research. In spite of the fact that nutrition is an advanced science, many questions remain unanswered. This concept reviews important national guidelines and recommendations for healthy eating. The significance of essential dietary nutrients are also described along with strategies for adopting and maintaining a healthy diet.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recently published new dietary guidelines intended to help consumers make healthier food choices. Federal law requires that these guidelines be updated every 5 years to incorporate new research findings.
The latest guidelines (2005) include many of the same recommendations as past guidelines but emphasize a more personalized, behavioral approach to nutrition. A new food pyramid (MyPyramid) was released with the Guidelines to help consumers remember and apply the key points in the guidelines. A web-based assessment tool called MyPyramid Tracker was also released to help consumers monitor their diet and activity behaviors The revised MyPyramid model was designed to convey the key nutrition principles described in the guidelines.
The colored bars on the model represent the different food groups (grains, vegetables, fruits, oils, milk, and meat/beans) and the importance of eating a variety of foods. The width of the bars in this figure is proportional to the amount of each food group that should be consumed. This principle of proportionality is conceptually similar to the presentation in the old food guide pyramid, which depicted grains on the bottom level, fruits and vegetables on the second layer, protein sources on the third layer, and fats on the top layer.
The tapering of the bars from bottom to top is intended to illustrate the principle of moderation in food choices. The wider base at the bottom stands for the healthier options which should be the base of the diet, while the narrower area at the top stands for the foods (those with more added fat and sugar) that should be consumed less often. This helps people learn to balance sweet treats with other healthier food choices. The new USDA nutrition guidelines also emphasize the importance of daily physical activity (60 minutes a day).
The steps and the person climbing them on the left of MyPyramid serve as a specific reminder of the importance of physical activity in energy balance. People who are more active (higher up on the stairway) can typically get away with eating more of the high-calorie foods near the top of the pyramid because they can burn off the excess calories. As described in previous concepts, each of the components in the physical activity pyramid provides important health benefits.
A criticism of the previous food guide pyramid is that distinctions were not made to denote differences in the quality of foods in each segment of the pyramid. There are clear differences in the quality of various foods containing carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, and it is important to make healthier selections when possible. The revised dietary guidelines describe a healthy diet as one that meets the following criteria:
1. Emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
2. Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
3. Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.
A few specific guidelines are provided to help consumers make better choices within each food category:
• Make half your grains whole. Whole grains provide more nutrients and more fiber than processed grains.
• Vary your veggies. Variety is recommended to ensure adequate amounts of different nutrients.
• Focus on fruits. Fruits are valuable sources of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that contribute to good health.
• Know your fats. The consumption of trans fat and saturated fat are discouraged, but other forms of fat are considered beneficial in moderation.
• Get your calcium-rich foods. The importance of calcium from dairy products is highlighted to promote bone health.
• Go lean with protein. Lean meats and poultry are recommended, as are alternative sources of protein (e.g., beans, nuts).
About 45 to 50 nutrients in food are believed to be essential for the body’s growth, maintenance, and repair. These are classified into six categories: carbohydrates (and fiber),fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water. The first three provide energy, which is measured in calories. Specific dietary recommendations for each of the six nutrients are presented later in this concept.
National guidelines, specifying the nutrient requirements for good health, are developed by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine. Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) historically was used to set recommendations for nutrients, but the complexity of dietary interactions prompted the board to develop a more comprehensive and functional set of dietary intake recommendations.
These broader guidelines, referred to as Dietary Reference Intake (DRI), include RDA values when adequate scientific information is available and estimated Adequate Intake (AI) values when sufficient data aren’t available to establish a firm RDA. The DRI values also include Tolerable Upper Intake Level(UL), which reflects the maximum, or highest, level of daily intake a person can consume without adverse effects on health. The guidelines make it clear that, although too little of a nutrient can be harmful to health, so can too much. In many ways, the RDAs can be considered threshold values similar to the threshold of training values for physical activity.
The target zone for healthy eating would range from the RDA/AI values to the UL values. A unique aspect of the DRI values is that they are categorized by function and classifi cation in order to facilitate awareness of the different roles that nutrients play in the diet. Specific guidelines have been developed for B-complex vitamins; vitamins C and E; bone-building nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D; micronutrients, such as iron and zinc; and the class of macronutrients that includes carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and fiber. Another unique aspect of the DRI values is that they were designed to accommodate individualized eating patterns.
The recommended DRI values for protein ranges from 10 to 35 percent, while the DRI values for fat ranges from 20 to 35 percent. These ranges are much broader than previous recommendations from the USDA in previous versions of the dietary guidelines. According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), this broader range was established to “help people make healthy and more realistic choices based on their own food preferences.”.
The quantity of nutrients recommended varies with age and other considerations; for example, young children need more calcium than adults and pregnant women and postmenopausal women need more calcium than other women. Accordingly, Dietary Reference Intakes, including RDAs, have been established for several age/gender groups. In this book, the values used are appropriate for most adult men and women.
Food labels describe the overall nutrient content of foods. They list the calorie content per serving and specify the amount of carbohydrates, fats, and protein in the food. The label also provides separate listings of saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugar, and fiber content. For each listing, a % Daily Value calculation is provided to help consumers see how the food contributes to overall daily requirements (assuming a 2,000-calories-perday diet).
A change in labeling laws in 2006 led to some additions to labels. Food manufacturers are now required to list trans fat content on the Nutrition Facts portion of food labels. This action was prompted by the clear scientific c evidence that trans fats are more likely to cause atherosclerosis and heart disease than are other types of fat.
The requirement has forced companies to reconfigure their labels but, more important, the action has prompted companies to look for ways to remove excess trans fats from products. Companies realize that the label will shift consumer choices toward foods with lower trans fat content, so food manufacturers have worked to remove trans fat from their products or decrease it.
The FDA estimates that, through greater awareness and changes in food products, the labeling regulations will help prevent 600 to 1,200 cases of coronary heart disease and 250 to 500 deaths each year. Reading food labels can help you be more aware of what you are eating and can help you make healthier choices in your daily eating. In particular, paying attention to the amounts of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol posted on food labels will help you make heart-healthy food choices.
When comparing similar food products, combine the grams (g) of saturated fat and trans fat and look for the lowest combined amount. The listing of % Daily Value (% DV) can also provide useful information. Foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol generally have % DV values less than 5 percent while foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol have values greater than 20 percent (% DV values are not yet available for trans fat)
I hope the article helped you guys in understanding more about the concept of nutrition. If you have any questions, you can leave them in the comment section below. Thank you.