Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Healthy Diet Essentials

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a healthy diet as one that Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products; includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts; and is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars. But just what minerals and nutrients are vital to our health and well-being? Consider these nutrient-dense foods when you’re looking to improve your vitamin and mineral intake.

Vitamin A is needed for good eyesight and optimal functioning of the immune system. Cod liver oil, dairy products, sweet potatoes and dark green leafy vegetables are all great natural food sources of vitamin A.

Vitamin B1, also known as thiamin, is imperative to the body’s ability to process carbohydrates. Whole grain breads, cereals and pastas have high amounts of thiamin.

Riboflavin, or B2, can be found in fortified cereals, almonds, asparagus, eggs, and meat. It’s used in many body processes, including converting food into energy and the production of red blood cells.

Niacin, also known as B3, can be found in lean chicken, tuna, salmon, turkey, enriched flour, peanuts, and fortified cereals. It aids in digestion and also plays a key role in converting food into energy.

Vitamin B6 can be found in fortified cereals, fortified soy-based meat substitutes, baked potatoes with skin, bananas, light-meat chicken and turkey, eggs, and spinach. It’s vital for a healthy nervous system, and helps break down proteins and stored sugars.

Vitamin B12 is needed for creating red blood cells, and can be found in beef, clams, mussels, crabs, salmon, poultry, and soybeans.

Citrus fruits, red berries, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, red and green bell peppers, cabbage, and spinach are all loaded with vitamin C, which is vital to promoting a healthy immune system, and making chemical messengers in the brain.

Vitamin D can be found in fortified milk, cheese, and cereals; egg yolks; salmon; but can also be made by the body from sunlight exposure. It’s needed to process calcium and maintain the health of bones and teeth.

Vitamin E functions as an antioxidant and is essential to your skin’s good health. Eat plenty of leafy green vegetables, almonds, hazelnuts, and vegetable oils like sunflower, canola, and soybean to get this vital nutrient.

Folic acid can be found in fortified cereals and grain products; lima, lentil, and garbanzo beans; and dark leafy vegetables. It’s vital for cell development, prevents birth defects, promotes heart health, and helps red blood cells form. Pregnant women need to take special care to ensure they are getting enough of this for themselves and their developing baby.

Dairy products, broccoli, dark leafy greens like spinach and rhubarb, and fortified products, such as orange juice, soy milk, and tofu are all loaded with calcium. Like vitamin D, it’s very important in helping to build and maintain strong bones and teeth.

Organ meats, oysters, clams, crabs, cashews, sunflower seeds, wheat bran cereals, whole-grain products, and cocoa products are all high in copper, which aids in metabolism of iron and red cell formation. It also assists in the production of energy for cells.

Iron can be found in leafy green vegetables, beans, shellfish, red meat, poultry, soy foods, and some fortified foods. It’s needed to transport oxygen to all parts of the body via the red blood cells.

Potassium can be found in foods like Broccoli, potatoes (with the skins on), prune juice, orange juice, leafy green vegetables, bananas, raisins, and tomatoes. It aids in nervous system and muscle function and also helps maintain a healthy balance of water in the blood and body tissues.

Red meat, fortified cereals, oysters, almonds, peanuts, chickpeas, soy foods, and dairy products are great dietary sources of zinc. Zinc supports the body’s immune function, reproduction capabilities, and the nervous systems.

Protein is the main component of muscles, organs, and glands. Every living cell and all body fluids, except bile and urine, contain protein. The cells of muscles, tendons, and ligaments are maintained with protein. Children and adolescents require protein for growth and development, and adults need it to maintain cell integrity. It can be found in foods like beans, milk and meat.

The primary function of carbohydrates is to provide energy for the body, especially the brain and the nervous system. Complex carbohydrates are the best choice for a stable blood sugar level. Whole grain breads and cereals, legumes, and starchy vegetables are all good complex carbohydrate sources.

Essential fatty acids play a part in many metabolic processes, and there is evidence to suggest that low levels of essential fatty acids, or the wrong balance of types among the essential fatty acids, may be a factor in a number of illnesses. Good sources are fish and shellfish, flaxseed, canola oil, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, leafy vegetables, and walnuts.

Though this list is far from complete, it gives a good base of knowledge on which to build a healthy, well-balanced diet.

Hay Diet Treats Chemical Condition of the Body

Dr. William Howard Hay introduced food combining in 1911. After 16 yrs medical practice his own health began to deteriorate, and he developed high blood pressure, Brights disease (now more commonly known as acute or chronic nephritis, a kidney disease) and a dilated heart. There being no treatment available for dilated heart at the time, Dr. Hay was inspired to treat his own symptoms. His basic premise is that there is one underlying cause for health problems and that is the wrong chemical condition in the body.

He did this by eating 'fundamentally' as he called it; taking foods in a natural form and not mixing proteins and starches at the same meal. The wrong chemical condition is acidity which is caused by the manufacture and accumulation of acid from the products of digestion and metabolism in amounts greater than the body can eliminate. 

Along with dietary changes, Dr. Hay also advised fresh air, exercise and general lifestyle changes. The basic rules of this diet are: starches and sugar should not be eaten with proteins and acid fruits at the same meal; vegetables, salads and fruits should play a major part in the diet; proteins, starches and fats should be eaten in small quantities and only wholegrain unprocessed starches should be used; and finally at least 4 hours should elapse between meals of different food groups. It is also known as the "food combining" diet. Acid foods are protein rich, meat, fish, dairy, etc., and alkaline the carbohydrate-rich starch foods like rice, grains and potatoes.

Following the simple rules of the Hay Diet can reverse chronic and degenerative conditions such as constipation, indigestion and arthritis. It can be beneficial to asthma and allergy sufferers. It can also stimulate natural weight loss, thus reducing the health risks linked to obesity, such as diabetes, gallstones and coronary heart disease.

Getting Nutrition from Real Food

Many people think popping a multi-vitamin supplement to get their nutrients is just as good as what comes from real foods. They don’t realize that it is far better to get vitamins and minerals from natural foods and juices. Our bodies utilize the vitamins and minerals from real foods more efficiently. And most people find it much easier to select a variety of whole foods they enjoy eating instead of trying to make heads or tails of the entire selection of vitamin and mineral supplements that are available. And any of us who’ve swallowed a multi-vitamin or a mineral supplement can say without a doubt that the taste leaves a lot to be desired

Supplements are also difficult for our bodies to break down and use, making it difficult to get the full punch from the vitamins and minerals they contain. Conversely, by consuming plenty of nutrient-dense food to get the equivalent means the nutrients are going to be easier for the body to process and utilize, and less likely to be wasted. We are also processing nutrients throughout the course of the day when we obtain them from food, instead of just getting them from the ‘one a day’ approach.

Many of the supplements available today use fillers and binders to hold them together, plus coatings on the tablets themselves. These are products the body does not need and will not use. Some people find they are allergic to the dyes and fillers used in vitamin pills. However, the body uses the fiber that binds fruits and vegetables. Often the “skin” of a vegetable, like the potato, is the most nutritious part. In addition, sometimes the vitamin and mineral supplements can upset our stomachs, making taking them even more difficult the next day. In many cases, combining supplements can counteract their effectiveness and can produce stomach upset when dealing with the taste and smell of some supplements. On the other hand, a variety of fruits and vegetables enhance the flavor of a nutritious meal and their fiber aids digestion.

If you’re looking to lose weight, eating fresh food is vital to a weight loss plan. Also, eating fresh fruits and vegetables help hair, skin and teeth stay attractive and healthy. And when you think about it, fruits and vegetables are the original ‘to go’ food. It’s simple to grab for an orange, apple, banana, grapes, or quickly toss a few vegetables together for a salad to take to work.

So when you’re looking for well-balanced, healthy, reliable nutrition, don’t reach for the bottle. Reach for the food!