On diet and health

Importance of Good Nutrition

Your food choices each day affect your health — how you feel today, tomorrow, and in the future.

Good nutrition is an important part of leading a healthy lifestyle. Combined with physical activity, your diet can help you to reach and maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of chronic diseases (like heart disease and cancer), and promote your overall health.

The Impact of Nutrition on Your Health

Unhealthy eating habits have contributed to the obesity epidemic in the United States: about one-third of U.S. adults (33.8%) are obese and approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese.1 Even for people at a healthy weight, a poor diet is associated with major health risks that can cause illness and even death. These include heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer. By making smart food choices, you can help protect yourself from these health problems.

The risk factors for adult chronic diseases, like hypertension and type 2 diabetes, are increasingly seen in younger ages, often a result of unhealthy eating habits and increased weight gain. Dietary habits established in childhood often carry into adulthood, so teaching children how to eat healthy at a young age will help them stay healthy throughout their life.

The link between good nutrition and healthy weight, reduced chronic disease risk, and overall health is too important to ignore. By taking steps to eat healthy, you’ll be on your way to getting the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy, active, and strong. As with physical activity, making small changes in your diet can go a long way, and it’s easier than you think!

Eat Healthy

Now that you know the benefits, it’s time to start eating healthy: start your PALA+ journey today and use these tips on ways to eating healthy and resources to earn it.

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1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Obesity Trends. 2011. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/databases.html

What is nutrition, and why does it matter?

Micronutrients are essential in small amounts. They include vitamins and minerals. Manufacturers sometimes add these to foods. Examples include fortified cereals and rice.

Minerals

The body needs carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen.

It also needs dietary minerals, such as iron, potassium, and so on.

In most cases, a varied and balanced diet will provide the minerals a person needs. If a deficiency occurs, a doctor may recommend supplements.

Here are some of the minerals the body needs to function well.

Potassium

Potassium is an electrolyte. It enables the kidneys, the heart, the muscles, and the nerves to work properly. The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults consume 4,700 milligrams (mg) of potassium each day.

Too little can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, and kidney stones.

Too much may be harmful to people with kidney disease.

Avocados, coconut water, bananas, dried fruit, squash, beans, and lentils are good sources.

Learn more here about potassium.

Sodium

Sodium is an electrolyte that helps:

  • maintain nerve and muscle function
  • regulate fluid levels in the body

Too little can lead to hyponatremia. Symptoms include lethargy, confusion, and fatigue. Learn more here.

Too much can lead to high blood pressure, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Table salt, which is made up of sodium and chloride, is a popular condiment. However, most people consume too much sodium, as it already occurs naturally in most foods.

Experts urge people not to add table salt to their diet. Current guidelines recommend consuming no more than 2,300 mg of sodium a day, or around one teaspoon.

This recommendation includes both naturally-occurring sources, as well as salt a person adds to their food. People with high blood pressure or kidney disease should eat less.

How much salt does a person need? Find out here.

Calcium

The body needs calcium to form bones and teeth. It also supports the nervous system, cardiovascular health, and other functions.

Too little can cause bones and teeth to weaken. Symptoms of a severe deficiency include tingling in the fingers and changes in heart rhythm, which can be life-threatening.

Too much can lead to constipation, kidney stones, and reduced absorption of other minerals.

Current guidelines for adults recommend consuming 1,000 mg a day, and 1,200 mg for women aged 51 and over.

Good sources include dairy products, tofu, legumes,and green, leafy vegetables.

Find out more about calcium.

Phosphorus

Phosphorus is present in all body cells and contributes to the health of the bones and teeth.

Too little phosphorus can lead to bone diseases, affect appetite, muscle strength, and coordination. It can also result in anemia, a higher risk of infection, burning or prickling sensations in the skin, and confusion.

Too much in the diet is unlikely to cause health problems though toxicity is possible from supplements, medications, and phosphorus metabolism problems.

Adults should aim to consume around 700 mg of phosphorus each day. Good sources include dairy products, salmon, lentils, and cashews.

Why do people need phosphorus? Find out here.

Magnesium

Magnesium contributes to muscle and nerve function. It helps regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and it enables the body to produce proteins, bone, and DNA.

Too little magnesium can eventually lead to weakness, nausea, tiredness, restless legs, sleep conditions, and other symptoms.

Too much can result in digestive and, eventually, heart problems.

Nuts, spinach, and beans are good sources of magnesium. Adult females need 320 mg of magnesium each day, and adult males need 420 mg.

Zinc

Zinc plays a role in the health of body cells, the immune system, wound healing, and the creation of proteins.

Too little can lead to hair loss, skin sores, changes in taste or smell,and diarrhea, but this is rare.

Too much can lead to digestive problems and headaches. Click here to learn more.

Adult females need 8 mg of zinc a day, and adult males need 11 mg. Dietary sources include oysters, beef, fortified breakfast cereals, and baked beans. For more on dietary sources of zinc, .

Iron

Iron is crucial for the formation of red blood cells, which carry oxygen to all parts of the body. It also plays a role in forming connective tissue and creating hormones.

Too little can result in anemia, including digestive issues, weakness, and difficulty thinking. Learn more here about iron deficiency.

Too much can lead to digestive problems, and very high levels can be fatal.

Good sources include fortified cereals, beef liver, lentils, spinach, and tofu. Adults need 8 mg of iron a day, but females need 18 mg during their reproductive years.

Why is iron important? Find out here.

Manganese

The body uses manganese to produce energy, it plays a role in blood clotting, and it supports the immune system.

Too little can result in weak bones in children, skin rashes in men, and mood changes in women.

Too much can lead to tremors, muscle spasms, and other symptoms, but only with very high amounts.

Mussels, hazelnuts, brown rice, chickpeas, and spinach all provide manganese. Male adults need 2.3 mg of manganese each day, and females need 1.8 mg.

Find out more here about manganese.

Copper

Copper helps the body make energy and produce connective tissues and blood vessels.

Too little copper can lead to tiredness, patches of light skin, high cholesterol, and connective tissue disorders. This is rare.

Too much copper can result in liver damage, abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea. Too much copper also reduces the absorption of zinc.

Good sources include beef liver, oysters, potatoes, mushrooms, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds. Adults need 900 micrograms (mcg) of copper each day.

Selenium

Selenium is made up of over 24 selenoproteins, and it plays a crucial role in reproductive and thyroid health. As an antioxidant, it can also prevent cell damage.

Too much selenium can cause garlic breath, diarrhea, irritability, skin rashes, brittle hair or nails, and other symptoms.

Too little can result in heart disease, infertility in men, and arthritis.

Adults need 55 mcg of selenium a day.

Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium. Other plant sources include spinach, oatmeal, and baked beans. Tuna, ham, and enriched macaroni are all excellent sources.

Learn more about selenium here.

Vitamins

Share on PinterestEating a variety of healthful foods can provide the body with different vitamins.

People need small amounts of various vitamins. Some of these, such as vitamin C, are also antioxidants. This means they help protect cells from damage by removing toxic molecules, known as free radicals, from the body.

Vitamins can be:

Water-soluble: The eight B vitamins and vitamin C

Fat-soluble: Vitamins A, D, E, and K

Learn more about vitamins here.

Water soluble vitamins

People need to consume water-soluble vitamins regularly because the body removes them more quickly, and it cannot store them easily.

Vitamin Effect of too little Effect of too much Sources
B-1 (thiamin) Beriberi
Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
Unclear, as the body excretes it in the urine. Fortified cereals and rice, pork, trout, black beans
B-2 (riboflavin) Hormonal problems, skin disorders, swelling in the mouth and throat Unclear, as the body excretes it in the urine. Beef liver, breakfast cereal, oats, yogurt, mushrooms, almonds
B-3 (niacin) Pellagra, including skin changes, red tongue, digestive and neurological symptoms Facial flushing, burning, itching, headaches, rashes, and dizziness Beef liver, chicken breast, brown rice, fortified cereals, peanuts.
B-5 (pantothenic acid) Numbness and burning in hands and feet, fatigue, stomach pain Digestive problems at high doses. Breakfast cereal, beef liver, shiitake mushroom, sunflower seeds
B-6 (pyridoxamine, pyridoxal) Anemia, itchy rash, skin changes, swollen tongue Nerve damage, loss of muscle control Chickpeas, beef liver, tuna, chicken breast, fortified cereals, potatoes
B-7 (biotin) Hair loss, rashes around the eyes and other body openings, conjunctivitis Unclear Beef liver, egg, salmon, sunflower seeds, sweet potato
B-9 (folic acid, folate) Weakness, fatigue, difficulty focusing, heart palpitations, shortness of breath May increase cancer risk Beef liver, spinach, black-eyed peas, fortified cereal, asparagus
B-12 (cobalamins) Anemia, fatigue, constipation, weight loss, neurological changes No adverse effects reported Clams, beef liver, fortified yeasts, plant milks, and breakfast cereals, some oily fish.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) Scurvy, including fatigue, skin rash, gum inflammation, poor wound healing Nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps Citrus fruits, berries, red and green peppers, kiwi fruit, broccoli, baked potatoes, fortified juices.

Fat-soluble vitamins

The body absorbs fat-soluble vitamins through the intestines with the help of fats (lipids). The body can store them and does not remove them quickly. People who follow a low-fat diet may not be able to absorb enough of these vitamins. If too many build up, problems can arise.

Vitamin Effect of too little Effect of too much Sources
Vitamin A (retinoids) Night blindness Pressure on the brain, nausea, dizziness, skin irritation, joint and bone pain, orange pigmented skin color Sweet potato, beef liver, spinach, and other dark leafy greens, carrots, winter squash
Vitamin D Poor bone formation and weak bones Anorexia, weight loss, changes in heart rhythm, damage to cardiovascular system and kidneys Sunlight exposure plus dietary sources: cod liver oil, oily fish, dairy products, fortified juices
Vitamin E Peripheral neuropathy, retinopathy, reduced immune response May reduce the ability of blood to clot Wheatgerm, nuts, seeds, sunflower and safflower oil, spinach
Vitamin K Bleeding and hemorrhaging in severe cases No adverse effects but it may interact with blood thinners and other drugs Leafy, green vegetables, soybeans, edamame, okra, natto

Multivitamins are available for purchase in stores or online, but people should speak to their doctor before taking any supplements, to check that they are suitable for them to use.

Antioxidants

Some nutrients also act as antioxidants. These may be vitamins, minerals, proteins, or other types of molecules. They help the body remove toxic substances known as free radicals, or reactive oxygen species. If too many of these substances remain in the body, cell damage and disease can result.

Find out more here about antioxidants.

Here, learn which foods are good sources of antioxidants.

What You Should Know About Good Nutrition

Good nutrition is the key to good mental and physical health. Eating a balanced diet is an important part of good health for everyone. The kind and amount of food you eat affects the way you feel and how your body works.

What are nutrients?

Nutrients are ingredients in food that help you:

  • Grow
  • Repair body tissue
  • Build new muscle tissue.

No single food will provide you with the right amount of nutrients. By combining foods from all the different food groups, you can meet your body’s daily needs.

How can I eat a healthy diet?

Follow the Food Guide at www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/ which:

  • Offers a guide to healthy food choices for people from age two and up
  • Helps you choose a healthful diet to maintain or improve your weight
  • Includes five food groups with many kinds of foods that promote good health
  • Includes the recommended number of servings and serving size of each food group

How do I eat a healthy diet?

  • Eat a variety of foods from each group and stay within the recommended servings listed.
  • Choose foods that are low in fat and sugar.
  • Choose and prepare foods that are low in salt.
  • Learn to read and understand food labels.

How can I make healthy choices when shopping for food?

Read the Nutrition Facts Food Label, which is found on canned, frozen, and packaged foods. This label:

  • Lists the items that by law need to be listed on food products.
  • Shows what a serving size of a food is, and how many calories and fat grams are in a serving, as well as how many calories of the food come from fat.
  • Tells some important vitamins and minerals that the food provides.

Do I need a vitamin and mineral supplement?

  • Vitamins are present in different amounts in different foods.
  • Minerals help your body carry out certain activities and are also present in many foods.
  • Usually all the vitamins and minerals you need are in a well-balanced diet.
  • Vitamin or mineral supplements may be needed if your diet does not have a variety of foods from each group.

Are herbal supplements safe?

Not always. Herbal supplements:

  • Come from natural sources like plant leaves, roots, seeds, flowers or fruits.
  • Are not regulated, so there is no guarantee they contain what the package says.
  • Can be purchased without a prescription.
  • May cause allergic reactions, may make the medicines you take less effective or may cause other harmful effects.
  • Are not always tested, so there is no guarantee they can actually do what is advertised.

Check with your doctor or dietitian before taking any herbal supplement to be sure it is safe.

Why is physical activity important?

Combined with a healthy diet, regular physical activity can improve your overall health by helping you to:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
    • It is recommended that you do 150 to 300 minutes of movement every week, but you may break that up into 10-minute sessions at a time.
    • Exercise can be fun! Exercise happens when you schedule it into your daily routine.
  • Lose excess weight and keep it off
  • Prevent diseases like type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and chronic kidney disease
  • Prevent high cholesterol.
  • Build strength and endurance.
  • Cope with stress and anxiety.

What if I have more questions?

  • Speak to your doctor or dietitian.

The information shared on our websites is information developed solely from internal experts on the subject matter, including medical advisory boards, who have developed guidelines for our patient content. This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. No one associated with the National Kidney Foundation will answer medical questions via e-mail. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.

Your Diet, Your Health

We’ve all heard the old saying “you are what you eat.” And it’s still true. If you stick to a healthy diet full of vitamins and minerals, your body reflects it. You feel healthy, energized, and just all-around great. However, people who limit their diet to junk foods will undoubtedly suffer the consequences of not giving their bodies what they need to thrive. The result is not only fatigue and low energy, but poor health as well. Understanding this clear connection between your health and your diet may spur you to make better dietary choices.

Your Diet and Your Health: What Your Body Needs

“Food is essential. People take it for granted, but we need nutrients,” says Anne Wolf, RD, a researcher at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Wolf cites as one example the old days when sailors crossed the ocean for months without proper nutrition. As a result, they ended up with scurvy because of a lack of vitamin C from citrus fruits. Vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals are necessary to keep all the different parts of the body healthy and functioning — otherwise, we get sick.

Every little thing that you do happens because of the nutrients that you give your body. Says Wolf, “Food gives us the fuel to think and the energy to move our muscles. The micronutrients, the vitamins, the minerals are there so that our bodies can function. You need food not just to sustain health, but to feel better.”

And the only way the body will get the many nutrients needed to stay healthy and function is by eating a wide variety of healthy foods.

Your Diet and Your Health: The Guidelines

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food pyramid and the daily food recommendations were established after extensive research and continue to be updated as more is learned about the role of nutrition in good health. Their goal is to make sure that people understand all the different nutrients their bodies need to stay healthy.

Food went from being a necessity to simply function to being the key to enabling the body to be at its functional best, says Wolf. Research shows that the right nutrition optimizes health and that getting enough of certain vitamins and minerals can also lower disease risk.

Your Diet and Your Health: Poor Diet, Poor Health

Many foods have a huge impact on heart health. Research has long shown that fruits and vegetables and a diet rich in whole grains and low in saturated fats can help protect the body from heart disease and high blood pressure, while a diet high in saturated and trans fats without enough fruits and vegetables can actually cause those diseases.

Even small diet deficiencies can have an enormously negative impact on your health. The most common health problem due to a lack of nutrients in the United States is iron deficiency, says Wolf. Menstruating women and girls need plenty of iron in their diets to replace what they lose each month during their periods. Iron is also an essential nutrient for infants, children, and growing teens.

Another example is calcium, needed to keep bones strong and healthy, says Wolf. Without it, the body can develop osteoporosis, a health condition characterized by weak and brittle bones.

Eating a well-rounded and varied diet will go a long way toward making sure you have all the nutrients you need. Remember that our body uses everything we put into it, and what we give it determines how it’s used — for good health, or for bad.

Chapter 1 Key Elements of Healthy Eating Patterns

The Science Behind Healthy Eating Patterns

In this section:

  1. Associations Between Eating Patterns and Health
  2. Associations Between Dietary Components and Health

The components of healthy eating patterns recommended in this edition of the Dietary Guidelines were developed by integrating findings from systematic reviews of scientific research, food pattern modeling, and analyses of current intake of the U.S. population:

  • Systematic reviews of scientific research examine relationships between the overall diet, including its constituent foods, beverages, and nutrients, and health outcomes.
  • Food pattern modeling assesses how well various combinations and amounts of foods from all food groups would result in healthy eating patterns that meet nutrient needs and accommodate limits, such as those for saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium.
  • Analyses of current intakes identify areas of potential public health concern.

Together, these complementary approaches provide a robust evidence base for healthy eating patterns that both reduce risk of diet-related chronic disease and ensure nutrient adequacy.

Scientific evidence supporting dietary guidance has grown and evolved over the decades. Previous editions of the Dietary Guidelines relied on the evidence of relationships between individual nutrients, foods, and food groups and health outcomes. Although this evidence base continues to be substantial, foods are not consumed in isolation, but rather in various combinations over time—an “eating pattern.” As previously noted, dietary components of an eating pattern can have interactive, synergistic, and potentially cumulative relationships, such that the eating pattern may be more predictive of overall health status and disease risk than individual foods or nutrients. However, each identified component of an eating pattern does not necessarily have the same independent relationship to health outcomes as the total eating pattern, and each identified component may not equally contribute (or may be a marker for other factors) to the associated health outcome. An evidence base is now available that evaluates overall eating patterns and various health outcomes.

Associations Between Eating Patterns and Health

Evidence shows that healthy eating patterns, as outlined in the Guidelines and Key Recommendations, are associated with positive health outcomes. The evidence base for associations between eating patterns and specific health outcomes continues to grow. Strong evidence shows that healthy eating patterns are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Moderate evidence indicates that healthy eating patterns also are associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancers (such as colorectal and postmenopausal breast cancers), overweight, and obesity. Emerging evidence also suggests that relationships may exist between eating patterns and some neurocognitive disorders and congenital anomalies.

Within this body of evidence, higher intakes of vegetables and fruits consistently have been identified as characteristics of healthy eating patterns; whole grains have been identified as well, although with slightly less consistency. Other characteristics of healthy eating patterns have been identified with less consistency and include fat-free or low-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts. Lower intakes of meats, including processed meats; processed poultry; sugar-sweetened foods, particularly beverages; and refined grains have often been identified as characteristics of healthy eating patterns. Additional information about how food groups and dietary components fit within healthy eating patterns is discussed throughout the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines. For example, as discussed later in this chapter in the section About Meats and Poultry, evidence from food pattern modeling has demonstrated that lean meats can be part of a healthy eating pattern, but as discussed in Chapter 2, average intakes of meats, poultry, and eggs, a subgroup of the protein foods group, are above recommendations in the Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern for teen boys and adult men.

Associations Between Dietary Components and Health

The evidence on food groups and various health outcomes that is reflected in this 2015-2020 edition of the Dietary Guidelines complements and builds on the evidence of the previous 2010 edition. For example, research has shown that vegetables and fruits are associated with a reduced risk of many chronic diseases, including CVD, and may be protective against certain types of cancers. Additionally, some evidence indicates that whole grain intake may reduce risk for CVD and is associated with lower body weight. Research also has linked dairy intake to improved bone health, especially in children and adolescents.

Diet and mental health

There is research to suggest that what we eat may affect not just our physical health, but also our mental health and wellbeing.

Eating well (i.e. a well-balanced diet rich in vegetables and nutrients) may be associated with feelings of wellbeing. One 2014 study found high levels of wellbeing were reported by individuals who ate more fruit and vegetables1.

A recent study found that a Mediterranean-style diet (a diet high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil.) supplemented with fish oil led to a reduction in depression among participants, which was sustained six months after the intervention.2

The importance of good nutritional intake at an early age is explored in multiple studies, including a systematic review in 2014, which found that a poor diet (with high levels of saturated fat, refined carbohydrates and processed food products) is linked to poorer mental health in children and adolescents3.

However, there are a range of inequalities that can contribute to the development of mental health problems, and how these factors interact with each other to affect mental health can be complex. Factors such as poorer physical health, and living in poverty, or deprived communities, have been found to be associated with poorer mental health and wellbeing. Both these inequality factors have also been shown to have a complex relationship with poor nutrition4.

Experience of a mental health problem may also be associated with poorer diet and physical health. There have been efforts to close the ‘mortality gap’ for people with severe mental health problems, who on average tend to die 10 to 25 years earlier than the general population.5 A number of factors may contribute to this premature mortality, including dietary and nutritional factors, among other things.6

Poor nutrition can lead to physical health problems such as obesity, though there are a number of demographic variables that could affect the direction and/or strength of the association with mental health including severity of obesity, socioeconomic status and level of education, gender, age and ethnicity.7

The relationship between obesity and mental health problems is complex. Results from a 2010 systematic review found two-way associations between depression and obesity, finding that people who were obese had a 55% increased risk of developing depression over time, whereas people experiencing depression had a 58% increased risk of becoming obese. 8

While a healthy diet can help recovery, it should sit alongside other treatments recommended by your doctor.

What should I eat?

The Eatwell guide, which is available on the NHS website, provides detailed information on how to achieve a healthy, balanced diet.

*Updated October 2018

Think about it. Your brain is always “on.” It takes care of your thoughts and movements, your breathing and heartbeat, your senses — it works hard 24/7, even while you’re asleep. This means your brain requires a constant supply of fuel. That “fuel” comes from the foods you eat — and what’s in that fuel makes all the difference. Put simply, what you eat directly affects the structure and function of your brain and, ultimately, your mood.

Like an expensive car, your brain functions best when it gets only premium fuel. Eating high-quality foods that contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourishes the brain and protects it from oxidative stress — the “waste” (free radicals) produced when the body uses oxygen, which can damage cells.

Unfortunately, just like an expensive car, your brain can be damaged if you ingest anything other than premium fuel. If substances from “low-premium” fuel (such as what you get from processed or refined foods) get to the brain, it has little ability to get rid of them. Diets high in refined sugars, for example, are harmful to the brain. In addition to worsening your body’s regulation of insulin, they also promote inflammation and oxidative stress. Multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function — and even a worsening of symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression.

It makes sense. If your brain is deprived of good-quality nutrition, or if free radicals or damaging inflammatory cells are circulating within the brain’s enclosed space, further contributing to brain tissue injury, consequences are to be expected. What’s interesting is that for many years, the medical field did not fully acknowledge the connection between mood and food.

Today, fortunately, the burgeoning field of nutritional psychiatry is finding there are many consequences and correlations between not only what you eat, how you feel, and how you ultimately behave, but also the kinds of bacteria that live in your gut.

How the foods you eat affect how you feel

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and appetite, mediate moods, and inhibit pain. Since about 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract, and your gastrointestinal tract is lined with a hundred million nerve cells, or neurons, it makes sense that the inner workings of your digestive system don’t just help you digest food, but also guide your emotions. What’s more, the function of these neurons — and the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin — is highly influenced by the billions of “good” bacteria that make up your intestinal microbiome. These bacteria play an essential role in your health. They protect the lining of your intestines and ensure they provide a strong barrier against toxins and “bad” bacteria; they limit inflammation; they improve how well you absorb nutrients from your food; and they activate neural pathways that travel directly between the gut and the brain.

Studies have shown that when people take probiotics (supplements containing the good bacteria), their anxiety levels, perception of stress, and mental outlook improve, compared with people who did not take probiotics. Other studies have compared “traditional” diets, like the Mediterranean diet and the traditional Japanese diet, to a typical “Western” diet and have shown that the risk of depression is 25% to 35% lower in those who eat a traditional diet. Scientists account for this difference because these traditional diets tend to be high in vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains, and fish and seafood, and to contain only modest amounts of lean meats and dairy. They are also void of processed and refined foods and sugars, which are staples of the “Western” dietary pattern. In addition, many of these unprocessed foods are fermented, and therefore act as natural probiotics. Fermentation uses bacteria and yeast to convert sugar in food to carbon dioxide, alcohol, and lactic acid. It is used to protect food from spoiling and can add a pleasant taste and texture.

This may sound implausible to you, but the notion that good bacteria not only influence what your gut digests and absorbs, but that they also affect the degree of inflammation throughout your body, as well as your mood and energy level, is gaining traction among researchers. The results so far have been quite amazing.

What does this mean for you?

Start paying attention to how eating different foods makes you feel — not just in the moment, but the next day. Try eating a “clean” diet for two to three weeks — that means cutting out all processed foods and sugar. Add fermented foods like kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, pickles, or kombucha. You also might want to try going dairy-free — and some people even feel that they feel better when their diets are grain-free. See how you feel. Then slowly introduce foods back into your diet, one by one, and see how you feel.

When my patients “go clean,” they cannot believe how much better they feel both physically and emotionally, and how much worse they then feel when they reintroduce the foods that are known to enhance inflammation. Give it a try!

For more information on this topic, please see: Nutritional medicine as mainstream in psychiatry, Sarris J, et al. Lancet Psychiatry. 2015

The field of Nutritional Psychiatry is relatively new, however there are observational data regarding the association between diet quality and mental health across countries, cultures and age groups – depression in particular. Here are links to some systematic reviews and meta-analyses:

There are also now two interventions suggesting that dietary improvement can prevent depression:

Diet during early life is also linked to mental health outcomes in children (very important from public health perspective):

Extensive animal data show that dietary manipulation affects brain plasticity and there are now data from humans to suggest the same:

Finally, while there are yet to be published RCTs testing dietary improvement as a treatment strategy for depression, the first of these is underway and results will be published within six months:

Welcome to nutrition facts blog!

Why do we need to understand the nutrition facts of the food we eat?

Have you ever wondered how quite some Okinawa Island people able to live more than 100 years of disease-free life? Indeed, it is an accurate, scientifically proven fact! The secret behind their highest longevity may be attributed to their deep knowledge of nutritional facts and culinary techniques of the food items available around them. People from this tiny Japanese island consume nutrient-rich, low-calorie diet (a diet averaging not more than one calorie/g) composed of low fat, less sugar, and sufficient in protein (available through a small quantity of fish) but lots of green/orange/yellow (GOY) vegetables, and fruits.

Fruits
Vegetables
Nuts
Herbs
Spices

Of course! The right nutrition is your right kind of workout!

Several research studies have shown that the kind of food we consume at early stages of life sets in the metabolism pace of our body for the rest of our life. Therefore, the benefits of eating right at first years of life will be greater and sustainable.

Nutrition, health, and wellness are intricately inter-linked. Aberrations in our diet tend to influence significantly on our health and well-being. Gradually, but unfortunately, our eating habits have changed in a significant way from their usual, natural pattern. Each passing day, various hazardous agents enter our body through our diet.

The modern food industry uses many preservatives, artificial colorants, additives, and chemicals to enhance the appearance, flavor, and shelf-life of food we eat. However, these compounds ultimately end up accumulating inside our body, only to show their deleterious effects in the form of diseases, cancers, and genetic malformations in the newborns, etc., sooner in life rather than later.

It is, therefore, imperative to each one us to understand the nutritional requirements of our body. All of us are curious about finding out “what is a well-balanced diet to stay healthy and to enjoy productive life?” A certain level of knowledge about the food science is necessary regarding food items nutrition value, their antioxidant strength, storage quality, processing methods and consumption. Every effort should be made to have all the nutrients in right quantities, proportion, hygienic and free from harmful germs and chemicals.

Please feel free to contact us with any comments or suggestions, or if you would like to share any nutrition information facts on this site.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

– Umesh Rudrappa

Some Myths about Nutrition & Physical Activity

Are you overwhelmed by daily decisions about what to eat, how much to eat, when to eat, and how much physical activity you need to be healthy? If so, don’t be discouraged because you’re not alone. With so many choices and decisions, it can be hard to know what to do and which information you can trust.

This information may help you make changes in your daily eating and physical activity habits so that you improve your well-being and reach or maintain a healthy weight.

Food Myths

Myth: To lose weight, you have to give up all your favorite foods.

Fact: You don’t have to give up all your favorite foods when you’re trying to lose weight. Small amounts of your favorite high-calorie foods may be part of your weight-loss plan. Just remember to keep track of the total calories you take in. To lose weight, you must burn more calories than you take in through food and beverages.

TIP: Limiting foods that are high in calories may help you lose weight. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 have estimated daily calorie needs based on a person’s age, sex, and physical activity level.

Myth: Grain products such as bread, pasta, and rice are fattening. You should avoid them when trying to lose weight.

Substituting whole grains for refined-grain products is healthier and may help you feel fuller.

Fact: Grains themselves aren’t necessarily fattening—or unhealthy–although substituting whole grains for refined-grain products is healthier and may help you feel fuller. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommend consuming grains as part of a healthy eating plan. At least half of the grains you eat should be whole grains. Examples of whole grains include brown rice and whole-wheat bread, cereal, and pasta. Whole grains provide iron, fiber, and other important nutrients.

TIP: Try to replace refined or white bread with whole-wheat bread and refined pasta with whole-wheat pasta. Or add whole grains to mixed dishes, such as brown instead of white rice to stir fry. Check out ChooseMyPlate for more tips to help you add whole grains to your eating plan.

Myth: Choosing foods that are gluten-free will help you eat healthier.

Fact: Gluten-free foods are not healthier if you don’t have celiac disease or are not sensitive to gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye grains. A health care professional is likely to prescribe a gluten-free eating plan to treat people who have celiac disease or are sensitive to gluten. If you don’t have these health problems but avoid gluten anyway, you may not get the vitamins, fiber, and minerals you need. A gluten-free diet is not a weight-loss diet and is not intended to help you lose weight.

TIP: Before you decide to avoid a whole food group, talk with your health care professional if you believe you have problems after you consume foods or drinks with wheat, barley, or rye.

Myth: You should avoid all fats if you’re trying to be healthy or lose weight.

Fact: You do not have to avoid all fats if you’re trying to improve your health or lose weight. Fat provides essential nutrients and should be an important part of a healthy eating plan. But because fats have more calories per gram than protein or carbohydrates, or “carbs,” you need to limit fats to avoid extra calories. If you are trying to lose weight, consider eating small amounts of food with healthy fats, such as avocados, olives, or nuts. You also could replace whole-fat cheese or milk with lower-fat versions. Read about food portions and how much food is enough for you.

TIP: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommend consuming less than 10 percent of your daily calories from saturated fats. Try cutting back on solid-fat foods. Use olive oil instead of butter in cooking.

Myth: Dairy products are fattening and unhealthy.

Fact: Dairy products are an important food group because they have protein your body needs to build muscles and help organs work well, and calcium to strengthen bones. Most dairy products, such as milk and some yogurts, have added vitamin D to help your body use calcium, since many Americans don’t get enough of these nutrients. Dairy products made from fat-free or low-fat milk have fewer calories than dairy products made from whole milk. Learn more about the dairy group.

TIP: Adults should have 3 servings a day of fat-free or low-fat dairy products, including milk or milk products such as yogurt and cheese, or fortified soy beverages, as part of a healthy eating plan. If you can’t digest lactose, the sugar found in dairy products, choose fortified soy products, lactose-free or low-lactose dairy products, or other foods and beverages with calcium and vitamin D:

  • Calcium—soy-based beverages or tofu made with calcium sulfate, canned salmon, or dark leafy greens such as collards or kale
  • vitamin D—cereals or soy-based beverages

Myth: “Going vegetarian” will help you lose weight and be healthier.

Some research shows that a healthy vegetarian eating plan may be linked to lower obesity levels.

Fact: Some research shows that a healthy vegetarian eating plan, or one made up of foods that come mostly from plants, may be linked to lower levels of obesity, lower blood pressure, and a reduced risk of heart disease. But going vegetarian will only lead to weight loss if you reduce the total number of calories you take in. Some vegetarians may make food choices that could lead to weight gain, such as eating a lot of food high in sugar, fats, and calories.

Eating small amounts of lean meats can also be part of a healthy plan to lose or maintain weight. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020 have more information about including meat as part of a healthy eating plan.

TIP: If you choose to follow a vegetarian eating plan, be sure you get enough of the nutrients your body needs to be healthy. Read Healthy Eating Tips for Vegetarians for more information.

Physical Activity Myths

Myth: Physical activity only counts if you do it for long periods of time.

Fact: You don’t need to be active for long periods to get the amount of regular physical activity recommended in the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition, (PDF, 14.2MB) which is at least 150 minutes, or 2 hours and 30 minutes, of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. An example of moderate-intensity activity is brisk walking. You can spread these sessions out over the week and even do short, 10-minute spurts of activity 3 times a day on 5 or more days a week.

TIP: Find ways to build short bursts of physical activity into your day. While at work, take a 10-minute walking break or have a “walking,” rather than a “sitting” meeting, if work and schedule permit. Use stairs instead of an elevator or escalator. Get off the bus one stop early. Meet a friend for a walk, instead of a meal.

Myth: Lifting weights is not a good way to improve your health or lose weight because it will make you “bulk up.”

Do muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week.

Fact: Lifting weights or doing other activities 2 or 3 days a week that may help you build strong muscles, such as push-ups and some types of yoga, will not bulk you up. Only intense strength training, along with certain genes, can build large muscles. Like other kinds of physical activity, muscle-strengthening activities will help improve your health and also may help you control your weight by increasing the amount of energy-burning muscle.

TIP: Using large rubber bands, or resistance bands, or doing sit-ups or household or yard chores that make you lift or dig, may help you build strong muscles.

Clinical Trials

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct and support research into many diseases and conditions.

What are clinical trials, and are they right for you?

Clinical trials are part of clinical research and at the heart of all medical advances. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease. Researchers also use clinical trials to look at other aspects of care, such as improving the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses. Find out if clinical trials are right for you.

What clinical trials are open?

Clinical trials that are currently open and are recruiting can be viewed at www.ClinicalTrials.gov.

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