Good nutrition can help you achieve good health without having to sacrifice great-tasting food. Eating healthfully can help you work more productively, perform better athletically, maintain or reduce your weight, and dramatically lower your risk for heart disease and certain forms of cancer. A healthy diet is one that is well balanced, low in fat, high in fiber, and rich in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. To consume a healthy diet, you need to choose foods that provide all the nutrients your body needs without an excess of fat, sugar, or calories.
No matter what your lifestyle, the Food Guide Pyramid is your best guide to making healthy food choices. Developed by the US Department of Agriculture, the Food Guide Pyramid is meant to be a general outline for healthy eating, not a rigid dietary prescription. It helps you choose the most nutritious foods in the correct proportions. The Food Guide Pyramid arranges all foods into five food groups—grains; vegetables and fruits; dairy; meat, poultry, and other protein foods; and fats, oils, and sweets. The grains group is at the base of the pyramid because it is the foundation of good nutrition.
The Food Guide Pyramid conveys three concepts about healthful eating: balance, variety, and moderation. To eat a balanced diet, consume more foods from the groups at the bottom of the pyramid and fewer from those near the top. Achieve variety in your diet by sampling an assortment of foods from the different pyramid groups and a variety of foods within each food group. Practice moderation by eating neither too much nor too little of any food.
The Food Guide Pyramid contains four levels that symbolize the importance of certain foods in your overall diet. At the bottom lies the bread, cereal, rice, and pasta group—all foods made from grains. This group is the largest of the food groups in the pyramid because grain-based foods should make up the
Healthy Man largest proportion of the food in your diet. You should consume six to 11 serv- 5
ings of bread, cereal, rice, and pasta each day. A serving is one slice of bread, A Healthy 1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal, or half a cup of cooked cereal, rice, or pasta. Diet
Grain foods contain complex carbohydrates, which are an excellent source of energy, and many grain products are enriched with B vitamins and iron. Most grain foods are also low in fat and cholesterol. Whole-grain foods, such as brown rice, whole wheat or multigrain breads, and bran cereal, also supply fiber (see page 11), which has been shown to help lower blood cholesterol (see page 89) and which may reduce your risk for certain forms of cancer, such as colon cancer. Try to obtain at least half of your daily grain servings (at least three servings) from whole-grain foods.
The second level (from the bottom) of the pyramid contains the vegetable and fruit groups. The Food Guide Pyramid recommends that you eat three to five servings of vegetables and two to four servings of fruits each day—more vegetables than fruits because vegetables contain a wider variety of vitamins and minerals than do fruits. A serving is a cup of raw, leafy vegetables; half a cup of other vegetables, either cooked or chopped raw; one medium apple, orange, or banana; half a cup of chopped, cooked, or canned fruit; or 3/4 cup of vegetable or fruit juice. The nutrients in vegetables and fruits vary considerably, so it is important to include a wide variety of these foods in your diet. However, many vegetables and fruits are rich in the antioxidant vitamins, E, C, and beta carotene (which converts to vitamin A in your body). Antioxidants (see page 9) may have the potential to lower your risk for heart disease.
The milk, yogurt, and cheese group appears on the same level of the Food Guide Pyramid as the meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts group. Two to three daily servings of both dairy products and protein foods are suggested for good health. Dairy foods are an important source of calcium but can be high in fat, especially saturated fat, so you need to choose low-fat or fat-free varieties of milk, yogurt, and cheese. You may be surprised that dried beans and nuts are grouped together with meat and poultry, but all these foods supply protein and the same kinds of nutrients, such as iron, zinc, and the B vitamins. A serving is 1 cup of milk or yogurt; 1V2 to 2 ounces of cheese; or 2 to 3 ounces of cooked lean meat,
6 poultry, or fish. (Half a cup of cooked dry beans, one egg, or 2 tablespoons of
The peanut butter count as 1 ounce of lean meat.) It is important for middle-aged or
Healthy older men to become accustomed to the idea of eating a small portion (2 to 3 Man ounces) of meat or poultry.
At the top of the pyramid sits the smallest food group, made up of fats, oils, and sweets. It is best to consume foods high in fat and sugar only sparingly. High-fat foods contribute to the development of heart disease, and sugar contains many nutritionally empty calories. Overindulgence in foods from this group may lead to excess weight gain.
The bottom line is that a healthy diet can keep you healthy. But don't worry if you eat a high-fat cheeseburger or a sugary dessert once in a while. The important thing is to balance your diet over weeks or months so your overall diet is healthy. To make sure you are consuming a wide variety of foods, be adventurous. Try bok choy or bulgur if you've never had it before. Experiment with exotic herbs and spices to enliven the flavor of foods, both new and familiar. And be sure to balance what you eat with physical activity to maintain your proper body weight.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Department of Health and Human Services periodically publish Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines are designed to help people not only get the nutrients they need, but also lead more active lives so they can reduce their risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and certain forms of cancer. The most current dietary guidelines provide sound, no-nonsense advice to help you build a healthy diet:
• Balance the food you eat with physical activity to maintain or improve your weight.
• Eat plenty of grain products, vegetables, and fruits.
• Limit your intake of fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
• Eat only moderate amounts of sugar.
• Limit the amount of salt (sodium) in your diet.
• If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.
It's not difficult to incorporate these guidelines into your daily life. Just try these healthy-eating tips:
• Make grains the centerpiece of your meal; let meats be the garnish.
• Select lean meats and low-fat or fat-free dairy foods.
• Increase your fiber intake; eat a variety of whole grains, dry beans, and fiber-rich vegetables and fruits such as carrots, peas, pears, and berries.
• Choose dishes that contain servings from more than one food group, such as soups and stews.
• Maintain your weight in a healthy range. The guidelines no longer allow for 7 gaining weight as you get older. A Healthy
• Become more active: walk instead of drive, use the stairs, swim, bike, or do Diet yard work. Better yet, start a regular exercise program.
• Have fresh fruit or yogurt for dessert. Sugar contains lots of calories but few nutrients.
• Snack on reduced-fat and low-salt multigrain crackers, cut-up fresh vegetables and fruits, rice cakes, raisins, low-salt pretzels, unbuttered popcorn, low-fat cheeses, and low-fat whole-grain breakfast cereal.
• Drink no more than two alcoholic beverages per day, if you drink at all.
What's the big deal about breakfast? It's the most important meal of the day, just as your mother probably said. Breakfast literally means breaking the overnight fast. After not eating for 12 hours or more, your blood sugar level is low and your body needs fuel. Don't deprive your body of its first meal of the day just because you don't have much time. Instead, keep breakfast simple. Have a bowl of hot or cold cereal, yogurt, fresh fruit, toast, a smoothie (mix equal portions of fresh or frozen fruit, fat-free milk, and low-fat flavored yogurt in a blender; adding a few ice cubes will make your drink thicker), or eat leftovers from the night before. Take breakfast with you in the car or on the train. Still unconvinced about the benefits of a good breakfast? Consider these facts about breakfast eaters: they control their weight better and consume fewer calories throughout the day. Their blood cholesterol levels are lower, potentially reducing heart disease risk. They also concentrate better and perform better on work tasks. So put out a bagel or a muffin tonight for tomorrow morning and let breakfast help you boost your intake of grains.
Food labels contain many useful facts about the contents of packaged food and can help you select healthy foods when shopping for groceries. Nutrition labeling provides information about ingredients (in descending order of weight), serving size, number of calories, nutrient content, and how a food fits into your overall diet. The most informative part of any food label is the nutrition facts panel, because it shows not only the number of servings in a package but also the amount and percent of daily values of nutrients such as total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and carbohydrates. This label also indicates the fiber and sugar content of the food inside the package.
The bottom of the nutrition facts panel lists the percent of daily values for vitamins A and C, and for calcium and iron. This portion of the panel tells you that the food inside the package
Serving Size 1/2 cup (114g) Servings Per Container 4
Amount Per Serving
Calories 90 Calories from Fat 30
% Daily Value*
Amount Per Serving
Calories 90 Calories from Fat 30
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3g
Saturated Fat Og
Sodium 300 mg
Total Carbohydrate I3g
Dietary Fiber 3g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Healthy Man contains a certain percentage of your recommended daily allowance of these nutrients. This area of the panel also shows the daily recommended values of such nutrients as total fat and cholesterol in a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet. You need to pay special attention to the listed nutrients that pertain to your particular health status and family health history (see page 80). For example, if you have a family history of heart disease, you will probably be most interested in the percent of daily value of fat listed on the label.
When reading food labels, look carefully at the health and nutrient-content claims on the package. For example, some labels claim that a food is "light" or "low-fat." The US government allows food manufacturers to make such claims only if the food meets the following strict guidelines:
Nutrient Content Claim
Low cholesterol Reduced/less/lower
No added sugars
High/rich in/excellent source of
3 grams or less per serving
20 milligrams or less per serving
At least 25 percent less than that in a comparable unmodified food
Must state percent reduction in fat or calories
Sugars not added during processing
Supplies at least 20 percent of daily value
Supplies 10 to 19 percent of daily value
Do You Need Vitamin and Mineral Supplements?
Many men take nutritional supplements because they believe that certain vitamins or minerals provide health benefits or help them increase athletic performance or endurance. But if you are otherwise healthy, you probably don't need to take a supplement as long as you follow the Food Guide Pyramid recommendations for a balanced diet. It's best to obtain nutrients from a wide variety of foods rather than from a vitamin or mineral supplement because your body may not absorb the vitamins from supplements as effectively as those obtained from food. Also, most people can obtain the suggested recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamins and minerals by consuming a varied diet. For example, the RDA of vitamin C, which is 60 milligrams, can be obtained by eating five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Smoking increases the need for vitamin C, however. If you smoke, you should be getting 100 milligrams of vitamin C per day.
It's especially unwise to take in large amounts of vitamins and minerals in excess of the recommended daily allowances over prolonged periods of time. There is no convincing evidence that taking megadoses of a particular vitamin will make you healthier. In fact, consuming huge amounts of certain vitamins 9
However, certain people do need to take supplements. You may need to take a vitamin and mineral supplement if you:
• regularly skip meals
• are on a very low-calorie or low-carbohydrate diet for long periods
• are an older person who finds it hard to eat as much as you should
• eat a vegan diet (a vegetarian diet that omits dairy products and eggs)
• take medication that interferes with vitamin or mineral absorption
• are lactose intolerant and have been decreasing your calcium intake
If you fall into one of these categories, talk to your doctor about taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement. Even if you eat a balanced diet, a daily multivitamin won't harm you. But remember that taking a vitamin and mineral supplement is no substitute for eating a balanced, high-fiber, low-fat diet containing plenty of grains, vegetables, and fruits.
What Are Antioxidants?
Much interest has focused on the potential of antioxidants to fight disease and slow the aging process. But how reliable are these claims? How do antioxidants work?
Free radicals are unstable molecules that have an unpaired electron. They cause oxidation (a process whereby oxygen changes, damages, or breaks down cells) in your body, similar to the oxidation that occurs when metal rusts, as they seek stability by taking an electron from a surrounding molecule in a cell for themselves. The attacked molecule then has an unpaired electron, becoming a new free radical. The chain reaction continues indefinitely. Free radicals destroy DNA, and DNA destruction is thought to be one of the processes that triggers aging. Free radicals also can interfere with other processes in cells, causing cell changes that eventually can lead to cancer.
Antioxidants are compounds in foods that inhibit the oxidation caused by free radicals. The vitamins C and E and beta carotene (which converts to vitamin A in your body) and the minerals magnesium, copper, and zinc are antioxidants in foods that have shown promise in slowing down or preventing the chronic health problems, such as heart disease and cancer, that often accompany aging. Anti-oxidants also may help the body fight infection.
Vitamin E is found in nuts, seeds, and oils such as olive, peanut, and canola oil. You can increase your intake of beta carotene by eating more orange and deep yellow vegetables and fruits such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cantaloupe, apricots, and winter squash. Boost your vitamin C intake by consuming
Healthy Man citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit, lemons, or limes), berries, bell peppers, potatoes, broccoli, and cabbage.
The scientific evidence is strongest for the healthful effects of vitamin E and weakest for vitamin C. Experts stress that it is best to obtain antioxidant vitamins naturally, from your diet, rather than by taking supplements, especially in large amounts, until large-scale, long-term studies prove otherwise. As with vitamin and mineral supplements in general, taking antioxidant supplements cannot make up for the inadequacies of a poor diet. If you already have a health problem such as heart disease, taking antioxidants should never replace the goals of maintaining normal blood pressure, improving your cholesterol profile, or stopping smoking.
Good Sources of Antioxidants
The best way to take in antioxidants is to eat a varied, balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The foods listed below are good sources of antioxidants. It is important to note that the fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that contain antioxidants also provide fiber. When you include these foods in your diet, you get the benefits of fiber along with the benefits of antioxidants.
A Fortified milk and dairy products, eggs, cantaloupe, apricots, carrots, and dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale
C Citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, potatoes, and leafy green vegetables
E Vegetable oils, margarine, eggs, fish, whole grains, wheat germ, nuts, dried peas and beans, and leafy green vegetables
Beta carotene Orange and deep yellow vegetables and fruits such as carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, cantaloupe, pumpkin, and mangoes, and dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli
Copper Whole grains, mushrooms, dried fruits, grapes, nuts, liver, and shellfish
Magnesium Dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grains, dried peas and beans, dairy products, dried fruits, fish, shellfish, red meat, and poultry
Zinc Red meat, poultry, oysters, eggs, dried peas and beans, nuts, milk, yogurt, and whole grains
Most nutrients are absorbed and used by your body, but fiber passes through your digestive system without being absorbed. Still, it remains an important nutrient because it provides the bulk that helps your digestive system function properly and can protect against certain serious diseases.
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Both types help prevent constipation, and soluble fiber has been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer, diabetes, digestive disorders, and heart disease. Foods rich in soluble fiber include oat bran, oatmeal, beans, peas, rice bran, barley, and citrus fruits. Foods high in insoluble fiber are whole-wheat breads and cereals, wheat bran, rye, whole-grain rice, cabbage, carrots, and brussels sprouts. A diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits can easily provide the recommended 25 grams of fiber each day.
Benefits of Exercise
A Wake-up Call for Caffeine
Caffeine, an addictive chemical found in coffee, tea, colas, chocolate, and some pain relievers, acts as a stimulant in your body, increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and alertness. While moderate caffeine consumption—two or three cups of coffee per day—is not harmful, extremely high amounts can cause heart palpitations, insomnia, and anxiety. Even moderate amounts of caffeine can cause dehydration, so it's best to avoid caffeine-containing liquids on hot days or when exercising vigorously.
Many studies have been done to see if any link exists between caffeine and heart disease, but results have been inconclusive. Moderate caffeine consumption does not appear to be harmful. If you would like to reduce your caffeine intake, do so gradually. Stopping caffeine abruptly can lead to withdrawal headaches. Start reducing your caffeine intake by mixing increasing amounts of decaffeinated coffee in with your regular brew. Substitute juice or sparkling water with a twist of lemon or lime for caffeinated sodas.
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