Are you one of those people that believe that you have no control over what you look like?  It’s all about genetics, right?  Body fat, high blood pressure and diabetics are the result of family history and like the course of mighty rivers…you can’t change it.  Well, though it is true that certain illnesses and diseases are genetic, there isn’t anything that says that there’s nothing you can do to alter the track that your parents and their parents before them put you on.  Nothing at all.

Let’s see a show of hands…”How many of you actually know what you are eating?”  “How many of you know that good nutrition is essential for keeping your body performing at its peak potential?”  “How many of you know that your nutrition affects every part of your body, from your bones and muscles to your skin, hair and eyes?  Hell, even your sex life?  Regardless of your answers to the questions (you may be one of the smart ones), there are plenty of studies that show that we as Americans are losing the war against fat and unhealthy living.  What is the 10th fattest state in the country?  What’s the second?  The first?  (The answers can be found at the end of this article.)  I don’t think that you will be surprised by the answers because no matter where you live you see unhealthy people doing unhealthy things to their body…and loving it.  Now I am not talking about momentary or infrequent lapses.  We all have a crazy craving every once in awhile.  Sometimes it is better to indulge that whim rather than let it gnaw at you until you eat too much or you eat too fast (remember that anti-acid commercial).  What I am talking about are the things that people do because they really do not understand how good or bad it can be to eat certain foods on a regular basis.  What can they do?  What can you or I do?  We can teach ourselves and our children about good nutrition and the benefits from eating sensibly and responsibly.  It is easy when you understand how to establish smart guidelines with the information that you have.  What information and where do you get it from?  Read on brothers and sisters…read on!

March is National Nutrition Month and a lot of people from the healthcare field to insurance companies and the food distribution network want you to increase your awareness about the benefits of good nutrition and to enjoy more nutritious foods.  For most of us, it starts with reading the labels on the food that you buy.  Most of the healthiest foods you can eat come without labels; vegetables, beans/legumes and fruit just to name a few.  Where most of us run into trouble are the packaged goods.  Prepared or processed foods that are loaded with substances or components that either help to preserve the food or to make it taste better.  It’s important to read the labels so that you know what these foods are giving you…what are you getting too much of and what are you not getting enough of?  Once you make label reading part of your food decision-making process, and your children’s too, you will be the recipient of several “hidden-in-plain-sight” benefits, from weight management to smaller grocery bills because your meals will be more substantial and you won’t have to eat as much. 

The Six Building Blocks To A Healthy Diet

  1. Choose Heart-Healthy Grains

 Replace refined white grains with nutrient-dense whole grains, such as:

  • Whole grain cereals, like granola
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Brown rice
  • Multi-grain breads
  1. Eat more Fresh Fruits and Veggies

Most adults should have the equivalent of 2 ½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit each day.  Dark green, leafy veggies like kale and broccoli provide a lot of nutrients and are easy to steam or sauté.  Fresh fruits like apples, berries and bananas are packed with vitamins and make great snacks and desserts.

  1. Power up with Protein

Protein is a key building block of muscles, tissue, bone, blood and other organs.  But some proteins, like red meat, also contain a lot of solid fats, so choose your proteins carefully.

  • Go with lean proteins, like seafood or ground turkey when choosing to eat meats.  Avoid bacon, sausage, marbled red meats and other fatty proteins.
  • Snack on protein-rich nuts like walnuts, pistachios and almonds.
  1. Trim the Fat

It may be easy to grab a quick cheeseburger when you’re on the go, but it’s not quick or easy for your body to digest.  Reduce the fats you consume by:

  • Choosing a veggie burger or salad instead of meat burgers.
  • Substituting low-fat or non-fat milk and yogurts for regular dairy products.
  • Grilling, baking or steaming your foods instead of frying or using heavy oils.
  1. Ditch the Sugars

Foods that are high in sugar are also often high in calories that can lead to weight gain.  Research shows that being overweight or obese increases the risks for diabetes.  Reduce sugar intake by:

  • Tossing out the sodas and substituting sparkling water.
  • Trying sugar-free desserts (sugar-free pudding or yogurt, or fruit salad, for example).
  • Substituting protein snacks, like almonds, for sweet desserts.
  1. Make it Fresh

Cook meals at home from fresh, whole foods, instead of eating out or eating prepackaged meals.  That way you can better manage the levels of salt, sugar and other hidden additives that are so prevalent in restaurant or processed foods.

Another thing you should be aware of is that good eating habits not only help maintain proper weight and healthy hearts, but it will also help the health of your teeth.  In planning whole-body nutrition, people should consider foods and liquids that counteract tooth-harming acids, provide vitamins and minerals that support healthy teeth and repair damage and stimulate the flow of saliva.  Unhealthy teeth and gums can have a serious impact on the whole body.  Gum disease in particular is linked to diabetes, among other health problems.  So your menu should include foods rich in the vitamins and minerals that make up teeth, including vitamins A, C and D, and calcium and phosphorus.  These nutrients can be found in healthy foods such as beef, eggs, potatoes, spinach, fish, fortified cereals, tofu, leafy green veggies, poultry, whole grains and beans.  Many nuts contain tooth-friendly vitamins and minerals also.

Cheese is especially good for teeth, providing calcium and other tooth-building material, and also by stimulating the flow of saliva.  High-fiber fruits, veggies and grains are also great for the mouth, because they physically scrub the teeth.  Fruits do contain sugar, but they also have high water content that helps counterbalance the sweets.  High-fiber foods also require longer chewing time, which again stimulates the flow of saliva.  Saliva is the first line of defense for your teeth as it neutralizes acids that eat away at your tooth enamel, and also contains minerals that replace those leached away by bacterial acids.

Good nutrition includes high-fiber fruits, veggies and grains.  These foods are also great for the mouth, because they physically scrub the teeth.  Fruits do contain sugar, but they also have high water content that helps counterbalance sweets.  High-fiber foods also require longer chewing time, which stimulates the flow of saliva, the first line of defense for your teeth.  Saliva neutralizes acids that eat away at your tooth enamel, and also contains minerals that replace those leached away by bacterial acids.

Water, whether for the whole-body nutrition or oral health, is the primary element.  It’s the main component of saliva and is vital to tooth and gum health.  It rinses food and sugars and works to prevent tooth decay by strengthening tooth enamel.

Want to learn more?  Then feel free to check these out…

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

National Nutrition Month (video)

National Nutrition Month Challenge

“Where Do Healthy Kids Eating Habits Begin?  Why At Home Of Course!

Fit and Fab Living (website)

Metz Culinary Management Properties Promotes Healthy and Balanced Diet

Aramark Celebrates National Nutrition Month

Kikkoman Celebrates National Nutrition Month

Answers to the Fattest State Questions…

1.   Mississippi

2.   Alabama

10. Michigan

Sources:  Healthyroads, a subsidiary of American Specialty Health Incorporated –  
                  Dr. Edward Camacho, D.D.S, Cosmetic Dentistry of San Antonio, Texas