Exploring the Benefits of a health Diet

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A health diet is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein foods and low in sodium, sugar and saturated fats. It also emphasizes drinking water and limiting alcohol and junk food.

Eating a healthy diet supports your physical, mental and emotional well-being. Healthy eating patterns are based on scientific evidence and reduce risk for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).

A health diet is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein foods and low in sodium, sugar and saturated fats. It also emphasizes drinking water and limiting alcohol and junk food.

Blood Sugar Control

Stable blood glucose levels can improve mental and physical performance, help you lose weight, lower cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease. Unstable blood sugar, on the other hand, can cause you to crave hyper-palatable foods that are high in calories and carbohydrates. Eating a health diet that includes low-glycemic vegetables, fruits and lean protein, as well as limiting salt, sugars and saturated fats, can help you stabilize your blood sugar.

When it comes to food, a growing body of evidence supports that certain nutrients, specific foods or overarching dietary patterns positively influence health and promote the prevention of common chronic non-communicable diseases. Choose whole grains instead of refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta and rice. Try to eat five servings of vegetables and fruit daily for fiber, vitamins and minerals. Choose unsaturated vegetable oils (olive, canola or soy) instead of animal fats and trans-fats.

Keep in mind that one serving of any food is about the size of your palm or a cup. Check the Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods to see how many servings you’re consuming. Limit sodium (table salt) and added sugars to no more than 10% of your daily energy intake. If you’re living with diabetes, consider using the glycemic index to select carbohydrate-containing foods, as it helps you predict how they will affect your blood sugar.

Heart Health

While there are many risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including being overweight, smoking and not getting enough physical activity, some of these can be changed through diet. Eating a heart-healthy diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats can help to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, manage blood sugar and keep body weight under control.

In addition to consuming a variety of foods, it is important to choose those that are low in saturated fat and contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats — healthy fats that promote heart health and can be found in olive oil, salmon and walnuts. In addition, limiting the amount of red meats eaten and avoiding processed meats can help to decrease overall cholesterol levels and triglycerides.

A healthy diet also should be rich in fruits and vegetables, especially dark leafy greens that are packed with vitamins and minerals. They also contain nitrates, which help to open up blood vessels so oxygen-rich blood can reach the heart. Other foods that should be included in a heart-healthy diet include legumes (beans, lentils and chickpeas), yogurt or milk fortified with calcium and potassium, and nuts, such as almonds, cashews and walnuts. It is important to remember that all foods contain calories, so it is essential to balance food choices with calories burned through physical activity.

Immune System Function

A healthy immune system is an important part of maintaining optimal health. It includes specialized blood cells and proteins that detect, recognize, and attack pathogens and other abnormal substances in the body. Organs like the spleen and lymph nodes filter infections and other debris from the blood, while glands trap and release antibodies to neutralize bacteria, viruses, and other invading organisms. Healthy lifestyle factors such as a nutritious diet, adequate sleep and exercise, healthy eating habits, low stress, avoidance of harmful chemicals like cigarette smoke and air pollution, and vaccinations help keep the immune system primed to effectively respond against disease and infection.

Nutrients play a key role in immune system function across the life course and contribute to modulation of inflammation and chronic diseases. Research reveals that specific nutrients, such as the amino acid arginine, zinc, vitamin C and vitamin A, have particular immune-supporting effects.

A well-balanced diet can provide most of the immune-supporting nutrients required by healthy individuals. The best sources are a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats. If it is difficult to meet the nutritional requirements for certain nutrients through diet alone, a consultation with a registered health professional may be recommended to determine if a dietary supplement is appropriate.

Conclusion

The immunonutrients that are most commonly recommended include vitamin A (sweet potatoes and pumpkin), vitamin C (citrus fruits, berries and dark greens), selenium (brazil nuts, fish, poultry) and zinc (meat, fish, dairy). Taking the right supplements will ensure you're getting enough of these critical vitamins and minerals to maintain your immunity and overall health.

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