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There are many foods that people regularly eat that can have a direct impact on their health. Whether that impact is positive or negative depends on the quantities consumed and the nutritional value of the food. Ultimately, poor eating habits can lead to weight gain, heart disease and even death. However, if you choose to eat a balanced diet and eat the right foods, you can improve your health and reduce your health risks.
Sugar is a carbohydrate that is naturally found in some foods and is added to others. Sucrose, or white granulated sugar, is the sugar that most people are familiar with; however, there are other types of sugar that include fructose, lactose, corn syrup, and more. Per teaspoon, sugar has approximately 16 calories, but it lacks important nutrients, and when eaten in excess, it can cause weight gain and obesity. The more weight that people gain, the greater their risk of health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure, for example. One's teeth are also affected by sugar when proper dental hygiene is not followed. According to the American Heart Association, sugar may be included in a healthy diet, but in moderation. For women, this means consuming 100 of their daily calories or less from sugar. Men should consume 150 calories or less from sugar on a daily basis. People can control their sugar intake by drinking water, reducing the amount of cookies, candy, cake, or other sweet treats and desserts, and carefully reading labels on food items that they purchase. Labels can inform consumers of the amount and type of sugars and carbohydrates found in food.
The human body performs many functions on a daily basis that help to keep the body strong, encourage continued development, and ensure that it operates the way that it should. To do that, the body requires vitamins and minerals. Specifically, there are 13 vitamins that the body needs and 15 minerals. These vitamins include vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and B vitamins including thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, biotin, vitamin B-6, pantothenic acid, foliate, and B-12. They are either water-soluble or fat-soluble, which means that they are either carried into the bloodstream through water or through the lymph channels. Without the proper amount of vitamins in the body, a person may develop certain health problems. Minerals in the body are either trace or macrominerals. Trace minerals are minerals that are needed in small amounts. Even in small amounts, however, these minerals are important for good health. Trace minerals include copper, iodine, zinc, selenium, fluoride, iron, cobalt, and manganese. Major or macrominerals include sodium, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, chloride, sulfur, and magnesium. People are able to get most of their vitamins and minerals through the food that they eat; however, supplements are available.
Most people view fat as something that needs to be avoided. This is only partially true, as the body needs fat to aid in the absorption of certain nutrients, support the growth of cells, for energy, and to act as a type of cushion for its organs. There are two categories when it comes to fat: good fats and bad fats. Because of the impact they can have on one's health, it is important to be aware of the differences when buying and cooking food. There are also two types of bad fats and two types of good fats. Saturated and trans fats are both considered bad. Saturated fats are primarily from animal sources but also include tropical oils such as palm or coconut oils. Trans fats are oils that have been chemically processed so that they become more solid or semi-solid. Margarine is an example of trans fat. Eating foods that contain trans fats increases a person's risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes and also elevates bad, or LDL, cholesterol and lowers good, or HDL, cholesterol. Saturated fats also raise cholesterol and are associated with coronary heart disease.
Good fats are unsaturated fats such as monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. At room temperature, these fats are typically liquid. They include plant oils and avocado and nut oils, and they include omega-3 fats that come from certain fish, such as salmon and mackerel, and from flaxseed, soybean, and other sources. Unlike bad fats, these good fats help lower bad cholesterol and protect against certain diseases, such as heart disease. Whenever possible, good fats should be used as substitutes for bad fats. But although they are considered good, they should still be used in moderation.
High blood pressure is one of the primary risks when it comes to too much salt intake. Elevated blood pressure is a condition that can lead to other problems that can threaten one's life, such as kidney disease, heart disease, or even heart failure. Excess sodium does this by causing water retention, which puts a strain on the arteries, kidneys, and heart. According to the latest dietary guidelines for Americans, people who are 2 years old or older should keep their daily sodium intake below 2,300 mg. Certain people, including people with diabetes, chronic kidney disease, or high blood pressure, should limit their daily sodium consumption to 1,500 mg. This lower sodium intake is also recommended for African Americans and people who are 51 years old or older. People get sodium from a number of sources, most commonly salt. In addition to salt, sodium comes from sources that include baking soda and baking powder. Salt is added to many foods, particularly those that are processed and prepackaged. To reduce salt intake, people must check the labels of the foods that they purchase, which will tell them how much is in the product. They should also avoid foods that have the word "salted" in the name and purchase items that are low-sodium or have no salt added. Canned foods, frozen dinners, hot dogs, and luncheon meats are all examples of foods that contain heavy amounts of salt. People can also limit the amount of salt that they add when cooking at home by using herbs and spices as flavor substitutes. Using fresh vegetables and fruits is also a way to cut back on sodium.
Water can be found in every tissue and cell of the body. Unfortunately, the body loses water regularly from sweat, urination, or other bodily functions, and this can cause dehydration. When a body is dehydrated, it is unable to perform important functions such as digestion, maintaining body temperature, and transporting nutrients. For that reason, people must consume enough water to replace what is lost and to ensure that they have what is needed to remain healthy. The amount of water that a person needs on a daily basis varies from one person to another. Although traditional guidelines recommend eight to 13 glasses of water a day, some may need more or others may need less. To improve water intake, people can eat more fruits, which have a high water content, and keep a bottle of water on hand while at work or at play.
Certain types of carbohydrates that are found in vegetables, fruits, almonds, grains, and legumes are non-digestible. This is known as fiber but may also be called roughage or bulk. It serves several purposes, such as helping food to travel through the digestive system, aiding bowel function, and helping to regulate insulin response. Fiber also helps prevent constipation from occurring and makes people feel more full. The risk of elevated cholesterol and certain illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, and heart disease, are also reduced by including the proper amounts of fiber in one's diet.
There are two fiber categories: soluble and insoluble. The type that dissolves in water is soluble fiber. This type of fiber is useful for reducing cholesterol and helping to control blood sugar. Oatmeal, nuts, citrus fruits, apples, beans, and barley are sources of soluble fiber. Unlike soluble fiber, insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. It is the type of fiber that bulks up stools and helps the movement of food through the digestive system. This fiber comes from certain beans and vegetables, including green beans, carrots, potatoes, and cauliflower. Wheat bran, whole-wheat cereals and flour, and nuts are also common sources of fiber. One can add more fiber to their diet if they are below the 21 to 38 grams daily that is recommended. The recommendations for fiber depend on both gender and age. For example, a woman between the age of 19 and 30 years old should take in 25 grams of fiber. A man in the same age group should take in 38 grams. This is accomplished by eating whole-grain cereals, consuming brown rice and other whole-grain products, and adding more fruits and vegetables to their diet.
While the individual recommendations for this diet may not be applicable to you, the main idea of incorporating more whole grains into your diet is one that is sound and important. Whole grains are good for your heart, and are easy to incorporate into a healthy diet. If you haven’t already, feel free to give them a try.