Eating Your Way to Better Health

The number one health threat facing people in the United States today is obesity. Study after study shows that America is overweight and that puts people at risk for heart disease and stroke. Cases of Diabetes are being reported more and more because of our obsession with food and the solution is a healthier diet. Studies show that if many of us do not change our ways more than half of the population will have prediabetes or diabetes by the year 2020.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has conducted a number of studies into what are the best foods to eat. The USDA has put together the food pyramid to show which foods you should be consuming the most to achieve better health. The items at the bottom of the pyramid are the foods that are most beneficial to us and at the very top are the foods which pose a health threat and should be consumed in moderation.

The government recommends that the largest part of our diet be bread, cereal rice and pasta. The USDA pyramid recommends 6 to 10 servings per day. At the next level are fruits and vegetables. When it comes to vegetables, the government recommends 3 to 5 servings per day with dark green vegetables like broccoli and spinach identified as the ones that are best for you. Fruits are great as long as you avoid canned fruit where sugar has been added in. The USDA encourages 2 to 4 servings of fruit per day.

Your protein will mainly come from beans and low fat meats. Chicken and fish are the two best choices in this food group. You need 2 to 3 servings of meat or poultry per day. You can substitute nuts as one of your protein sources, mixed nuts and sunflower seeds are the healthiest options. Another protein source is low fat milk and other dairy products like eggs and cheese. The USDA Food Pyramid calls for 2 to 3 servings of these per day.

Whole grain food products should be chosen over refined grains if you are going to eat healthier. Grains that have been milled do not contain fiber like the whole grains do. White bread and pasta are two examples of refined grains which have little nutritional value. Examples of healthy whole grain choices include oatmeal, wheat bread and brown rice. Just over half of all the calories you consume should come from carbohydrates.

The USDA diet plan also says to avoid trans fats which can raise the level of bad cholesterol in the body. These fats are used to fry foods like French fries, donuts and muffins which should only be consumed once in a while. The general rule is that only 20 to 30% of the calories that you consume each day should come from fatty foods and of that only 1% should be from trans fats. Fats, oils and sweets are at the very top of the USDA Food Pyramid and the government says to use them sparingly.

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