A Healthy Diet
It's true—you are what you eat. And healthcare professionals have long known that diet plays a fundamental role in your overall health. The standard American diet is high in fat, sodium, meat and dairy…and low in fruit, vegetables and fiber. Eating this way can increase your risk of heart disease and other illnesses.
A plant-based diet of unrefined foods is naturally higher in fiber and lower in total and saturated fats. It provides the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants with many health benefits including reduced risk of obesity, coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes and some cancers.
A well-planned, plant-based diet is filling but lower in calories than what most Americans consume. Beans and legumes, small amounts of nuts and soy foods will provide you with the protein you need. Fish and organically-produced dairy products or a multivitamin will give you your vitamin B12.
Here are some guidelines for planning a healthy diet…
Avoid Processed Food
Eat foods that are as close to their original, unprocessed state as possible—brown rice instead of white; whole- and multi-grain breads and cereals; fresh fruits and vegetables rather than canned; beans and legumes; and soy-based foods like tempeh, miso and whole soybeans.
Also, eat organically produced products when possible.
And strive for variety when planning meals to make sure you are getting the nutrients you need…without getting bored.
Limit Meat and Dairy
At minimum, have three dinners weekly that consist solely of plant-based foods. If you do choose to consume foods of animal origin, use organically produced products when possible. Many stores sell organically raised poultry, eggs and dairy products from cows raised without hormones and antibiotics.
Get Plenty of Calcium
You can get adequate amounts of calcium by eating naturally calcium-rich and fortified plant-based foods. Good calcium sources include dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale.
You'll also find calcium in other foods like broccoli, sesame seeds, calcium-processed beans and tofu, fortified soy or rice milk, and calcium fortified orange juice. If you need more calcium in your diet, consider a supplement.
Add Fiber to Your Diet
The fiber and nutrient contents of fruits, vegetables and unprocessed grains is far more healthful than the nutrient-poor refined foods many of us eat. Why does that matter? Fiber helps you feel full quicker and for a longer period of time after eating. It also keeps your bowels regular and reduces risk of heart disease by lowering blood cholesterol levels. And a fiber-rich diet may also reduce your risk of other diseases.
Most adults should consume between 20 and 35 grams of fiber daily—but only half of Americans meet this recommendation.
Get Plenty of Fluids
Drink plenty of water for added nutrition. For variety, try soy or rice milk or vegetable juices.
For added health benefits you can supplement your diet with vitamins, minerals, herbs or other plants. These dietary supplements come in many forms—such as tablets, capsules, gelcaps, liquids or powders. What you should know about herbal remedies.
Before your start, let your doctor know about any vitamins and herbal or other supplements you may be taking. While many people think they're harmless, some supplements can interfere with prescription medications.
Consult a Dietitian Before Any Nutrition Changes
Be sure to talk to a registered dietitian or nutritionist for additional information about meal planning or recipes or vitamin supplementation.