Healthy Eating

Nutrition is important throughout life, but healthy eating in later years can still help lessen the effects of diseases prevalent among older people, or improve the quality of life among those who have such diseases.

They include high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes, some cancers, gastro-intestinal problems and chronic undernutrition.

Studies show that a good diet later in life helps both to reduce the risk of these diseases and to manage the disease's signs and symptoms.

Proper nutrition, however, entails eating many different foods, monitoring your consumption of some food and beverage items, and counting calories.

Good diets offer balanced nutrition that reduces cholesterol, blood pressure, and helps with weight control. To function properly, your body must have the correct combination of nutrients:

Carbohydrates

They are the primary source of energy in your diet. The body uses carbohydrates to build glucose which can be used immediately or stored in your body for later. Too much glucose, however, is stored as fat. There are two types of carbohydrates - simple and complex. Sugars are simple carbohydrates. Starches and fibers are complex carbohydrates.

Proteins

Proteins help your body build and maintain muscles and other tissues. They also function in the creation of hormones. Like carbohydrates, excess protein is stored as fat. Animal and vegetable are the two major types of proteins. Too much animal protein can cause high cholesterol, as it is high in saturated fat.

Fats

Strange as it may seem, fat is another nutrient your body requires. It comes in both saturated and unsaturated forms. Saturated fat puts you at risk of health problems. Unsaturated fat is healthy, but if it goes through any type of refinement process, it can become saturated fat.

Vitamins

These are also required nutrients. Different vitamins perform different tasks within the body. They can work with the metabolism to help with energy levels for any task you can think of that you need your body to perform. It has also been noted that certain vitamins can prevent disease.

For example, vitamins A, C, and E, are antioxidants, and can assist with the prevention of coronary artery disease by keeping plaque build-up from occurring on artery walls.

Vitamin B-1 is needed for digestion and proper nervous system function. Vitamin B-2 is needed for normal cell growth. Vitamin B-3 helps to detoxify your body.

Folic acid assists with production of red blood cells. Vitamin D assists with the absorption of calcium. Vitamin K helps your blood clot.

Minerals and Trace Elements

These are other nutrients your body requires. Both are used in many different body processes. Minerals like chlorine help make your digestive juices. Phosphorus helps build strong bones. Both can be found in the foods we consume, but with a trace element, your body just needs a tiny amount.

Salt is one final nutrient your body requires. On average you should keep your salt intake to no more that 2.5g of sodium daily. Watch for high sodium content in ready-prepared food and snacks.

Nutrition Guidelines

You should follow several guidelines to create a well balanced, nutritional diet.
First, try to consume two and one half cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit each day. When making your selections for each day, be sure to choose a good variety. A good rough guide is to eat as many different colors as possible, this will help you to select from all five vegetable subgroups at least four times per week.

You should eat at least three ounces of whole grain products each day. At least half of your grain intake should be whole grain based.

Milk, cheese and yoghurt should also be part of a healthy diet. Consume at least three glasses of low fat milk or milk products on a daily basis to help prevent ostoporosis. Your total fat intake should only be between ten and thirty percent of your calories. Most of the fats you consume should be in the form of unsaturated fats, as saturated fats can do much to damage your health. Meat, poultry, dry beans, and milk or milk products should all be lean, low-fat, or fat-free. Less than ten percent of your calories should come from saturated fats, and you should always try to avoid trans-fatty acid.

Fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains should be a regular part of your diet as should potassium rich foods. Alcoholic beverages should only be consumed in moderation.

Finally, don't forget your water. Although you will often see 8 glasses of water a day recommended, you may not need that much, depending on how active you are. Dehydration can cause inbalance of electrolytes in your system, leading to a drop in blood pressure, and in extreme cases, damage to kidneys, liver and brain. Don't ignore your thirst - your body is trying to tell you something!

Excellent nutrition is the basis of a healthy diet.




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