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Nancy J. Miller-Ihli, PhD
Healthy Eating Is Just the Start
Savvy Selections
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Healthy Eating Is Just the Start

What is healthy eating? Some people think it is defined by the USDA food pyramid while others think it is a low fat or low calorie diet. I think a healthy diet should consist of fresh foods with limited intake of simple sugars and lots of fiber. If you want to go one step further consider eating organic to avoid the pesticide residues and growth hormones. Should people consume whole grains? Certainly whole grains can be healthy but its important to remember that you want the complete grain to be consumed not ground into a flour. Whole wheat flour has the potential to spike your blood sugar level in much the same way that a cookie does but many people dont understand that. When you consume the whole grain (in moderate amounts) it provides much needed fiber which is excellent for your health. Speaking of fiber, the recommended daily intake is 25-35 grams but the average American consumes less than 10 grams.
Many people assume because the U.S. is among the world leaders, that most Americans enjoy good nutrition. Unfortunately that is not the case according to published NHANES 2003-4 data which show that intakes of several important nutrients is very low for Americans as compared to the daily recommended target intakes (EAR or AI) Vitamin E (93% were low), potassium (97+% were low), magnesium (86% were low) and calcium (70% were low). Just selecting magnesium to focus on, medline (National Library of Medicine, NIH) explains that low intakes can contribute to fatigue, insomnia, cardiac irregularities, challenges with muscle relaxation (myofascial pain, fibromyalgia), and numbness.
Most conservative estimates are that to get the recommended intake of vital nutrients, an adult would need to ingest about 4000 calories of healthy food choices. This wasnt the case 20 years ago but the nutrient density of foods has steadily declined and its largely due to two modern agricultural practices 1. food is picked very early so it can be shipped long distances and doesnt ripen naturally; 2. agricultural crops have been bred for rapid growth so the plants arent in the ground long enough to absorb nutrients effectively.
What is the answer? First Americans need to learn to eat REAL food and not stuff from a box. Fresh is best and is preferable to frozen or packaged foods which are often loaded with preservatives, additives and colorings. At a minimum, everyone should take a good multivitamin/multimineral and this is supported by the American Medical Association, the American Heart Association, USDA and the American Dietetic Association. Make sure whatever brand you purchase it is easily digested so you can actually absorb the nutrients. Although good nutrition starts with a healthy diet, a good multivitamin is more than just an insurance policy it can be the key to optimizing your health. Be healthy!

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