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Wise Food Decisions

Spring for more greens, fruits

Just as the first snowdrops and daffodils change the face of the winter landscape, many dining tables are changing too --- shifting from heavy meat and root vegetable stews to lighter fare.

It’s a good time to switch. Warmer temperatures make hearty food seem heavier, fresh local fruits and vegetables come back into the grocery store and lighter fare that’s strong in the fruit, fiber and vegetable department can only help you achieve your health goals.

Changing wise food decisions into a lifetime habit

Recent research seems to be reinforcing the old saying “you are what you eat.” Not that you’ll turn into a carrot anytime soon, but the right foods can help change your immune system from Clark Kent into Superman.
For years, research has taught us the value of foods high in antioxidants and healthy fats such as Omega-3 fatty acids. New research continues to point toward healthier foods.

Results released in January by the University of Manchester found that diet can play a significant role in how a person responds to certain drugs, including some cancer therapies. In research on yeast, researchers found that a cell’s ability to destroy unwanted proteins was linked to the type of nutrients available.

Changing your diet, like any other lifestyle changes, takes focus, motivation, and the ability to build a good habit. That means small steps in the right direction and doesn’t mean going cold turkey on the fries or pizza.
“In general Americans are not eating enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and eating too much fat and salt,” says Dr. Susan Z. Yanovski, director of NIH’s Obesity and Eating Disorders Program. “There’s a lot of room for improvement in the American diet.”

Yanovski advises beginning by eating more fruits and vegetables. They naturally contain vitamins, minerals and fiber that help protect you from disease. Compared with people who eat only small amounts of fruits and vegetables, those who eat more have a reduced risk of cancers, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.

Fruits and vegetables with different colors tend to have different levels of important nutrients, such as folate, potassium and vitamins A and C. So when you go to the grocery store, walk down the produce aisle and fill your cart or basket with a variety of colors.

Next, get into the habit of eating more whole grains. Foods with whole grains have fiber, which aids in digestion, and are rich in important nutrients. You can easily add whole grains to your diet by choosing breads and cereals made with whole grains. But be careful of products with claims like, “now with whole grain.” Some cereals marketed for children, for example, may contain whole grain, but not much—and they might have way too much sugar.

“You have to become a label reader,” Yanovski says. “Look on the label, and one of the first few ingredients should say something like ‘whole wheat’ or ‘whole grain.’ It should be one of the first ingredients, and it should have the word ‘whole’ in it.”

Nutrition Facts labels have lots of information to help you become a healthier eater. To learn to make the most of those labels, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration at http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/foodlab.html.

Source: News in Health - National Institutes of Health