Harvard Men's Health Watch

Nutrition 101: Good eating for good health

Turn on your TV, open a newspaper, or boot up your computer and you're bound to get some confusing news about diet and health. Don't let it drive you to distraction — or to the donut shop. Instead, remember four key facts:

  • What you eat affects your appearance, your energy and comfort, and — above all — your health.

  • America is on the wrong track. Two out of every three of us are overweight or obese. Diabetes and high blood pressure are on the rise. Heart attacks, strokes, and cancer are distressingly common. Many factors contribute to these complex problems, but the basic reasons are simple: we eat too much, we choose the wrong foods, and we don't get enough exercise.

  • Scientists know what diet is best for health. The fine print has changed and is likely to change some more, but the key facts are in.

  • Good eating is not a punishment, but an opportunity. If you know why it's important and what to do, you'll find it enjoyable and satisfying. And if you establish an overall pattern of healthful nutrition, you'll have plenty of wiggle room to savor the treats that matter most to you.

Your goals

For most people, TLC stands for tender loving care. For doctors, it stands for the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet. Either way, the TLC diet provides sound goals for most Americans.

The TLC diet

Total calories

Adjusted in conjunction with exercise to attain or maintain healthy body weight

Total fat

25%–35% of total calories

Saturated fat

Less than 7% of total calories

Polyunsaturated fat

Up to 10% of total calories

Monounsaturated fat

Up to 20% of total calories

Cholesterol

Less than 200 mg a day

Carbohydrates

50%–60% of total calories

Protein

About 15% of total calories

Fiber

The Institute of Medicine recommends 38 grams a day for men before age 50 and 30 grams a day thereafter.

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