Healthy Eating

A healthy diet helps pave the way to a healthy heart and blood vessels, strong bones and muscles, a sharp mind, and so much more.

Confused about what constitutes a healthy diet? You aren't alone. Over the years, what seemed to be flip flops from medical research combined with the flood of diet books and diet plans based on little or no science have muddied the water. But a consensus has emerged about the basics, which are really pretty simple.

An important take-home message is to focus on the types of foods you eat and your overall dietary pattern, instead of on individual nutrients such as fat, dietary cholesterol, or specific vitamins. There are no single nutrients or vitamins that can make you healthy. Instead, there is a short list of key food types that together can dramatically reduce your risk for heart disease.

Eat more of these foods: fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish and seafood, vegetable oils, beans, nuts, and seeds.

Eat less of these foods: whole milk and other full-fat dairy foods, red meat, processed meats, highly refined and processed grains and sugars, and sugary drinks.

Healthy Eating Articles

A possible brain food that you've probably never heard of

There's some research that lends some credence to claims that the nutrient Choline may be something of a "brain food" that fends off cognitive decline in old age. In the brain, choline speeds up the creation and release of acetylcholine, a protein that carries signals among brain cells and is important for memory and assorted other brain functions.  (Locked) More »

Certain dietary patterns are associated with long-term brain health

Scientists have long known that certain nutrients are essential for brain development and function. There's also evidence that good nutrition can help stave off cognitive decline in older people. But studies of single nutrients have largely been disappointing, and research on the relationship between overall diet and brain function generally relies on food frequency questionnaires, which can be misleading because of faulty memories and the inability to take account of nutrient absorption. Now researchers have conducted the first study using nutrient biomarkers and brain imaging to analyze the effect of diet on cognitive function and brain volume. Their main finding is that higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins B, C, D, and E are associated with better memory and thinking in older people. (Locked) More »

Coffee and your arteries

Coffee has taken the rap for serious illnesses, ranging from heart attacks and strokes to cancer of the pancreas. Careful studies have debunked these fears, but lingering concerns persist, particularly regarding coffee's cardiovascular effects. That's why coffee lovers will welcome this study that makes coffee seem a bit sweeter. (Locked) More »

On call: The buzz about blueberries

My family seems to have shifted from bananas and strawberries to a steady diet of blueberries with breakfast "because they'll keep you healthy." I love blueberries, but I do miss variety. So I want to know if blueberries really are good for our health. (Locked) More »

Disordered eating in midlife and beyond

Aging can be a challenge to body image. For some women, it may bring on — or rekindle — an eating disorder. Eating disorders are usually regarded as a problem of adolescents and young women; their prevalence among older women is less clear. Secrecy and shame often accompany these disorders, and women may not seek help — particularly if they fear being forced to gain unwanted weight or stigmatized as having a "teenager's disease." Despite the underdiagnosis of eating disorders in older people, treatment professionals are now reporting an upswing in requests for help from older women. For some of these women, the problem is new, and others have struggled with disordered eating for decades. More »

Halitosis

When I awaken in the morning, I have terrible bad breath. My breath seems okay during the rest of the day, but I worry about developing halitosis. What causes bad breath? (Locked) More »

Obesity in America: What's driving the epidemic?

Obesity is a complex problem that scientists are still struggling to understand. In some cases, genetics seem responsible; in others, various combinations of hormonal, metabolic, and behavioral factors appear to play a role. The prevalence of obesity in the U.S. has increased by over 50%, so that two of every three American adults are now overweight or obese. Even worse, the obesity epidemic is rapidly spreading to our children. Diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease are consequences of obesity, as well as cancer, arthritis, and depression to kidney stones, fatty liver disease, and erectile dysfunction. Obesity and overweight account for nearly one of every 10 American deaths, and costs society $223 billion a year. In order to control the obesity epidemic, we must first understand its causes. Changes in the nature of work, leisure time activity, and changes in what and how much we eat are the most significant contributing factors to the explosion of obesity in America. (Locked) More »

Why stress causes people to overeat

There is much truth behind the phrase "stress eating." Stress, the hormones it unleashes, and the effects of high-fat, sugary "comfort foods" push people toward overeating. Researchers have linked weight gain to stress, and according to an American Psychological Association survey, about one-fourth of Americans rate their stress level as 8 or more on a 10-point scale. In the short term, stress can shut down appetite. A structure in the brain called the hypothalamus produces corticotropin-releasing hormone, which suppresses appetite. The brain also sends messages to the adrenal glands atop the kidneys to pump out the hormone epinephrine (also known as adrenaline). Epinephrine helps trigger the body's fight-or-flight response, a revved-up physiological state that temporarily puts eating on hold. But if stress persists, it's a different story. The adrenal glands release another hormone called cortisol, and cortisol increases appetite and may also ramp up motivation in general, including the motivation to eat. More »