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

Cancer and diet: What’s the connection?

Much research has suggested that certain foods and nutrients may help prevent—or, conversely, contribute to—certain types of cancer. While it is not 100% certain that consuming more or less of certain foods or nutrients will guarantee cancer protection, science has found that processed meats, high-glycemic-index foods, calcium, and antioxidant-rich foods may have the greatest influence on a person’s risk.  (Locked) More »

The Nutrition Facts label finally gets a makeover

Upcoming changes to the Nutrition Facts panel may help consumers choose more nutritious foods and drive the food industry to make products healthier. One important update is the inclusion of added sugars, because excess sugar in the diet can contribute to heart disease. Other label changes may help stem weight gain, which raises the risk of heart disease. Some serving sizes will change to more closely reflect what people typically consume, and the number of calories per serving will be easier to read.  More »

What can you do to improve your immune system?

Your immune system is on the job around the clock to protect you from infectious bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites that cause disease, suffering, and death. The immune system is an extremely complex network of cells and molecules that researchers are still working to understand. Because there is so much about immune function that remains unknown, immune system myths abound and commercial enterprise have exploited them. The following are three common immune system myths. Immune system myth #1: The more active your immune system is, the healthier you will be. More »

Micronutrients have major impact on health

By Beverly MerzExecutive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch To maintain your brain, muscle, bone, nerves, skin, blood circulation, and immune system, your body requires a steady supply of many different raw materials—both macronutrients and micronutrients. You need large amounts of macronutrients—proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. And while you only need a small number of micronutrients—vitamins and minerals—failing to get even those small quantities virtually guarantees disease. Nearly 30 vitamins and minerals that your body cannot manufacture in sufficient amounts on its own are called "essential micronutrients." British sailors learned centuries ago that living for months without fresh fruits or vegetables—the main sources of vitamin C—caused the bleeding gums and listlessness of scurvy, a disease that often proved fatal. Even today in many low-income countries, people frequently suffer from a variety of nutrient-deficiency diseases. More »

Coming to a shelf near you: The new Nutrition Facts labels

The new Nutrition Facts labels on food packages will have a refreshed design to help consumers make healthier food choices. Among the changes are a larger, bold type style for information about calories, servings per container, and serving sizes. Serving sizes will be changed to reflect the amounts of food people actually eat. The labels will remove the “calories from fat” line while continuing to list types of fat. And for the first time, the label will include a line about added sugars, so consumers will know how many grams of sweeteners have been added to foods during processing. (Locked) More »

Salt shakedown: A boon for lowering blood pressure

Health experts say the FDA’s proposed guidelines to scale down sodium levels in processed and restaurant food is a long-awaited step in the right direction. Lowering dietary sodium lowers blood pressure, a key risk factor for heart disease. Current federal guidelines advise getting no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium (one of the main components of salt) per day, but most Americans consume about 3,500 mg a day. About 75% of the sodium people consume comes from processed foods; the biggest sources include breads and rolls, pizza, and cold cuts and cured meats. (Locked) More »