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

9 things that can affect your vitamin D level

Many factors influence the body's production of vitamin D, including age, weight, and air quality. Figuring out all the factors that can affect a person's vitamin D levels is complicated. You can get the vitamin from food and by taking supplements , but vitamin D is also produced by the body in a complex process that starts when rays in the invisible ultraviolet B (UVB) part of the light spectrum are absorbed by the skin. The liver, and then the kidneys, are involved in the steps that eventually result in a bioavailable form of the vitamin that the body can use. A review paper about the many factors influencing a person's vitamin D levels appeared in 2011 in Acta Dermato-Venerologica, a Swedish medical journal. We don't have room to cover every factor discussed, so we selected nine that are interesting, important, or both: (Locked) More »

Berry good for health

Berries contain antioxidants, vitamins, and a generous amount of fiber, making them an excellent component of a more healthful diet. Evidence for berries having health benefits has come from three sorts of studies. First, a variety of lab and animal experiments have shown that berries or their extracts halt or interfere with disease processes of various kinds. A typical example is a report in 2010 that a blueberry extract protected rat brain cells from the toxic effects of a protein that has been linked to Alzheimer's disease. Second, short-term studies in people have demonstrated positive effects on cholesterol profiles, blood sugar levels, and the like. And third, a handful of epidemiologic studies point to a correlation between high berry consumption and some favorable health outcomes. (Locked) More »

Honey for health?

My teenage daughter wants us to switch from sugar to honey for health reasons. Is honey really any healthier than sugar? (Locked) More »

July 2011 references and further reading

Morbidity and Mortality Chart Book, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 2009. Myers MG, Godwin M, Dawes M, et al. Conventional versus automated measurement of blood pressure in primary care patients with systolic hypertension: randomised parallel design controlled trial. BMJ 2011; 342:d286. van der Wel MC, Buunk IE, van Weel C, Thien TA, Bakx JC. A novel approach to office blood pressure measurement: 30-minute office blood pressure vs daytime ambulatory blood pressure. Annals of Family Medicine 2011; 9:128-35. (Locked) More »

New dietary guidelines offer sketch for healthy eating

The latest edition of the government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans tries to nudge people toward healthier eating habits and patterns. For example, an entire chapter offers advice about foods you should try to reduce in your diet. Another focuses on foods and nutrients that are worth increasing. A six-page table offers practical tips for eating more fruits and vegetables, eating out, cutting back on sodium, and more. More »

Breaking the fast

Breakfast revs up the body after a night's sleep, giving us energy and nutrients to face the day. Studies suggest that eating breakfast regularly is associated with good health — and that the timing of the meal, as well as what's in it, matters. A good breakfast should include some carbohydrates with fiber (whole grains, fruits, or vegetables), some lean protein sources such as eggs or yogurt (Greek yogurt has more protein than regular), and some healthful fats such as those in nuts or salmon. Here are eight breakfast tips: More »

Cut salt - it won't affect your iodine intake

Concern about sodium intake has raised the question of whether cutting back on salt could put people in danger of not getting enough iodine, but this should not be a cause for concern. Between 75% and 90% of sodium in the average American's diet comes from prepared or processed food, and most food companies don't use iodized salt. The so-called hidden salt in processed food is a great place to start trimming sodium from your diet, and cutting back on it will have little effect on your iodine intake. More »