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

Beer belly

I am a healthy, active 39-year-old. I enjoy a beer with dinner, and a six-pack most weekends. Over the past year or two, I've had to let my belt out, and now I'm letting out my pants. So here's my question: is beer really responsible for my "beer belly"? More »

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines

The government has released the latest version of its dietary guidelines, but some health care professionals are disappointed, because they feel that the recommendations regarding sugar-sweetened drinks and salt consumption are not strong enough. The scientific advisory committee wanted the guidelines to say that people should avoid sugar-sweetened beverages — a simple, clear don't-go-there message. Instead, there's a much milder admonition to reduce intake, either by drinking fewer of them or smaller servings. Eric Rimm, an associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, was a member of the scientific advisory committee for the 2010 guidelines. Rimm and his fellow scientists recommended lowering the sodium goal to 1,500 mg a day, although gradually, to give salt-crazed American palates time to adjust. But the writers of the 2010 guidelines stuck with 2,300 mg for the general population, noting that only 15% of Americans currently manage to keep their intake that low. More »

Meat or beans: What will you have? Part ll: Beans

Red meat is a justifiable source of protein and iron, but research has established a connection between higher meat consumption and higher rates of several cancers, and a higher mortality rate in general. For those looking to cut back on the amount of meat they eat for health reasons, legumes such as black beans, chickpeas, and lentils are an excellent source of protein and fiber. (Locked) More »

Obesity: Unhealthy and unmanly

Excess body fat raises levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol and triglycerides while also lowering HDL ("good") cholesterol levels. Obesity impairs the body's responsiveness to insulin, raising blood sugar and insulin levels. Obesity increases the risk of male maladies, ranging from erectile dysfunction to BPH and prostate cancer. It also increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, gallstones, cancer, osteoarthritis, obstructive sleep apnea, fatty liver, and depression. Obesity and lack of exercise are responsible for about 1,000 American deaths each day, and if present trends continue, they will soon overtake smoking as the leading preventable causes of death in the U.S. More »

Ask the doctor: Could a sudden gain in weight be caused by hot weather?

At 80 years old, I am in relatively good health, aside from a recent diagnosis of high blood pressure. Taking a beta blocker and watching my salt has brought my blood pressure down into the normal range. During a period of extreme heat this summer, my ankles were more swollen than usual, and my weight jumped three pounds in just two days. Was that because of the heat, or did salt have something to do with it? (Locked) More »

Let's go nuts

Nuts contain healthy unsaturated fats, protein, and important nutrients like potassium, and there is ample evidence that eating nuts regularly helps protect against heart disease. Numerous studies have shown that if you put people on nut-filled diets, favorable effects on cholesterol levels, blood pressure readings, and inflammatory factors follow. And in large epidemiologic studies, high nut consumption has been associated with lower rates of heart disease. An analysis of data from the Harvard-based Nurses' Health Study showed that having one serving of nuts a day is associated with a 30% lower risk of heart disease compared with having one serving of red meat a day. (Locked) More »