What to Eat to Be Healthy

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the-eatwell-plate_cAt a time when we seem to be overwhelmed by conflicting diet and health messages, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) have some good news: by making the right food choices, you may reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and cancer.


These diseases take the lives of more Americans than all other illnesses and causes of death combined. Each day, about three out of every four deaths in the United States will occur as a result of cardiovascular disease or heart disease (like heart attacks and strokes) and cancer. This need not be. Although no diet can ensure you won't get a heart attack, stroke or cancer, what you eat can affect your health. This has been shown by research of the National Cancer Institute and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (two of this country's National Institutes of Health), along with the research of other scientists.

How does a person eat for life? It's easier and more enjoyable than you might think. The practical ideas in this booklet show you how to make healthful, tasty, and appetizing food choices at home and when you're eating out. They are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. These seven basic guidelines are:

  • Eat a variety of foods.
  • Maintain desirable weight.
  • Avoid too much fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
  • Eat foods with adequate starch and fiber.
  • Avoid too much sugar.
  • Avoid too much sodium.
  • If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.

The first two guidelines form the framework of a good diet: eat a variety of foods so that you get enough of the essential nutrients you need, and eat only enough calories to maintain desirable weight. The next five guidelines describe special characteristics of a good diet-getting adequate starch and fiber and avoiding too much fat, sugar, sodium, and alcohol. Although the guidelines are designed for healthy adult Americans, these suggestions are considered especially appropriate for people who may already have some of the risk factors for chronic diseases. These risk factors include a family history of obesity, premature heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or high blood cholesterol levels.

Keep in mind that staying healthy requires more than just good nutrition. Regular exercise, getting enough rest, learning to cope with stress, and having regular physical checkups are important ways to help ensure good health. Checkups are especially important for early detection of cancer and heart disease. Another important way to reduce your risks of heart disease and cancer is not to smoke or use tobacco in any form. Controlling high blood pressure (hypertension) can also greatly reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Remember, three of the major risk factors for heart disease are largely under your control. They are smoking, high blood pressure, and high blood cholesterol.


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