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Nutrition prescription a tasty way to feel well

March 12, 2003|by LYNN F. LITTLE

For many, the dawning of each new year commonly brings grandiose resolutions that too often are fleeting.

March is Nutrition Month, a good time to re-evaluate and put into place some of those health and nutrition resolutions. It's never too late to get started on improving your health and well-being.

To help you with those resolutions, here are several suggestions that can easily be incorporated into your dietary plan and that are sure to get you started on the road to good health.

n Get your five-a-day. Fruits and vegetables have long been known to provide vitamins, minerals and fiber essential for the normal, everyday functioning of the human body - and they may help lower the risk for some cancers, heart disease and other chronic health problems. In recent years, it also has been discovered that fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals. While the exact role phytochemicals play in the body is still under investigation, they are thought to aid in the prevention of cancer and heart disease.

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n Enjoy a little whole-grain goodness. Whole-grain foods (brown rice, bulgar, oatmeal, barley and whole wheat) pack an extra nutritional punch because they are good sources of several vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and dietary fiber, all of which are essential for good health and may help reduce the risk for heart disease and some cancers.

n Catch the catch of the day. Diets high in fish, especially cold-water fish like salmon, herring, mackerel and whitefish, have been linked to a reduced risk for heart disease, stroke and some cancers. People who eat large amounts of fish tend to have lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels - the high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are believed to be the reason. Omega-3 fatty acids also are being investigated for a possible role in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's disease and depression.

n Get a little nutty. Nuts are packed with several important vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and zinc. Nuts are especially rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are considered healthier for your body than the saturated fat commonly found in cookies and chips. In addition, a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that women who reported eating the equivalent of a handful of nuts or one tablespoon of peanut butter at least five times a week were 20 percent less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. To avoid extra calories, the authors recommended that nuts be consumed in place of some refined grain products or processed meats.

n Bone up on calcium-rich foods. No bones about it, your body needs calcium, and a fair amount of it. Unfortunately, less than half of Americans meet the current recommendations for calcium intake. Calcium has long been known to help prevent osteoporosis, a bone-crippling disease, and new research indicates that it may help reduce the risk for colon cancer and high blood pressure.

Most doctors and nutritionists recommend that people look first to food for their calcium because food sources of calcium tend to supply other nutrients, such as phosphorus, vitamin D and lactose, which help the body absorb and use calcium. Milk, yogurt and cheese products are the most concentrated sources of calcium. Other sources include dry beans, dark green, leafy vegetables, canned fish with tiny bones, tofu made with calcium sulfate and calcium-fortified orange juice.

n Get moving. Good nutrition and regular physical activity go hand in hand. Research studies have repeatedly demonstrated that regular physical activity helps prevent heart disease, helps control cholesterol levels and diabetes, slows bone loss associated with advancing age, lowers the risk of certain cancers and helps reduce anxiety and depression. Begin by incorporating just one of these suggestions into your dietary plan to help you get started on the road to good health. It's never too late to put in place a resolution to improve your well-being.




Lynn F. Little is extension educator with Family & Consumer Sciences of the Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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