Why eating healthy is important
Obesity is the fastest rising health problem in the country, and Maine is no exception to the trend. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every five Mainers is obese, and more than half of the population is overweight.1
There are a number of factors that contribute to the increasing obesity trends, but one of the most significant is an unbalanced diet. Balancing the amount of calories we consume and the exercise we get can be tricky, but you don’t need to be a professional to make savvy choices.
What foods should I eat less of?
- Salt (sodium) - Eating too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and other health problems. Experts recommend that you reduce your salt intake to no more than 2,300 mg (about a teaspoon) and further reduce intake to 1,500 mg if you are 51 and older, African American, or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.
- Saturated Fats - Too much saturated fat can raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and put you at a much greater risk of heart disease. Less than 10% of the calories you consume should come from saturated fats. To cut down, consider eating fish instead of meat and choose lower fat dairy products.
- Cholesterol - High cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease and heart attack. You should consume no more than 300 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol a day — less than 200 mg if you have heart disease. The most concentrated sources of cholesterol include organ meats, egg yolks, and whole milk products. As with saturated fats, you can cut down on cholesterol consumption by using lean cuts of meat, egg substitutes, and low fat dairy products.
- Trans Fats (partially hydrogenated oils) - Like saturated fats and cholesterol, trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. They are also associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Trans fats are found in many foods, but they are especially common in fried foods, baked goods, crackers, and margarines. You should avoid foods that contain trans fats altogether.
What foods should I eat more of?
- Fruits and Vegetables - Fruits and vegetables have a number of health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, decreasing risk of eye and digestive problems, and reducing risk of heart disease, stroke, and probably some cancers. Most people should eat at least nine servings (4 1/2 cups) of fruits and vegetables a day. To maximize the variety of nutrients you receive eat a variety of kinds and colors, especially dark green, red, and orange vegetables, beans, and peas.
- Whole Grains - At least half of all the grains you eat should be whole grains. Whole grains offer vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other important nutrients that processed grains frequently lack.
- Seafood - Seafood is a great substitute for meat and poultry that is low in cholesterol, saturated fat, and sodium. It is also a great source of omega 3s, phosphorus, iron, zinc, potassium, and vitamins A, B6, and B12. Although some seafood like white (albacore) tuna, tile fish, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel should be eaten in moderation due to their high mercury content, others can be eaten on a regular basis.