Good nutrition is the foundation for a healthy lifestyle. It is essential to maintaining optimal physical and mental performance, to defending against infectious and chronic diseases, and to living a long and healthy life.
Good nutrition can help protect against chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. It can also reduce the risk of cancer, stroke, and heart attack. Additionally, it can help make you leaner and stronger, making you look younger become a nutritionist.
Unfortunately, we as a culture are not generally well informed with regard to proper diet. Worse yet, many popular nutritional systems and “fad diets” counter good nutritional practices.
The 4 Guiding Principles of Nutrition
Good nutrition can be simple: learn the basic principles and practice them consistently. Just like anything in life, optimizing nutrition requires knowledge and discipline. Below are guiding principles of nutrition that can be applied across a wide variety of individual needs and preferences.
1. Consume a well-balanced diet consisting of recommended amounts of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fats) – The typical American diet consists of excess sugar and unhealthy fats. The well balanced diet consists of a more sensible combination of necessary macronutrients (15-25% proteins, 50-65% carbohydrates, and 20-25% fats). Each macronutrient serves essential roles within the body, so a well balanced diet must include all three (protein, carbohydrates, and fats).
2. Choose “healthy” proteins, fats, and carbohydrates – Within each macronutrient class, there are healthy options and unhealthy options.
- Proteins – Healthy proteins include lean meats (particularly organic, grass-fed meats), eggs, and dairy (all in moderation) as well as whole-grains, beans, nuts/seeds, vegetables, and soy products.
- Carbohydrates – A vast majority of carbohydrate consumption should come in the form of complex carbohydrates (whole-grains, vegetables). Avoid simple carbohydrate sources (sugars) with the only exception being fresh fruits.
- Fats – Healthier fats include monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats (fats from plant sources). Limit saturated fat consumption (fats from animal sources) and completely avoid trans fat consumption.
3. Optimize your nutritional intake by choose whole-food options over processed alternatives – Processed foods are certainly more convenient in a fast-paced society. However, refined foods are stripped of essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals. Food manufacturers fortify processed foods with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, but these added nutrients do not have the same health-preserving effects as whole-foods. Whole-foods also possess more of these essential nutrients, and the nutrients are more easily utilized within the body.
4. Start the day with a healthy breakfast and continue to eat regularly in moderation – Eat a basic breakfast consisting of complex carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats. Continue to feed yourself every 3 to 4 hours with moderately sized meals consisting of complex carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats.