Eating healthy can help you sustain wellness, achieve longevity and prevent chronic diseases that are costly to treat. Despite public health promotion to eat healthy foods, only 23 percent of Americans consume the daily recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, according to the 2010 Annual Status Report of the National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council. Healthy food choices abound in most cities, yet they can be hard to find in restaurants and may be perceived to be costlier than processed foods.
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Pro: Promotes Health
Consuming healthy foods can improve your overall health. Healthy foods are whole, organically grown without pesticides, unprocessed and include fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, grains and olive and vegetable oils. Healthy foods for people who eat animal products include moderate amounts of low-fat dairy and cold water, fatty fish, such as salmon and light tuna and low amounts of lean meat and poultry. These foods may promote health and increase your longevity. Healthy food choices include products that contain calcium for bone growth, antioxidants to slow down the aging process and healthy fats to maintain cellular and cardiovascular health.
Pro: Reduces Risk of Disease
Healthy foods reduce your risk of chronic diseases. Low glycemic foods, such as barley, grapefruits and chickpeas, help you control blood sugar levels and may reduce your risk of diabetes and complications, such as nerve damage. Healthy fats, such as monounsaturated fatty acids from olive oil and omega-3 fatty acids from walnuts and fish, may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.Fruits and vegetables contain an abundance of antioxidants, which may reduce your risk of cancer. Dairy and soy foods contain calcium, which can reduce your risk of osteoporosis.
Con: Not Always Easy to Find
Healthy food choices are not always easy to find, particularly at restaurants. Many fast food restaurants cook with trans fats, industrial processed hydrogenated vegetable oils that can increase your risk of heart disease. Many of the food choices on restaurant menus include foods with high amounts of calories, sodium and saturated fat. To eat healthy, order a salad with dressing on the side.
A common perception among people who do not shop at health food stores is that health foods are more expensive than similar products in mainstream grocery stores. The truth is that many gourmet brands of health foods are costly, yet there are less-expensive health food brands of products. Buying organic produce can be expensive, but can be less costly when grown locally. Eating healthier, sometimes costlier foods, may help you save more tomorrow on not having to pay for health care expenses from treating chronic diseases that may result from eating unhealthy foods. Research at Harvard School of Public Health published in the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition" in 2008 demonstrates that people who are introduced to healthy foods and subsidized 20 percent of the cost increased their consumption of healthy foods after the subsidy was removed.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- Public Health Council: 2010 Annual Status Report
- Harvard School of Public Health: Mediterranean Diet
- Linus Pauling Institute: Glycemic Index
- MayoClinic.com: Dietary Fats
- National Cancer Institute: Antioxidants and Cancer Prevention: Fact Sheet
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Calcium
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Trans Fats 101
- "Journal of the American College of Nutrition"; K.B. Michaels, et al.; Feb. 27, 2008