Despite the confusion that massive marketing campaigns may have created, healthful eating is not complicated and is possible for everyone to follow. Whether your goal is to gain muscle, lose weight or simply maintain your current weight, following a healthful diet is paramount to your success. You should be familiar with the fundamentals of healthy eating if you are serious about your health and fitness.
Eat Good Carbohydrates
Good carbohydrates, or low-glycemic index carbohydrates, do not dramatically raise your blood sugar levels and promote fat storage like high-glycemic index carbohydrates. Good carbohydrates include whole grains, whole-wheat foods, oatmeal, fruits, vegetables and beans. At the same time, avoid simple sugars and refined carbohydrates.
Eat Lean Protein
Get your protein from lean sources, such as chicken, turkey, egg whites, nuts and fish, instead of protein sources that are high in saturated fat. Fatty red meat is the primary protein source that is high in saturated fat. Harvard School of Public Health notes that people that eat 18 ounces or more a week of red meat have a higher risk of colon cancer.
Eat Fiber-Rich Foods
Most Americans do not eat enough fiber, generally because most people do not eat enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Adults should consume between 20 and 30 grams of fiber a day. Besides vegetables and whole grains, beans and oatmeal are excellent sources of fiber.
Avoid Trans Fat
Try to limit trans fats or avoid them altogether. Trans fats lower your high-density lipoprotein, or "good," cholesterol and raise your low-density lipoprotein, or "bad," cholesterol. There is no safe or acceptable level of trans fat intake. Fast food, commercial baked good, desserts and any foods that include the ingredient "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil," all have trans fats.
Eat Fruits and Vegetables
You should eat 4.5 cups, or nine servings, of fruits and vegetables a day. Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients and antioxidants. They are healthy, low-calorie snacking foods to replace high-fat snacks, such as candy, ice cream, pizza slices or potato chips.
Often forgotten in healthy eating guidelines is that water is important for you, regardless of your health and fitness goals. The average person requires six to eight 8-ounces glasses of water a day. You likely cannot drink too much water; your kidneys are capable of handling up to 60 glasses of water a day.
Don't Drink Sugary Drinks
Make an effort to avoid high-sugar drinks such as soda, sports drinks and fruit drinks that have added sugar. These beverages are usually empty calories that simply increase your blood sugar.
Avoid Dietary Supplements
Despite the popularity of dietary supplements, you probably do not need them. Unless you have a dietary deficiency, exceeding your nutritional requirements will not make you healthier or help you reach your fitness goals faster. Talk to your doctor before you take any dietary supplements.