National Alliance on Mental Illness
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What Is a Healthy Diet?
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines set by the USDA state that a healthy diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat milk products. A healthy diet should include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts. Be sure to limit saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars. Learn more about the U.S. government's guidelines by reviewing the food pyramid.
A calorie is a unit of energy. Depriving the body of needed energy impairs your mood and your ability to think clearly. People who consistently eat less than their bodies need may begin to experience irritability, lethargy, a lack of concentration and may feel sad and hopeless as a result of a poor diet. In addition, people who consume more calories than they need will always gain weight.
Are you concerned about your weight? If so, it is important to know that your weight is determined by the number of calories you ingest minus the number of calories you burn-period. If you consume 2,500 calories a day but only burn 2,000 through your daily activities and exercise, you will gain weight.
To help figure out how many calories you burn a day, consult with your health care provider, a nutritionist or access one of the many free, online tools such as Nutrition Data's daily needs calculator. Once you have this information, you can use it to help kick-start weight loss, especially if used along with a food journal, which you will read about later.
There are 3,500 calories in one pound of body fat. In order to lose weight, a person must cut calories from his or her daily diet. Cutting 500 calories a day will result in the loss of one pound per week. Never consume less than 1,200 calories a day. Always consult with your doctor before drastically changing your diet.
If you are overweight, you will benefit from even the smallest weight loss. Losing excess body weight can reverse or prevent diabetes, lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels and improve sleep apnea and other sleep problems.
In addition to becoming mindful of the calories you consume, following the U.S. Dietary Guidelines will ensure that you will be consuming the appropriate amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals that help your body work efficiently.
Food products with high levels of nutrients (vitamins and minerals) are not only necessary as part of a healthy diet, they can also help lower the risk of getting diseases such as heart disease or high blood pressure. Focus on including plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole-grain products in your diet.