What we eat and how it is prepared is perhaps the most important component to our health and well-being. As research accumulates showing that food is able to prevent and even treat disease, health care professionals agree the sugar, salt, processed foods, and fat we consume all greatly contribute to our nation’s high rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. These interlocking conditions are primarily caused by high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, low consumption of fruits and vegetables and too much animal proteins, as well as tobacco use. Changing our nutritional habits is necessary in order to help us achieve optimal health.
With our “on the go” lifestyles, easy to prepare packaged foods are tempting but usually come with high salt and sugar content and fast food restaurants are fast but come loaded with salt, sugar, and fats. These should be avoided or limited. Instead make healthier food choices to help your body get the nutrients it needs. Try the following tips:
Eat two cups of fresh fruits and 2½ to 3 cups of vegetables every day.
Limit saturated and trans fats by using olive oil or other vegetable oils instead of butter or margarine. Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats. Also, remember to limit the total fat intake to less than 30 percent of your daily calories.
Eat more fish or chicken and less red meat. Avoid processed meats, they are loaded with preservatives, sodium, and sugars.
Eat 6 to 8 ounces of grains, of which at least half should be from whole-grain bread and cereal.
Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars. For a 2000 calorie per day diet in active individuals, less than 10 percent of daily calorie intake is equal to 200 calories a day or 50 grams of sugar in one day. If you keep a food diary, you can see that this adds up fast as sugar is often substituted for fat to add flavor.
Limit your salt and sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day.
Get the equivalent of 3 cups of low-fat milk or dairy products (or soy, rice, or almond milk for people who can’t tolerate lactose) every day.
These are just the “tip” of the iceberg. There are a host of enormously nutritious vegetables and healthy herbs that could be grown in your own organic container garden at home. And it’s not as difficult as you may imagine. With the right seeds, watering, sunlight, and soil you can provide your family with a variety of healthy produce. This year, Raritan Bay’s Learning Garden, providing hands-on education for children and adults about gardening, healthy nutrition and food preparation, is entering its fourth season. Initial planting sessions will begin mid- to late-May and education sessions will be held throughout the summer.
We are currently recruiting volunteers to help maintain the gardens at Raritan Bay-Perth Amboy and Raritan Bay-Old Bridge while learning about growing produce and nutrition. We welcome anyone who is interested in learning and improving their health! For more information, schedule of educational events, or to register as a volunteer, call 732-324-5257.
Internist Nina Regevik, M.D., FACP, ABIHM, is co-director of Hackensack Meridian Health’s Integrative Health & Medicine at Raritan Bay Medical Center. Since 2004, Raritan Bay’s qualified and credentialed practitioners have provided integrative therapies to enhance patients’ health and well-being with complementary medicine supporting the mind-body-spirit connection. Dr. Regevik is providing a free seminar “Food as Medicine,” Thursday, April 19, 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Raritan Bay-Perth Amboy in Centennial Hall B. To register, call 1-800-560-9990.
With locations in Perth Amboy and Old Bridge, New Jersey, Raritan Bay Medical Center delivers critical world-class healthcare services care to Monmouth and Middlesex County residents. As providers of first-class healthcare in the areas of stroke, cardiology, cancer, physical rehabilitation, pulmonary rehabilitation, pediatric medicine, Raritan Bay Medical Center continues to stay on the forefront of medicine.
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