What You Eat - The #1 Factor Affecting Your Health

That's a bold headline and a bold statement, but according to new research from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, poor diet is the number one risk factor for loss of health. Flip that statement around, though, and that means eating a healthful diet could be your best opportunity for health gains. That's an impressive thought.

What does the best diet look like? According to the report referred to above, it's looking pretty tasty:

FOODHOW MUCH AND HOW OFTEN1 SERVING =
FRUITS3 or more servings per dayapprox. 2/3 cup of fruit pieces or 1 medium-sized piece of fruit
VEGETABLES4 or more servings per day1/2 cup of cooked, 1 cup raw or 1 medium-sized vegetable
WHOLE GRAINS
(brown rice, whole wheat, farro, quinoa, freekeh, barley, etc.)
2.5 servings per day (cereal, bread, crackers, tortillas, pasta, etc.)1/2 cup of cooked grains or pasta, 2/3 to 1 cup of cereal or 1 slice of bread
NUTS AND SEEDS4 or more servings per week1 oz.
CALCIUM-RICH FOODS
(dairy foods, dark green vegetables, calcium-fortified foods, soybeans)
3-5 servings per day1 cup milk, 1 cup yogurt, 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables or 1 cup raw greens
OMEGA-3-RICH FOODS
(Best: salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel, anchovies, sardines.
Alternatives: quality fish oil supplements, walnuts, canola oil,
chia or flax seeds, kidney and pinto beans and dark green
leafy vegetables)
1 or more servings per day3 oz. cooked fish
BEANS4 or more servings per week1/2 cup cooked beans

This isn't a "that's it" proposition, but the goal is to have your meals match up with these recommendations. If they do, you're gaining ground for your health.

According to the report, these foods should be chosen more prudently:

  • Processed meats
  • Red meat
  • Sugar-sweetened drinks
  • Foods high in sodium
  • Foods containing trans fats (no amount of trans fat is considered okay)

TAKE-AWAY MESSAGE: 80 percent of the time, put good foods for good health on your fork; 20 percent of the time, it's A-OK to indulge.

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