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     Volume 4 Issue 74 | December 9, 2005 |

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6 Diet Changes You Need to Make Today

Getting regular physical activity and keeping an eye on the total number of calories you consume are the cornerstones to any weight-loss and weight-management programme. And it's more important now than ever before to understand why these cornerstones form the foundation for good health. Obesity rates have risen dramatically in some countries. Obesity is considered a major health threat because it is a risk factor for several major chronic diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and some forms of cancer.

Eat foods from a variety of healthful sources. These sources should provide the nutrients -- vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, as well as fibre and other components -- that your body needs to function well and fight disease. Start reaching for these types of "functional" foods and beverages rather than food and beverage choices offering only "empty" calories that make you feel full with little benefit to your overall health.

The food amounts listed below are based on a diet of 2,000 calories per day. If your calorie needs are different (and the average woman consumes about 1,800 calories a day) adjust your portions accordingly.

Fruits and Vegetables
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. "Plenty" means five to nine servings a day. Sound like a lot? Well, it's a challenge. But you might be relieved to hear that you have the whole week to build in the variety of servings. Remember: Not all fruits and vegetables are created equal, so variety in your diet is key. Choose from all the five vegetable subgroups below:
Dark green
Starchy vegetables

Most fruits and vegetables are important sources of dietary fibre. Dietary fibre -- usually referred to as just "fibre" -- is important for digestive health. Fruits (especially apples, oranges, and bananas), vegetables (broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, and corn) and peas, beans, and lentils are great sources of fibre. (Whole grain food choices, such as bran cereals, among others, are rich in fibre, too; see below.)

Grains and Carbohydrates
Consume at least three servings of whole grain foods every day (that is, at least half of your total grain intake). While it's acceptable that some of your sources of grain come from refined and "enriched" foods -- cereals and breads, for example, that have been enriched with the vitamins and minerals normally found in whole grain sources -- the more whole grains you can add to your diet directly from the source, the better for your health.

Don't forget those fruits and vegetables -- they are a great source of fibre. And remember to buy or prepare food with as little sugar or sweeteners as possible.

Milk and Milk Products
Include 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk per day, or the equivalent amount of other dairy products (low-fat or fat-free yogurt, for example). In general, children ages 2 through 8 should have 2 cups, and ages 9 and up should have 3 cups -- but check with your paediatrician for more specific recommendations. The amount may need to be modified for your child based on his or her weight and age.

Your fat intake should be no more than 30 to 35 percent of your total calories per day. Most of the fat in your diet should come from monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fatty acids. These are the healthier fats found in fish, nuts, and vegetable oils. Unhealthy fats come in the form of trans-fatty acids and saturated fat. Try to limit your intake of these types of fat.

No more than 10 percent of your total calories should be from saturated fat. And try not to consume more than 300mg per day of cholesterol. Foods high in saturated fat (red meat, animal fat, whole dairy products, and coconut oil) dump a lot of cholesterol into your bloodstream. To stay within this guideline, choose cuts of meat and poultry that have been trimmed of fat (and skin), and opt for low-fat or fat-free milk or milk products.

Sodium and Potassium
Limiting salt (sodium) intake to no more than 1 teaspoon (2,300 mg) of salt per day from all sources combined -- the sodium in your food and what you add to it -- is recommended. To be sure you get it under the wire, choose and prepare foods with little or no sodium. If you have high blood pressure or are at risk for high blood pressure, limit your salt intake to 1,500mg daily and increase your potassium to 4,700mg per day (preferably from food sources).

Healthy Weight and Physical Activity
A whopping 90 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise daily is optimal for individuals who are trying to lose weight or maintain weight loss. For individuals who are trying only to maintain their weight and don't need to lose weight, 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity activity is recommended on most days of the week. Knowing how much physical activity to set as your personal goals for can be confusing.

No doubt about it, though: Getting and staying physically active is important because it can help prevent unwanted weight gain and improve overall health by helping reduce your risk for chronic diseases. So make getting physically active a goal -- even if you start with small amounts.

A complete physical fitness routine should include cardiovascular conditioning, stretching exercises for flexibility, and resistance exercises or calisthenics for muscle strength and endurance. Ask your healthcare provider for guidance before you start exercising and for help understanding how to improve and maintain good eating habits. A registered dietician also is a good source for information about nutrition, diet, and exercise.

Read the Label
Learning how to read the label on foods and beverages can help you be sure you're making nutritious and healthful choices.

Source: MSN.com

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