The key to a healthy nutritional diet is that it be balanced. Dietary recommendations by such diverse experts as the American Heart Association, the Senate Select Committee on Human Nutrition and Needs, and the National Academy of Sciences have all suggested the following as a means to have a balanced nutritional meal:

1. Eat a variety of foods

2. Reduce intake of animal fat

3. Reduce intake of sodium

4. Increase intake of complex carbohydrates and fiber

Why a variety of foods? The human body needs 40 different nutrients continually in order to function properly. If the diet is not balanced it will not have all the necessary nutrients needed.

What's the big deal about too much animal fat? After all, doesn't the body need lubrication to keep from being constipated? No one is suggesting that a diet should have no fat. Most experts say that no more than 30% of the diet should be made up of fat and others say no more than 20%. Whichever percentage we choose isn't as important as the fact that too much fat in a diet is the greatest cause for heart disease. High fat foods such as butter, meat, whole milk and eggs should be regulated. Vegetable fat, on the other hand lowers blood cholesterol and can have a positive effect.

What about sodium (salt)? Too much intake of salt in a person's diet generally has the adverse affect of causing hypertension and hastening the onslaught of heart disease. Again, balance and prudence is the key. The taste of food can be enhanced without the use of too much salt by combining spices and seasonings in the preparation and serving of the food.

How does one increase the use of complex carbohydrates and fiber? First of all, complex carbohydrates are made up of the grain, fruit and vegetable families of food. Most all these complex carbohydrate foods are also high in fiber. The fiber in food is a non-nutrient cellulose that has a beneficial effect on our intestines and colon as it passes through our digestive system. Some people who are not physically well due to diet are not eating foods that are high in fiber.

The simple carbohydrate foods such as sugar made from sugar cane or sugar beets are not nutritious, but sure taste good. If you look on a box or can of food or drink from the supermarket and see the words "sugar", "sucrose", "corn syrup", "fructose", or "fruit syrup" listed as the first or second ingredient, it means that that can or box of food contains mostly simple carbohydrate food and is therefore not really very nutritious.

The type of foods we should be eating are called high nutrient density foods. These are foods that are rich in nutrients and low in calories. Just because a food is labeled as low in caloric content does not mean it is nutritious. Take soft drinks sweetened with Nutrisweet for instance. They have only one calorie, but have nothing nutritious. Most fast foods, boxed cereals and snack foods are very high in calories, fat and sugar (simple carbohydrate) and very low in nutrient density and fiber.

High nutrient density foods that are also high in fiber include fresh unsweetened fruits, vegetables and cereals. These are full of all the vitamins and minerals our body needs. These foods are naturally low in fat.

The macronutrients of carbohydrates and fat have already been covered, but what about the other two, protein and water? Water is a nutrient, and a very important one that is often overlooked. Water has two vital functions in our body. The first is that it acts like a radiator on an automobile. It keeps the body cool as the major ingredient in our body's air-conditioning system. The second function of water in our body is cleaning our insides. Water flushes out the poisons our body produces. The better the water we drink, the better the cleansing action. Eight glasses of water a day is generally the recommended amount.

Protein is the final macronutrient. Protein provides the eight essential amino acids we need to function well. These amino acids come from food like muscle, eggs, organ meats, milk, cheese and soy beans.

It is not necessary to get our protein from animal meats or their by-products. The same eight essential amino acids can also come from combining different plant foods such as grains and legumes. Tortillas and beans, for example, contain all the essential amino acids and protein that our body needs. In fact, legumes are considered the single most nutritious food man can eat.

The foods that would be the best high nutrient density, high fiber, low fat, low salt foods to eat would be the following: greens, grains, legumes, tuna, salmon and fresh fruit. The sooner after harvesting these foods a person eats them, the more nutritious they will be.


Healthy People 2000

Healthy People 2000 is a national initiative to improve the health of all Americans through prevention. It is driven by 300specific national health promotion and disease prevention objectives targeted for achievement by the year 2000. The overall goals of this national initiative are to increase the span of healthy life, reduce health disparities among Americans and achieve access to preventive services.

Nutrition is one of 22 priority areas in Healthy People 2000's national health promotion and disease prevention objectives.

Year 2000 objectives related to the nutritional status of Americans are:

International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC)