Nutrition Made Simple: Ten Foods for Better Health

Diego Ponieman, M.D., M.P.H.

By: Diego Ponieman, M.D., M.P.H.

A new study by researchers and dietitians at Tufts University found that over- or under-eating just 10 foods and nutrients is directly tied to some 700,000 deaths related to heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

As a Primary Care Physician in communities where heart disease, obesity, and diabetes are skyrocketing, this study quantifies the impact of unhealthy eating habits that I observe every day. The great news from this study is that taking control of your diet and your health may be as simple as focusing on just 10 foods and nutrients. The simplicity makes it so much easier for busy people to remember.

 

 

So, what are the “good” foods and nutrients we should eat more of?

  • Fruits: 3 average-sized fruits daily
  • Vegetables: 2 cups cooked or 4 cups raw vegetables daily
  • Nuts/seeds: 5 1-ounce servings per week — about 20 nuts per serving
  • Whole grains: 2 ½ daily servings
  • Polyunsaturated fats, found in many vegetable oils: 11 percent of daily calories
  • Seafood: about 8 ounces per week

And, what are the “bad” foods that we’re eating too much? No surprises:

  • Salt and salty foods
  • Processed meats like bacon, bologna, and hot dogs
  • Red meat, including steaks and hamburgers
  • Sugary drinks

One of the study’s most disturbing conclusions is the problem of extreme amounts of added salt in our diets. It is encouraging that the Food and Drug Administration recently reduced sodium guidelines for makers of processed foods. Some U.S. cities also have imposed taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages that are a huge source of empty calories.

I counsel my patients on the importance of eating well and encourage them to review the Choose My Plate website from the United States Department of Agriculture – available in both English and Spanish – to find more ways to make the changes within their diets and live a healthier, happier life.

At Advocate Community Providers, where I serve as Chief Medical Officer, we have chosen the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) nutrition plan for our patients. DASH, which addresses the 10 foods and nutrients identified in the Tufts study, is simple and easily adapted to the dietary and cultural preferences of our Chinese and Latino communities.

March is National Nutrition Month, an annual campaign run by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to educate and encourage informed food choices, eating habits, and regular physical activity. Picking up on this year’s theme of “Put Your Best Fork Forward,” let’s remember that every bite counts. Making small shifts in our daily food choices add up over time.