Using Nutrition to Build Health

"Vegetarian Mock Meat" By Mk2010 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia CommonsOur health depends in large part on what we do and do not eat. A nurturing diet of whole foods is delicious, energizing, and aesthetically pleasing; a balanced meal says “yes” to our bodies, ourselves, and our future.

Keep foods as natural as possible. Choose foods that are less refined, less processed, and lightly cooked. Fresh food is best. If fresh isn’t available, frozen is better than canned. When using prepared foods, read labels: many processed foods are loaded with harmful ingredients.

This is the only body you have. If the ingredients look like something you should put in your car or use in chemistry lab, they probably aren’t going to help you build good health.

1. Eat at least three meals a day, each containing unrefined complex carbohydrates, protein, and fruits or vegetables.

    • Unrefined complex carbohydrates: whole grains, crackers, cereals (hot or cold), cooked whole grains, sweet potatoes, winter squash, dried beans or peas, and starchy vegetables, such as corn or peas.
    • Protein: dried beans or peas (combine with grains), soy products such as tofu or tempeh, seeds (sunflower, sesame, pumpkin), low fat dairy products, lean meat, poultry, and fish.
    • Vegetables and fruits: aim for 5-10 servings a day.
          • Vegetables: At least three servings a day (a serving is about 1/2 cup) including one raw salad containing dark leafy greens (spinach, leaf or Romaine lettuces) and one serving of cooked vegetables high in beta-carotene (dark green or orange in color). Dark green cabbage family vegetables (broccoli, kale, collars, etc.) are also high in calcium, iron, and other beneficial nutrients. If you can’t get a salad, eat raw vegetable sticks such as carrots and peppers.
          • Fruits: Eat fresh fruit for desserts and snacks.

2. Use healthy snack foods, such as whole grain crackers or pretzels, popcorn (without commercial seasoning), raw vegetable sticks, fresh fruit, or unsalted nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. Experiment with high protein between-meal snacks such as cottage cheese with fruit.

3. Eat foods high in calcium such as dairy products, dark leafy greens (especially those in the cabbage family), tofu, and tahini (sesame butter). We need 1000-1200 mg of calcium a day, three or four servings of high calcium foods. If you aren’t getting enough calcium, consider a supplement of two parts calcium citrate to one part magnesium. Supplement about 600 mg of calcium at most while still eating two servings of high calcium food a day.

4. Use mono-saturated oils in your diet (olive or canola). Make sure your diet contains omega-3 fatty acids (see Dietary Oils and Fats). Avoid hydrogenated, deep fried, and tropical oils. Hydrogenated oils in margarine elevate cholesterol levels as much as saturated fat. Deep fried oils are carcinogenic.

5. Avoid excessive use of high fat dairy products and red meats. High consumption of saturated fats is linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, and some types of cancer.

6. Drink at least six cups of fluids a day, and more in hot weather or when working out. Water is the best.

7. Limit refined carbohydrates, such as sugar, honey, maple syrup, and corn sweeteners. These sugars provide excess calories and blood sugar stress with few nutrients. Limit desserts to one small serving a day. Soft drinks contain about one teaspoon of sugar per ounce, so consider them a dessert. Many fruit and juice drinks are loaded with corn sweeteners. Read labels.

8. Avoid excessive use of stimulants, such as coffee, black teas, chocolate, and soda with caffeine. These pick up energy quickly, but you pay with a crash. Try water, fruit juices diluted with carbonated or plain water, and herbal teas.

9. Avoid chemical additives such as food colorings, preservatives, and artificial sweeteners. Again, look at labels.

10. Avoid excess salt and high salt snack foods.

Make meals enjoyable. Take the time to prepare food that appeals to you and supports your body and then take the time to enjoy it in a positive atmosphere. Nurture yourself!