The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourages adopting a healthy eating pattern that includes nutrient-rich foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products and lean protein sources such as meats, seafood, eggs, beans and nuts. Although we often hear that eating healthy foods is important, many of us still fall short on meeting recommended servings from key food groups such as fruits, vegetables and dairy foods. So why exactly is it so important to eat a healthy diet? There are many benefits to adopting a healthy diet and being reminded of a few of them may help provide just the motivation you need to make better food choices next time you are grocery shopping or preparing a meal for your family. Here is a list of just a few:
1) Reduce your risk for chronic diseases- Research indicates that consuming a diet rich in nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains may reduce our risk for chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, some cancers and type 2 diabetes.
2) Boost your immune system- Eating plenty of healthy foods from each of the 5 food groups helps to ensure that your immune system is equipped to fight off any bugs that come your way. Some of the nutrients that may help to boost your immune system include vitamins A, C, D, and E, zinc, iron and protein.
3) Maintain strong bones and muscles- Foods rich in calcium and vitamin D such as low-fat or fat-free dairy foods help to keep our bones healthy and strong, and prevent bone loss and fractures. In addition, eating a diet rich in lean protein sources such as meat, poultry, seafood and beans can help us build and maintain muscle mass.
4) Maintain a healthy weight- Many nutrient-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables, are also naturally low in calories and fat and provide a great source of fiber so they help to fill you up but not out.
5) Boost energy- In addition to getting enough sleep and staying well hydrated, eating well-balanced meals and limiting your intake of empty calorie foods like soda and sweets, helps to ensure that you have plenty of energy to perform at your best throughout the day.
6) They taste great- From fresh tomatoes in the summer, to juicy apples in the fall, each food group has many foods to choose from that are not only packed with nutrients but taste delicious too.
7) Maintain a healthy smile- In addition to brushing and flossing, choosing healthy foods can help to promote dental health and reduce your risk for developing tooth decay.
For a delicious recipe that will help you get an extra serving of nutrient-rich vegetables, try making Roasted Asparagus with Chive Yogurt Ranch Dressing.