Better Nutrition for Better Health

Did you make a New Years resolution this year? If you are like most people, there is a very good chance that your top focus this year revolves around improving your health. "Lose weight" ranked #1 on the top 10 list of New Years resolutions for 2014, according to Also appearing in the top 10 spots were health-related resolutions "Staying fit and healthy" (#5), and "Quit Smoking" (#7). The percentage of Americans who make New Years resolutions is 45%, but only 8% of us actually are successful in achieving these goals. Here are some tips to make it easier to reach your goal for better health in 2014. 

Eat the Rainbow

The easiest way to improve your health this coming year is to eat more fruits and vegetables. Try to add one additional fruit and one additional vegetable to each of your meals. Bonus points if you replace a processed carbohydrate with those fruits and veggies! Alternatively, try juicing your own fruit and vegetable juices at home, and replacing a meal each day with a glass of fresh fruit and vegetable juice. Look for a variety of colors in your fruits and vegetables- leafy greens, bright red bell peppers, orange carrots, yellow squash, purple blueberries, red cherries... the more variety of colors the better. 

Plant foods, like fruits and vegetables, contain beneficial phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are chemicals that help protet plants from fungus, germs, bugs, and other threats. Phytonutrients like carotenoids, which provide the yellow, orange, and red pigments in fruits and vegetables, act as powerful antioxidants in our bodies. Carotenoids like beta-carotene are converted to vitamin A in our bodies, supporting immune health and protecting our eyes. 

Adding more fruits and vegetables to our diet, in a wide range of colors and flavors, is a great way to ensure we are getting plenty of beneficial vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients to support our health. If you are trying to shed pounds, rest assured that a cup of broccoli has far less calories than an equal size serving of pasta or steak. By filling your plate with fruits and vegetables, you are inviting unwanted pounds to melt away. 

Eat less Manufactured and Processed Foods, and More Real Food

Our ancestors didn't have a pantry full of boxed and bagged foods to choose from when they were hungry. Our grandparents and great-grandparents weren't able to stop by a drive through and get a sack of prepared food to eat on their way home from work. Generation after generation, we survived and thrived by eating real, whole foods. Now, we live in a society where quicker, faster, and more convenient is desired. These convenience foods, while saving us time, are certainly not benefitting our health.

One ingredient lurking in fast food meals, restaurant meals, and pre-packaged offerings at the grocery store? MSG. "If you look at almost all processed foods, the vast majority of them have one or more forms of this high glutamate content in it," says Dr. Russell Blaybock, author of Excitotoxins. Blaybock and many scientists around the world have repeatedly warned us that MSG can cause a range of problems in animals, including obesity. 

Eat foods that are as close to their natural state as possible, and choose those that have been organically grown and raised. Think about the foods that your ancestors and great grandparents ate, and choose those over new, high-tech, scientifically engineered foods that line the shelves of your stores (and that can stay in your cupboard for years without ever going bad). 

Real food can be fast and convenient, if you put a small amount of effort into it. Juicing fresh fruits and vegetables gives you a nutrient-dense drink that you can grab and go on your way out of the door. Dehydrating fruits and vegetables can preserve them for years of healthy snacking to come. And fermenting your own vegetables allows you to enjoy a bounty of beneficial foods long after the summer growing season has passed, while providing you with a probiotic rich and gut-healthy snack. 

Drink More Water

You know the reasons to drink water, nature's most perfect beverage. Your body is 50-65% water, water is needed to keep your vital organs functioning, and water can boost your metabolism and help give you more energy. (Read more about water's amazing abilities to boost your metabolism!) Medical experts agree that you could probably survive up to 8 weeks without food, but only about 3 -5 days without water. Water is vital to your health and wellbeing. 

If you regularly consume beverages other than water throughout the day, you could be substituting the most beneficial drink available for one that could be damaging to your health. Commercial fruit juices purchased from your local market are most likely pastuerized and highly processed, removing most of the beneficial nutrients and leaving behind a drink that is simply sugar water. Research has linked energy drinks to altered heart function. Coffee can cause a cycle of exhaustion, over stimulation, and even mild addiction in some people. Sodas, particuarly diet sodas, contain sugar substitutes and artificial sweeteners linked to kidney problems, obesity, and even reproductive troubles. 

Aim to make water your primary beverage each and every day. Fill a stainless steel water bottle with fresh, filtered water and keep it with you to make it easy to stay hydrated. 

Know Your Nutritional Needs

While eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, avoiding processed and manufactured foods, and drinking plenty of water will go far in keeping you healthy, sometimes you may need a little nutritonal support. Being aware of possible nutrient defiencies or risk factors will help you to consume more of the foods or supplements to support you in your phase of life.

If your resolution is to quit smoking this year, know that you are one of the individuals with an increased need for vitamin C. Smokers need 35 mg more vitamin C per day than non-smokers, and those that are exposed to second-hand smoke regularly also have increased vitamin C needs. Citrus fruits, bell peppers, amla berries, and camu camu are all good sources of vitamin C.

Calcium is needed to support strong bones and bone regeneration, muscle function and more. People with increased needs for calcium include postmenopausal women, female athletes, individuals with lactose intolerance, and vegetarians and vegans. Bone broth soups, leafy green vegetables, milk, yogurt, and cheese are good sources of calcium. 

Start your year off right by focusing on better nutrition, and better health is sure to follow. 

Melissa Zimmerman, Healthy Goods

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