Diet, or nutrition, is essential for each and every living organism on planet Earth. Dietary and nutritional needs vary by age, activity level, size, illness, and more. Your diet has changed and is likely to continue changing as your body and its needs change (i.e., your diet now is vastly different than when you were an infant and is likely to be different in the future). Regardless of these changes and differences in dietary and nutritional needs, between ourselves and others, there are guiding principles that set the foundation for a health promoting diet. Eating to fuel your body for optimal health and wellness is a worthy goal to strive for.
Balance, Variety, and Moderation
Generally speaking, balance, variety, and moderation are good guiding principles for a health promoting diet. Balance in a health promoting diet looks like consuming appropriate amounts of all nutrients without sacrificing one for another. Variety refers to regularly consuming different foods from each food group (e.g., eating apples, strawberries, blueberries, mangoes, peaches, etc. as part of the fruit food group). Finally, moderation is the idea of avoiding the extremes of not eating enough or eating too much. Ultimately each individual has a unique diet as each individual has different needs, resources, challenges, and more. Nevertheless, each health promoting diet consists of balance, variety, and moderation. Specifically, we will cover the power of fruits and vegetables as they relate to supporting health, discuss macro and micro nutrients, and consider some supplements that can support health.
The Power of Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables contain an astounding amount of beneficial nutrients that promote health in the human body. United States government guidelines recommend that adults consume 2 servings of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables each and every day. This guideline can be considered as a minimum as fruits and vegetables have so much power you may feel like you always want more.
Among the beneficial features of fruits and vegetables is their fiber content. Naturally occurring dietary fiber in fruits and vegetables helps to maintain and support a healthy and balanced gut. Dietary fiber from fruits and vegetables can help prevent constipation and other gut issues. Additionally, the fiber found in fruits and vegetables can significantly reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer.
“Increasing evidence suggests that a healthy eating strategy with increased consumption of plant-based foods plays important roles in the prevention of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cataracts, and age-related function decline.”
Furthermore, numerous studies have shown that regular fruit and vegetable intake significantly reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, some cancers and more. This is thanks to fruits and vegetables being nutrient dense foods. They contain fuel for our bodies and a great deal of compounds that support and are even necessary for the function of our bodies on a molecular level. These compounds include but are not limited to vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory agents. Fruits and vegetables are amazing.
Takeaway: Fruits and vegetables are great options for a health promoting diet.
Macro and Micro Nutrients
Macronutrients are comprised of carbohydrates, protein, fat, and alcohol. In short, the body uses macronutrients for fuel (calories) and other essential purposes (with the exception of alcohol which holds a caloric value but is not essential for the body to function). Micronutrients are composed of basically everything else that makes up food such as fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, bacteria, and more. Micronutrients are used for a variety of different essential purposes in the body but do not have a caloric benefit to the body. Nutrient dense foods are characterized by being packed with micronutrients without carrying a huge caloric balance (calorie dense foods typically carry little to no micronutrients relative to their caloric load).
Macronutrient needs vary by circumstance for each individual. Athletes often eat more protein, fat, and carbohydrates than the average person as their body requires more calories to meet their activity level and muscle building efforts. Generally, choosing health promoting nutrient dense foods may be more important than focusing on or avoiding any one macronutrient group.
Micronutrient needs also vary by circumstance for each individual. This is why pregnant women often take a prenatal multi-vitamin as they support the growth and development of a child. Eating a variety of nutrient dense foods can ensure your body gets the compounds it needs to function properly. Although circumstances and lifestyle choices, such as being vegan, may dictate a need for fortification or supplementation of certain nutrients.
Takeaway: Macro and micro nutrient balance is key for a health promoting diet.
“Much of the health benefits of foods may be explained by additive, antagonistic and synergistic processes at the level of uptake and absorption of nutrients.”
Supplementation of micronutrients can be part of a health promoting diet. Some may revile the thought of taking a supplement while others may rely too heavily on supplements. Accurately determining the state of your diet and health can help you decide what if any supplements you may need or changes that can be made to your diet that will help you meet your nutrition needs.
Probiotic supplementation is LYVECAP’s specialty. Balancing your gut flora and promoting good gut health has an overwhelming impact on overall health and can optimize your body’s ability to harvest nutrients from your diet. The gut is how the body gets nearly all of its macro and micro nutrients. So making sure your gut is able to function properly is key to truly benefiting from a health promoting diet. Think of it like this, your car needs fuel, oil, wiper fluid, and more to run smoothly. The only way your car can get these essential things is through the piping and plumbing of the car, so if the piping and plumbing is broken it does not matter the quality or quantity of fuel, oil, etc. that you put in. Same can be said for diet and nutrition as it relates to the gut. If the gut is unhealthy and out of balance you may not be able to get all the benefits and nutrients from a health promoting diet. One big difference is that consuming a health promoting diet, along with health promoting lifestyle choices, can help to support and maintain a healthy gut.
Takeaway: Supplements can be a great way to strengthen a fundamentally health promoting diet.
Dietary and nutritional needs are unique to each individual based on a number of various factors. General guiding principles help direct towards a health promoting diet regardless of the differences in dietary and nutritional needs between people. Consuming a diet that is balanced, has variety, practices moderation, implements fruits and vegetables, relies on nutrient dense foods, and utilizes supplements as necessary often leads to optimized health and wellness.