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9 Signs That You're Not Eating Enough

Achieving and maintaining a moderate weight can be challenging, especially in a modern society where food is constantly available.


However, not eating enough calories can also be a concern, whether it’s due to intentional food restriction, decreased appetite, or other reasons.


In fact, under-eating on a regular basis can lead to a number of mental, physical, and emotional health issues. Here are nine signs that you’re not eating enough.

1. Low Energy Levels

Calories are units of energy your body uses to function.


When you don’t eat enough calories, you’re likely to feel tired most of the time.


The number of calories needed for these basic functions within a 24-hour period is referred to as your resting metabolic rate.


Most people have a resting metabolic rate higher than 1,000 calories per day. Adding physical activity can increase your daily needs by another 1,000 calories or more.


Although hormones also play a role in energy balance.


Generally, if you take in more calories than needed, you will store most of the excess as fat. If you take in fewer calories than needed, you will lose weight (1).


Restricting intake to fewer than 1,000 calories daily can slow down your metabolic rate and lead to fatigue since you’re not taking in enough calories to support the basic functions that keep you alive.


Eating too little has particularly been linked to low energy levels in older people, whose food intake may decrease due to reduced appetite (2).


Other studies on female athletes have found that fatigue may occur when calorie intake is too low to support a high level of physical activity. This seems to be most common in sports that emphasize thinness, like gymnastics and figure skating (3, 4).


Even light physical activity like walking or taking the stairs may cause you to tire easily if your calorie intake is well below your needs.



Eating too few calories can lead to fatigue due to insufficient energy to exercise or perform movement beyond basic functions.


2. Hair Loss

Losing hair can be very distressing.


It’s expected to lose several strands of hair daily. However, if you’re noticing an increased amount of hair accumulating in your hairbrush or shower drain, it may be a sign that you’re not eating enough.


Many nutrients are needed to maintain routine, healthy hair growth.


Inadequate intake of calories, protein, biotin, iron, and other nutrients is a common cause of hair loss (5, 6, 7, 8, 9).


Basically, when you don’t take in enough calories and key nutrients, your body will prioritize the health of your heart, brain, and other organs over hair growth.



Hair loss may occur as a result of inadequate intake of calories, protein, and certain vitamins and minerals.


3. Constant Hunger

Being hungry all the time is one of the more obvious signs that you’re not eating enough food.


Studies confirm that appetite and food cravings increase in response to drastic calorie restriction due to changes in levels of hormones that control hunger and fullness (10, 11, 12, 13).


One three-month study followed mice that were fed a diet containing 40% fewer calories than usual.


It found that their levels of appetite-suppressing hormones leptin and IGF-1 decreased and hunger signals increased significantly (10).


In humans, calorie restriction may cause hunger and food cravings in both moderate-weight and overweight individuals.


In a study of 58 adults, consuming a 40%-calorie-restricted diet increased hunger levels by about 18% (11).


What’s more, low calorie intake has been shown to increase the production of cortisol, a stress hormone that has been linked to hunger and increased belly fat (14, 15).


Essentially, if your calorie intake drops too much, your body will send signals that drive you to eat in order to avoid potential starvation.



Undereating can cause hormonal shifts that increase hunger in order to compensate for inadequate calorie and nutrient intake.


4. Problems Trying to Get Pregnant

Undereating may interfere with a woman’s ability to become pregnant.


The hypothalamus and pituitary gland located in your brain work together to maintain hormonal balance, including reproductive health.


The hypothalamus receives signals from your body that let it know when hormone levels need to be adjusted.


Based on the signals it receives, the hypothalamus produces hormones that either stimulate or inhibit the production of estrogen, progesterone, and other hormones by your pituitary gland.


Research has shown that this complex system is highly sensitive to changes in calorie intake and weight (13).


When your calorie intake or body fat percentage drops too low, signals may become impaired, leading to changes in the number of hormones released.


Without the proper balance of reproductive hormones, pregnancy cannot take place. The first sign of this is hypothalamic amenorrhea, or having no menstrual period for six months or longer (15).


In an older study, when 36 underweight women with amenorrhea or infertility related to calorie restriction increased their calorie intake and achieved ideal body weight, 90% began menstruating and 73% became pregnant (17).


If you are trying to conceive, make sure to consume a well-balanced, adequate-calorie diet in order to ensure proper hormonal function and healthy pregnancy.



Consuming too few calories can disrupt reproductive hormone signals, leading to difficulty getting pregnant.


5. Sleep Issues

Sleep deprivation has been found to lead to insulin resistance and weight gain in dozens of studies (18).


In addition, while overeating may cause sleeping difficulty, it appears that strict dieting can lead to sleep problems as well.


Animal and human research has shown that starvation-level calorie restriction leads to sleep interruptions and a reduction in slow-wave sleep, also known as deep sleep (19).


In one study of 381 college students, restrictive diets and other eating problems were linked to poor sleep quality and low mood (20).


In another small study of 9 young women, four weeks of dieting led to greater difficulty falling asleep and a decrease in the amount of time spent in deep sleep (21).


Feeling as though you are too hungry to fall asleep or waking up hungry are major signs that you’re not getting enough to eat.



Undereating has been linked to poor quality sleep, including taking longer to fall asleep and spending less time in deep sleep.


6. Irritability

If little things have begun to set you off, it could be related to not eating enough.


Indeed, irritability was one of several issues experienced by young men who underwent calorie restriction as part of the Minnesota Starvation Experiment during World War II (22).


These men developed moodiness and other symptoms while consuming an average of 1,800 calories per day, which was classified as “semi-starvation” for their own calorie needs. Your own needs may be lower, of course.


A more recent study of 413 college and high school students also found that irritability was associated with dieting and restrictive eating patterns (23).


To keep your mood on an even keel, don’t let your calories drop too low.



Prolonged low calorie intake and restrictive eating patterns have been linked to irritability and moodiness.


7. Feeling Cold All the Time

If you constantly feel cold, not eating enough food could be the cause.


Your body needs to burn a certain number of calories in order to create heat and maintain a healthy, comfortable body temperature.


In fact, even mild calorie restriction has been shown to lower core body temperature.


In a six-year controlled study of 72 middle-aged adults, those who consumed an average of 1,769 calories daily had significantly lower body temperatures than the groups who consumed 2,300–2,900 calories, regardless of physical activity (24).


In a separate analysis of the same study, the calorie-restricted group experienced a decrease in T3 thyroid hormone levels, whereas the other groups did not. T3 is a hormone that helps maintain body temperature, among other functions (25).


In another study of 15 obese women, T3 levels decreased by as much as 66% during an eight-week period in which the women consumed only 400 calories per day (26).


Overall, the more severely you slash calories, the colder you’re likely to feel.



Consuming too few calories can lead to a decrease in body temperature, which may be due in part to lower levels of T3 thyroid hormone.


8. Constipation

Infrequent bowel movements may be related to inadequate calorie intake.


This isn’t surprising, since consuming very little food will result in less waste in your digestive tract.


Constipation is typically described as having fewer than three bowel movements per week or having small, hard stools that are difficult to pass. This is very common in older people and can be worsened by poor diet (27).


One small study of 18 older adults found that constipation occurred most often in those who didn’t consume enough calories. This was true even if they got plenty of fiber, often considered the most important factor for proper bowel function (28).


Dieting and eating too little food may also cause constipation in younger people due to a slowed metabolic rate.


In a study of 301 college-aged women, the strictest dieters were most likely to have constipation and other digestive problems (29).


If you’re having problems with regularity, it’s important to take a look at the amount of food that you’re eating and evaluate whether you’re getting enough.



Strict dieting and under-eating can lead to constipation, partly due to less waste product to form stool and slower movement of food through the digestive tract.


9. Anxiety

Although dieting itself may lead to moodiness, outright anxiety can occur in response to very low calorie intake.


In a large study of more than 2,500 Australian teens, 62% of those who were classified as “extreme dieters” reported high levels of depression and anxiety (30).


Anxiety has also been observed in people who are overweight and eat very low calorie diets.


In a controlled study of 67 people with obesity who ate either 400 or 800 calories per day for one to three months, roughly 20% of people in both groups reported increased anxiety (31).


To minimize anxiety while trying to lose weight, make sure you’re consuming enough calories and eating a healthy diet that includes plenty of fatty fish to ensure you’re getting omega-3 fatty acids, which may help reduce anxiety (32).



Very low calorie intake may lead to moodiness, anxiety, and depression in teens and adults.


The Bottom Line

Although overeating increases the risk of developing health problems, under-eating can also be problematic.


This is especially true with severe or chronic calorie restriction. Instead, to lose weight sustainably, make sure to eat at least 1,200 calories per day.


Additionally, be on the lookout for these nine signs that you may need more food than you’re currently taking in.

Dear Reader, 

Stroll down the aisles of your supermarket, and you will see a burgeoning array of food products  that claim to be healthy. But which foods are actually best for your health? We’ll give you a  hint. If your diet consists mainly of packaged foods or meat, it’s probably not the healthiest for  your health—or the health of the planet. As scientific research continues to affirm, the dietary  patterns that are most closely linked to a longer, healthier life tend to focus more on whole  plant foods—that is, unprocessed or minimally processed foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes,  whole grains, and nuts. A plant-based diet is also linked with far lower energy and water use and  greenhouse gas emissions than a meat-heavy diet—a boon for the planet. 

In January 2016, the USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released  the 2015–2020 version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans—the culmination of our na tion’s top nutrition experts’ efforts to review the body of nutrition science and create dietary  recommendations that have the potential to make Americans stronger and healthier. The com mittee stressed the importance of eating more whole plant foods, as well as fish and healthy fats.  When you fill your diet with more plant foods—such as steel-cut oats, pinto beans, blueberries,  almonds, and spinach—you not only gain vitamins, minerals, fiber, and hundreds of healthful  compounds called phytochemicals. You also crowd out of your diet less healthful processed  foods, such as sugary beverages, doughnuts, and cookies, which have been linked with obesity,  heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. Even processed or cured meats such  as bologna and bacon are more problematic than, say, minimally processed fish. In 2015, the  World Health Organization classified cured and processed meats as potentially cancer-causing.  

But healthy eating goes beyond nutrition. How you eat food—whether you eat in front of your  computer screen or in the car versus sitting down and savoring your meals in the company of  others—makes a difference, too. The more you pay attention to the complex flavors, textures,  and aromas of your food, the greater the satisfaction you will reap. As a result, you can be con tent with less food than if you mindlessly devour a bag of chips while watching TV.  

As nutrition researchers, we have spent years learning to understand both the positive and nega tive effects that food can have on the human body. And in the pages of this report, we will show  you just how easy it is to achieve a simple, wholesome eating pattern that can help you live a  longer, healthier life. Bon appétit! 


Teresa Fung, Sc.D., R.D., L.D.N. Faculty Editor 

Sharon Palmer, M.S.F.S., R.D.N. Nutrition Editor 

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A healthy eating style 

If you Google “healthy  

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lions of hits. Follow the  

links, and you will find  

that some of them deliver  

solid information, while  

others lead you down  

confusing paths of out 

right misinformation. As  

one fad diet after another  

grabs the spotlight, con 

Yes, this plan involves  eating more vegetables— and, as you may have  guessed, it doesn’t include  a lot of packaged snacks  or fast food. But once  you know how to pre pare healthy meals, you’ll  find they can be much  more tasty than highly  processed foods. As Dr.  Willett says, just think  





















flicting information can  make it difficult to dis tinguish scientifically  

Conflicting reports in the news media make it seem as if views on  good nutrition are changing all the time. Nothing could be further  from the truth. The consensus has been growing in recent decades. 

of sitting at an outdoor  restaurant in Italy, savor ing vegetables roasted in  

backed nutrition advice from marketing and hype.  And news headlines can make it seem as if views on  good nutrition are changing all the time.  

Nothing could be further from the truth. The  optimal diet for good health, low disease risk, healthy  weight, and long life has been a matter of growing  consensus over the last several decades, thanks to a  hard-earned body of evidence.  

Moreover, the power of this healthful diet is  becoming clearer over time. “When we began our  research on diet and health in the late 1970s, we had  a general sense that diet was likely to be important in  the prevention of heart disease and cancer,” says Dr.  Walter Willett, past chair of the Department of Nutri 

tion at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.  What he and other researchers found was that it did  exactly that—and more. “Aspects of diet play a role in  the prevention of disease and dysfunction in almost  every organ of the body,” he says. In addition to low 

ering your blood pressure, total cholesterol, and risks  of certain types of cancer, it can help ward off strokes,  diabetes, cognitive decline, osteoporosis, kidney prob lems, certain gastrointestinal problems, various eye  diseases, and so on down a long list.  

olive oil, perfectly seasoned with herbs and spices.  Add in a hunk of hearty whole-grain bread and an  entree of fresh grilled fish, and you can readily imag ine just how satisfying this whole-foods diet can be.  Now compare that with greasy burgers and chips at  the local diner. “It’s junk food that’s tasteless, requiring  large amounts of added salt, sugar, and fat to make it  palatable,” he says.  

If you’re convinced, then there’s no time like the  present to start remaking your diet. You have noth ing to lose—except perhaps a few unwanted pounds  and points off your cholesterol and blood pressure  numbers. This chapter and those that follow will help  explain in greater depth how to accomplish this.  

In search of a healthy diet 

Fats were once demonized. Today, carbohydrates are  the targets of choice for many people. However, the  quest for a healthy diet does not begin with drastically  reducing either one. In fact, fat, carbs, and protein all  play important roles in the body. Collectively, these  three food components are known as macronutrients  because the body requires relatively large amounts of  

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each of them (as opposed to micronutrients—essential  vitamins and minerals—which are needed in much  smaller amounts). It follows from this understanding  that the key to a healthy diet does not hinge on elimi 

nating any of them, but on picking the best sources  of all three. In popular terminology, there are “good”  and “bad” carbs. Similarly, there are healthful and not so-healthful sources of fat and protein. The more you  can tilt your diet in favor of the beneficial ones while  

reducing the others, the better off you’ll be. Sorting out one from the other may sound like  a daunting task, but it’s easier than you’d think. The  first rule of thumb is simply to stick with what nutri tionists call “whole” foods as much as possible—that  is, foods that are unprocessed or minimally processed  (see “Choose whole foods first,” below). We don’t  mean you should eat everything raw. Cooking is fine.  But start with real ingredients—fruits, vegetables,  nuts, whole grains, fish, eggs, and skinless poultry. The  more a food has been processed before you purchase  it, the more goodness has likely been stripped away.  The second rule of thumb is to increase the amount  of plant foods in your diet (see “Focus on plants,” page  4). Most Americans eat far more meat than they need  and not nearly enough vegetables or fruits.  The third rule of thumb, of course, is to limit your  calories, so that you don’t put on a lot of excess weight.  The writer Michael Pollan summed up these  points neatly in the opening of his 2008 book In  Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto: “Eat food. Not  too much. Mostly plants.”  

Choose whole foods first 

Why do researchers and nutritionists place so much  emphasis on whole foods? It’s actually quite simple.  You gain the most benefit from foods when you con sume them in their whole or minimally processed  form—the form that comes closest to matching their  natural state when harvested. In unprocessed form,  fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains  contain a wealth of vital nutrients, such as fiber, vita 

mins, minerals, and phytochemicals (compounds with  antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects). In fact,  there are thousands of phytochemicals in plants, with  new ones being discovered all the time. These com 

pounds not only provide health benefits, but also work  together in networks to provide even greater effects.  Unfortunately, many of them are stripped away in the  processing of foods.  

Even healthful foods, such as spinach, whole  wheat, and beets, become less nourishing when they  are processed so heavily that they hardly resemble  their original selves. Some examples are the spin 

ach in “vegetable” chips, the wheat in “wheat” bread  made from refined flour, and the beet sugar used in  candy bars. These plant foods start out as something  wholesome and healthful, thanks to their cache of  hard-working fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phyto 

chemicals. In their whole form, they have the power  to help protect your eyes, heart, brain, and more. Yet  when they are peeled, ground up, juiced, and stripped  of various components—as they are in many pro 

cessed foods—they lose a great deal of those valuable  nutrients. The peel and seeds are usually lost—and  these, along with the fibrous pulp, are often the most  highly concentrated sources of nutrients in the entire  plant.  

Processing may also degrade sensitive nutrients  in the plant, such as vitamin C and many of the B  vitamins. And when these processed ingredients are  combined to form new foods—such as chips, crack 

ers, cookies, desserts, and beverages—refined sugars,  sodium, and fats are often added to the mix. So what  do you end up with? A serving of highly caloric food  with few nutrients in return. Just walk down the aisle  of a supermarket or peruse the menu at a fast-food  restaurant and you’ll see many examples of such foods:  sugary cereals made of processed grains; salty chips  made of peeled, fried potatoes; and juice drinks and  fruit turnovers made with refined fruits and sugars.  

That’s why it’s so important to focus on nutri ent-rich, whole foods. That means choosing oranges  instead of orange juice, wheat berries instead of white  bread, and steamed zucchini instead of deep-fried  zucchini wedges. The principle even carries over to  fish and poultry, where you’ll do better to focus on  fish fillets rather than battered, fried, preformed fish  sticks, or a chicken breast rather than chicken nug 

gets. You’ll find most of these highly processed foods  in packages, boxes, bags, and drive-throughs. By con 

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trast, whole foods, such as a bunch of kale, an apple,  a scoop of barley kernels, and a handful of peanuts,  don’t often come in splashy packages and boxes. They  may not even come in a package at all—a good indica 

tor of a whole food. Purchase most of your foods in  their whole form for optimal health.  

Focus on plants 

Packing your plate with more plant foods than animal  foods may protect you from disease, lengthen your life,  and help you maintain a healthy weight, according to a  number of important studies. A large trial called EPIC  (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and  Nutrition), which included more than 74,000 adults,  found that closer adherence to a plant-based diet was  linked with lower risk of death during the nearly 15  years of the study.  

Why are plant foods so beneficial for your health?  As noted earlier, they are rich in fiber, vitamins, min erals, healthy fats, and phytochemicals. Moreover,  when you eat more of these plant foods, they tend to  replace less healthful foods in your diet, such as fatty  red and processed meats and high-fat dairy.  

However, the quality of a plant-based diet is also  important. Diets that emphasize minimally processed  plant foods are more healthful than those that include  large amounts of refined foods, even if they’re plant 

based. One study that included nearly 48,000 women  and 26,000 men over a 12-year period analyzed peo ple’s dietary patterns according to their overall con sumption of plant-based foods and also whether that  consumption consisted of healthful, unrefined plant based foods or lower-quality, refined ones, such as fruit  juices and French fries. A 10-point increase in score  on the healthy plant-based diet scale was linked with  a 10% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease,  while a 10-point increase in score on the unhealthy  plant-based diet scale was linked with a 6% higher risk. 

A plant-based diet can be as tasty as it is healthful.  But if you’ve never eaten this way, it can be challenging  at first to figure out how to do it. Here are some tips  to help you get started. You’ll find more later, in the  chapter “Putting it all together,” page 31, plus a selec 

tion of healthy recipes in the Special Section starting  on page 43. 

• Turn your favorite meat-based meals into plant based ones. If you like lasagna, try eliminating  the ground beef and substituting mushrooms and  spinach. Skip the beef in your burritos in favor of  pinto beans.  

• Find easy recipes for at least a few meatless meals  and try to have one or two each week; over time,  you can aim to make half your meals meatless.  Good options are vegetarian chili and veggie burg 

ers (see “Chipotle Black Bean Quinoa Veggie Burg ers,” page 47). 

• Instead of animal protein, eat at least 3 cups a  week of protein-rich legumes, such as beans, len tils, and peas. There are many ways to enjoy them.  Toss chickpeas into a salad, add beans to a stew, or  include lentils in a loaf.  

• Include more whole soy foods—another good  source of plant-based protein. Snack on dry roasted  edamame, which you can buy in ready-to-eat pack ages in many supermarkets. Add tofu instead of  chopped chicken or turkey to your favorite casse role or other recipe (see “Stir-Fried Thai Tofu Sor ghum Bowl,” page 47). Find a brand of soy burger to  replace ground beef in your bun—looking for those  that have fewer artificial ingredients and more whole  ingredients, such as vegetables, grains, and beans.  

• Combine simmered whole grains, sautéed or raw  vegetables, and cooked legumes on your plate. This  age-old combination provides the perfect combina tion of proteins and nutrients to fuel your body.  

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans  The U.S. government provides nutrition guidance  for Americans that is updated every five years by  the USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and  Human Services. The Dietary Guidelines for Ameri 

cans represent the work of a committee of scientists  who analyze reams of nutritional research as it relates  to national health problems, such as our high rates  of obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabe 

tes. They debate the evidence and ultimately make  recommendations to the government. As such, the  guidelines distill the latest nutritional research and  translate it into practical advice.  

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The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans— the latest version at the time of this printing—provide  advice similar to what you will read in this report. The  guidelines encourage people to consume more whole  or minimally processed plant foods with the aim of  reducing disease risk, combating obesity, and meeting  nutritional needs for optimal health. To that end, they  recommend one of three healthful eating plans: 

• a healthy U.S.-style dietary pattern, which focuses  on plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains  with moderate amounts of lean meat and poultry,  seafood, and low-fat dairy products 

• a healthy vegetarian-style pattern, which includes  lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains,  low-fat dairy, and soy foods 

• a healthy Mediterranean-style pattern, which  includes a bounty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains,  legumes, fish, nuts, seeds, and olive oil.  

What do all three have in common? They all focus  on whole and minimally processed plant foods, such  

Figure 1: How to read food labels 

as whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats.  Following are some of the main take-home messages  from the Dietary Guidelines. You’ll find more about  all of these topics later in this report.  

Foods to reduce  

The notion that you will simply eliminate all unhealth ful foods and ingredients from your diet is unrealistic,  but the following guidelines give you some targets to  aim for.  

• Reduce daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 mil ligrams to help control your blood pressure. Fur ther reduction of sodium to no more than 1,500  milligrams per day may be beneficial for even bet ter effects on blood pressure, and is recommended  for people who have high blood pressure (hyperten sion) or prehypertension. Avoiding processed foods  is one way to limit salt intake, since 80% of the salt  in the average diet is not from what you add in your  kitchen or at the table, but what is contained in pack 

Most of the truly healthful foods like fruits and vegetables don’t have nutrition labels on them. Packaged foods, on the other hand, do,  and reading the label is your most reliable guide to choosing the best options. The FDA has recently required changes on the label that will  make it easier to read. Large manufacturers have to start using the revamped label by Jan. 1, 2020, and smaller companies, by 2021.  

The refreshed design lists calories  

per serving in larger, bolder type.  

Serving sizes are also highlighted and  

changed to reflect the amounts of  

food people actually eat. For example,  instead of a soda serving being 8  ounces, the new label lists 12. Instead  of an ice cream serving being ½ cup,  it lists 2/3 cup.  

“Calories from fat” has been removed  from its previous position opposite  calories per serving, but the new label  still gives a breakdown of total fat,  saturated fat, and trans fat, so you  can easily see how much of the total  fat is from less healthful sources.  

For the first time, the label includes a  line about added sugars, so you can  see how many grams of sweeteners  have been added to foods during  processing—as opposed to the  naturally occurring sugars in a tomato  product, for example. 

For the first time, actual amounts of vitamins and  minerals are listed, along with the Daily Values for  each one.  

Daily Values have been updated to reflect the latest  recommendations for nutrients like sodium, dietary  fiber, and vitamin D. 

Vitamins A and C are no longer listed; the FDA says  deficiencies of these vitamins are rare. Taking their  places on the label: potassium and vitamin D, since  the FDA says most people aren’t getting enough of  those nutrients. 

The footnote has been changed to give a clearer  explanation of Daily Values. 

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aged, prepared, and processed foods. Use spices and  herbs rather than salt to make food more flavorful.  • Consume less than 10% of calories from saturated  fats. These fats are found in animal products such as  butter, cream, cheese, and fatty meats, and also in  tropical oils, such as palm, palm kernel, and coco nut oils. Instead, try replacing them with mono unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as  healthier vegetable oils, olives, nuts, seeds, and avo cados. Red meat, such as beef, pork, and lamb, tends  to be higher in saturated fat, so it’s best to limit your  consumption of these. (Editors’ note: According to  the American Institute for Cancer Research, you  should also avoid cured and processed meats, such  as ham, sausage, and bacon.)  

• Limit added sugars to no more than 10% of total  calories (about 50 grams or 12.5 teaspoons of sugar  for the average person). The new Nutrition Facts  label can help you find them (see Figure 1, page 5). 

• Limit the consumption of foods that contain refined  grains, such as white flour and white rice, especially  those products that contain high amounts of satu rated fat, added sugars, and sodium.  

• If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation, meaning  no more than one drink per day for women and two  drinks per day for men. Saving all your drinking  for the weekend means that you take in unhealthy  amounts of alcohol at a single sitting. Women who  are pregnant and people under the legal drinking  age should not drink at all. 

Foods to increase 

While you focus on reducing your consumption of  the foods named above, here’s what you should aim  to replace them with. It may not be what you’re used  to eating, but over time, you will find that such fare is  actually more satisfying.  

• Increase your vegetable and fruit intake. Adults  should consume about 2½ to 3 cups of vegetables  and 1½ to 2 cups of fruit per day. A 2017 report  from the CDC found that only about 12% of adults  meet the target for fruit, and just 9% meet the goal  for vegetables.  

• Also focus on increasing the variety of produce you  consume. Eating a broad range of fruits and vegeta 

bles—especially dark green, red, and orange ones— will ensure that you also take in a broad range of  nutrients.  

• Make sure that at least half the grains you consume  are whole grains (such as brown rice, barley, or qui noa) rather than refined grains (such as white bread  and white rice).  

• Choose more plant-based proteins, such as beans,  peas, lentils, nuts, seeds, and soy foods, including  tofu, tempeh, and soy milk.  

• Make healthier animal protein choices, including  seafood (at least twice a week), poultry, and eggs.  • Use healthy vegetable oils to replace solid fats where  possible. 

• Choose foods that provide more potassium, fiber,  calcium, and vitamin D, which are nutrients that  many Americans don’t get enough of (see “Shortfall  nutrients,” page 26). These foods include vegetables,  fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, seafood,  and milk and milk products. 

Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate By now you know generally what types of food a  healthy diet includes. But it can take time to reframe  your mental image of a healthy meal. Over the years,  many of us have become used to thinking of the hunk  of meat in the center of our plates as “dinner.” The salad  or vegetables on the side were fine add-ons, but not  the star attraction. Changing your dinner plate starts  with changing your idea of what a plateful of healthy  food should look like. In 2011, the U.S. Department of  Agriculture (USDA) introduced MyPlate—a graphic  representation of the ideal dinner. It moved protein  to the side of the plate and gave larger roles to veg etables, fruits, and grains. However, for many people,  this model (which is still in use) proved too simplistic  to be useful.  

To provide a more helpful illustration, nutrition  experts at Harvard developed their own Healthy Eat ing Plate (see Figure 2, page 7). The Healthy Eating  Plate gives you basic guidance on food choices and  shows you how to apportion foods on your plate. Of  course, not every meal will look like this (most of us  don’t eat vegetables at breakfast), but your meals over  

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the course of the day can add up to this goal. Here is a  summary of the main points: 

• Fully half your plate should contain fruits and veg etables. While you’re at it, aim for a variety of colors  and types. (Note that for these purposes, potatoes— including French fries—don’t count as vegetables.)  

• A quarter of the plate should be filled with whole  grains—not just any grain. Whole and intact grains,  such as barley, quinoa, oats, and brown rice, are  good choices.  

• The final quarter should consist of healthful sources  of protein, like fish, beans, nuts, seeds, poultry, and  eggs. High-fat meats and processed or cured meats  don’t appear here. And red meat and cheese should  be limited.  

• The bottle on the left side is a reminder to use  healthy oils like olive and canola in cooking, on sal ads, and at the table. Limit butter.  

Figure 2: Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate  

• The glass on the right side is a reminder to drink  low- or no-calorie liquids like water, coffee, and tea.  Skip sugary drinks, and limit milk to one or two  servings per day.  

At the bottom is a reminder to stay active for good  health and weight control.  

Other models of science-based guidelines are also  available. You can find eating guides adapted to Medi terranean, Latin American, Asian, African, and veg etarian diets from the respected nutrition think tank  Oldways, at www.oldwayspt.org.  

Sustainability on the plate  

If you follow the guidelines in this chapter, your health  will benefit. But there is another plus to this healthful,  whole-foods diet—the health of our planet. A plant based diet with only small amounts of animal foods  

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requires a fraction of the resources such as water,  energy, and land to cultivate, and it generates fewer  greenhouse gases. What’s more, by eating unprocessed  or minimally processed foods, you avoid the addi 

tional energy and packaging that go into the produc tion of processed foods. 

In fact, adopting a plant-based diet may be the  single most important way that you as an individual  can reduce your carbon footprint. According to a 2019  study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,  diets high in red meat account for five times the emis 

sions of plant-based diets.  

How much plant food should you aim for if you  want a truly sustainable diet? In early 2019, the EAT Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, and Health—a  multidisciplinary group consisting of 37 leading sci entists from 16 countries—described the type of diet  needed to support a world population of 10 billion by  the year 2050 in a healthful, sustainable way. Its report  urged people to double the amount of fruits, vegeta bles, and nuts they eat and reduce consumption of red  meat and added sugars by at least 50%. While its rec ommendations are quite a departure from what most  

Figure 3: The Planetary Health Plate 

Americans eat—allowing for only a single 3.5-ounce  serving of red meat per week—proponents point out  that this is in line with a traditional Mediterranean  eating pattern. The commission included a graphic  representation of its “planetary health plate” that  shows just how much of a person’s overall diet should  come from plant-based sources (see Figure 3, below). 

Here are some additional ways to make your meals  more sustainable:  

• Purchase more foods that are grown closer  to home to reduce the number of miles your  food has to travel to get to your plate. Also eat  more foods that are in season, so that they are  not trucked or flown in from faraway places. 

• Avoid food waste. Every time you throw away  food, gallons of water, fossil fuels, and agricultural  inputs used to grow the food go in the trash, too.  

• Avoid excessive food packaging. Buy from bulk  bins, farmers’ markets, and produce sections to  favor minimally packaged foods. Bring your own  shopping bags to the supermarket, your own  food containers to restaurants to pack up left 

overs, and your own coffee mug to the coffee shop.  • Don’t use bottled water. Fossil  

fuels are used in producing and  

transporting them. And count 

The EAT-Lancet Commission uses this plate to illustrate  a dietary pattern (as opposed to a single meal) that  can sustain both human and environmental  health. Half the plate is filled with  

vegetables and fruits. The other half is  

filled with whole grains, plant protein,  

unsaturated plant oils, and (optionally)  

modest amounts of animal protein,  

including fish.  

Source: EAT Foundation. 



less bottles end up in landfills.  Bring a refillable water bot tle for on-the-road hydration. 

• Grow your own food. Even if  it’s just a tomato plant or a pot  of basil, try to produce some of  your own food to reduce food  transportation. 

• Buy organic, when possible.  Organic foods are grown without  the use of synthetic herbicides,  pesticides, and fungicides that kill  off many life forms in soil—good  and bad alike. Pesticides threaten  pollinators (like bees and butter flies) and beneficial insects (such  as ladybugs and praying man 

tises). (See “Are organics worth  it?” on page 35.) 

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Choosing healthful carbohydrates 

Carbs have gotten a bad reputation, taking a beat ing from proponents of both the Paleo diet (which  recommends eating more meat and no grains) and  the ketogenic (“keto”) diet (which emphasizes high fat, low-carb fare). However, carbohydrate-rich foods  are important for your health. Carbohydrates, which  are found in a wide range of healthful foods (as well  

as not-so-healthful foods), provide your body with  a source of energy to fuel your daily activities. And  carb-containing foods, such as whole grains, vegeta bles, fruits, and legumes, are rich in other important  nutrients your body needs, including fiber, vitamins,  and minerals. If you significantly reduce your intake  

of carbs, you will likely fall short on these nutrients.  That’s why a set of guidelines  

Dietary alphabet soup: What are RDAs, DRIs, and DVs? Most people have heard of Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs). But  how do they differ from DRIs and DVs? Here’s some help.  

known as the acceptable macronutri ent distribution ranges, or AMDRs  (see “Dietary alphabet soup,” at left),  recommend that your daily menu  

Recommended Dietary Allowance  (RDA): RDAs were established 70  years ago by the Food and Nutrition  Board of the Institute of Medicine  to prevent diseases caused by  inadequate intake of a specific  nutrient—for example, scurvy  resulting from a lack of vitamin C or  rickets caused by insufficient vitamin  D. RDAs give the average minimum  amount of a nutrient that’s needed  to prevent a nutrient-deficiency  disease and maintain good health in  most healthy people in a particular  life stage and gender group. RDAs  are now a subset of the dietary  reference intake values (see below). 

Dietary reference intake (DRI):  Introduced in 1997, DRI values were  created to cover a broader range  of nutrients and minerals—and the  intent is not just to prevent diseases  that are caused by the lack of a single  nutrient (which are fairly rare in the  United States), but also to enhance  health and reduce the risk of chronic  diseases such as osteoporosis,  cancer, and cardiovascular disease  by optimizing the intake of a broader  range of nutrients. DRIs are what  underlie the Dietary Guidelines  

for Americans and food labeling  regulations. They include RDAs, ULs  (upper tolerable limits), AIs, and  AMDRs (see below). 

Adequate intake (AI): This value is  used to indicate a level of sufficient  consumption for nutrients such as  vitamin K, manganese, and potassium  that are not associated with a specific  clinical deficiency disease.  

Acceptable macronutrient  distribution range (AMDR): This is  the range of intake for a particular  macronutrient—fat, carbohydrate,  or protein—that is associated with  reduced risk of chronic disease while  allowing intake of essential nutrients. 

Daily Value (DV): This reference  number, developed by the FDA,  is designed to help consumers  determine if a food contains a lot or  a little of a specific nutrient, based on  the RDA or AI for that nutrient. DVs— which are used on Nutrition Facts  panels—don’t take into account your  age, sex, or other factors affecting  your daily calorie needs. They’re  presented as percentages of total  daily intake, calculated for an average  person eating 2,000 calories a day. 

should supply 45% to 65% of your  calories from carbohydrates. If you  include fruits, vegetables, and whole  grains at each meal and snack, you’ll  easily achieve this level of healthy  carbohydrates.  

The important thing, then, isn’t  to avoid carbs in general, but to pay  more attention to the types of carbs  you choose.  

“Good” carbs 

What puts a carb-containing food on  the “good” list? When you consume  a diet that’s rich in minimally pro cessed or whole carbohydrate-rich  foods, such as whole grains, legumes,  vegetables, and fruits, you gain all of  the rewards of those nutrients they  are packaged with, namely fiber, vita 

mins, minerals, and phytochemicals.  Most people intuitively grasp that  fruits and vegetables are healthful.  But what about whole grains? These  constitute one of most misunder stood food groups in this category,  

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Figure 4: Whole-grain anatomy 




A whole grain is one that contains all the essential parts of the  intact grain seed in their original proportions. The three basic  constituents of the seed are the vitamin- and mineral-rich embryo,  known as the germ; starchy endosperm that serves as the seed’s  initial fuel source as it begins to sprout; and the fiber-rich bran  coating that surrounds them both. Refined grains, such as white  flour, are stripped of bran and germ during processing, depriving  them of these rich sources of nutrients.  

Source: Oldways Whole Grains Council. 

thanks to a number of popular diets that bash grains  in general, including whole grains. So let’s set the  record straight.  

Whole grains  

Hundreds of studies link a dietary pattern rich in  whole grains with a plethora of health benefits, includ ing a reduced risk of many chronic diseases. In fact,  in 2019 The Lancet published a series of analyses of  more than 200 studies investigating the relationship  of whole-grain and fiber intake to disease protection.  The researchers found that whole-grain intake and  fiber intake were both linked to significantly lower  risk of heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes, colorec 

tal cancer, and death. People who ate the most whole  grains enjoyed the greatest benefits.  

Why are these simple plant foods—essentially the  seeds of grasses—so protective? One reason is the fiber rich outer covering called bran (see Figure 4, above),  which slows the breakdown of starch into glucose and  helps the body maintain a steady blood sugar level.  Fiber—particularly the soluble fiber found in barley,  oatmeal, beans, nuts, and fruits like apples, berries, cit 

rus fruits, and pears—also helps lower cholesterol and  move food through your digestive tract. The embryo,  or germ, is equally important, containing a wealth of  vitamins and minerals, as you can see if you read the  Nutrition Facts on a package of wheat germ. Among  these nutrients are essential B vitamins and minerals  like magnesium, selenium, and copper. If you were to  completely eliminate whole grains from your diet—as  some fad diets suggest—you’d fall short on many key  nutrients needed for optimal health.  

When looking for whole grains, do not limit your  search to whole-wheat bread and crackers, which have  undergone processing and contain varying levels of  actual whole grains (see “In search of whole grains,”  page 11). Many whole grains, such as brown rice and  quinoa, can be eaten intact. These grains actually form  a diverse category of foods with varying flavors, tex tures, and nutrients. Here’s a list of whole grains to try.  

Amaranth. This ancient grain of the Aztecs is a  small, beige seed with a mild flavor. Rich in calcium  and iron, it is a gluten-free grain and good in por ridge, added to pilafs, or ground into whole-grain  flour for baking.  

Barley. Rich in a special type of fiber, called  beta glucans, barley has special heart-health benefits  related to its ability to lower blood cholesterol levels.  While barley is well known as an ingredient in soup,  this chewy grain is equally delicious in casseroles, side  dishes, and salads. Choose hulled barley (available as  grains, grits, flakes, or flour) over pearl barley, which  has been processed to remove the bran. 

Buckwheat. Not a true wheat, buckwheat is actu ally a cousin to rhubarb and is naturally gluten-free.  Its nutty flavor can contribute to much more than pan cakes; try it cooked as a grain (also known as kasha) in  salads, side dishes, or soups. Soba is a traditional Japa nese noodle that uses buckwheat as a key ingredient.  

Millet. This grain may be tiny, but it’s mighty,  serving as a staple food in many cultures in India and  South America, among others. It’s delicious cooked  in cereals and desserts, and is ground into flour for  breads, such as Indian roti.  

Oats. Another source of the rare group of fibers  called beta glucans, oats (when eaten daily) have  been linked with significantly lower blood cholesterol  

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levels. But oats can go beyond the breakfast table in  dishes like veggie burgers, risotto, breads, and fruit based desserts.  

Quinoa. This staple grain from the Andes is high  in nutritional value, having served as a revered food  among the Incas for thousands of years. Mild and  quick-cooking, it’s delicious in side dishes, salads, and  vegetable fillings.  

Rice. Brown, colored (black, purple, or red), and  wild rice are all whole grains (although wild rice is not  a true rice). This mild-flavored grain, which serves as  a blank canvas for nutritious vegetable-rich toppings,  is a major source of nutrients to millions of people  around the world.  

Rye. A natural part of the cuisine in Northern  Europe and Russia, rye is predominantly featured  in whole-grain breads. However, whole rye grains— called rye berries—are delicious steamed and served  as porridge, a side dish, or a filling for vegetables.  

Sorghum. With roots in Africa, this whole grain  is quite nutritious and may be served as porridge,  ground into flour for breads, or even popped like  popcorn.  

Teff. The tiniest of grains, teff resembles reddish brown poppy seeds. Yet these petite grains pack a  nutritional wallop, serving as a staple in Ethiopia  where they are the main ingredient in the fermented  































Don’t assume that whole-wheat bread and brown rice are your only  options when it comes to whole grains. Quinoa is a nutrious grain  that cooks quickly. Farro, millet, barley, and oats are other choices. 

bread injera. Teff is also delicious in cereals, grain side  dishes, and baked goods.  

Wheat. Though we’re most familiar with wheat as  a flour, it also comes in other forms, such as bulgur  (used in Middle Eastern salads), farro (an ancient Ital ian variety of wheat traditionally cooked in its intact  form), spelt (a variety of wheat), and wheat berries  (cooked, intact wheat kernels).  


Aside from vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals,  fiber is one of the reasons why a diet rich in “good”  carbs is so healthy. It is actually a form of indigestible  

In search of whole grains 

It’s easy to tell that you’re eating whole grains when  

you serve cooked oats, barley, and brown rice, but  it gets a bit more complicated when you’re selecting  foods that contain whole grains, such as breads, side  dishes, and baked goods. Packaging may call attention  to a product’s “whole grains,” even if the product  contains very little whole grain.  

There are a couple of ways to help solve this problem.  First, scan the ingredients list and make sure that one  or more whole grains, such as whole-wheat flour,  oats, cornmeal, or brown rice, appear first on the list,  indicating that they have the largest volume by weight  in the food. Next, take a look at the grams of fiber  on the Nutrition Facts panel. Most true whole-grain  products should provide at least 3 grams of fiber per  serving—but keep in mind that this may not always  tell you the true picture. In some cases, isolated fibers,  such as inulin, are added to foods to bring up the fiber  levels. And some whole grains, such as brown rice,  contain more modest levels of fiber than other whole  grains, such as whole wheat or barley. Remember, all  whole grains are good for you, so choose a variety  every day.  

Another way is to look for the Oldways  

Whole Grains Council logos, which  

identify foods that provide at least  

half a serving of whole grains. These  

seals (which look like gold-and-black  

postage stamps) may be found on  

hundreds of food products, guiding  

you to whole-grain food choices in the  

supermarket aisle. 

Source: Oldways Whole Grains Council. 

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carbohydrate found in plant foods. But though you  can’t digest it—and therefore it isn’t absorbed into your  bloodstream—fiber does many useful things while it’s  in your digestive tract. Among its many benefits:  

• It slows down digestion and lowers a food’s glyce mic index value, a measure of how quickly the sugar  in the food enters your bloodstream (see “Glycemic  index and glycemic load,” page 13).  

• It helps you feel more full for a longer period of  time, thus helping to control appetite and weight.  • It slightly reduces “bad” LDL cholesterol. • It reduces insulin resistance. 

• It promotes bowel health.  

• It can support a healthy gut microbiome—an eco system of healthy gut microorganisms, which can  promote overall health and well-being.  

A high-fiber diet correlates with lower rates of  heart disease, type 2 diabe 

asparagus), pectin (found in apples, carrots, and apri cots), and resistant starch (found in grains, legumes,  and potatoes).  

How much fiber should you aim for? For people  up to age 50, the recommended intake for fiber is  38 grams for men and 25 grams for women (unless  they are pregnant or breastfeeding, in which case the  recommendations go up to 28 grams and 29 grams,  respectively). The recommendation is lower for people  over age 50: 30 grams for men, 21 grams for women.  That’s because older people require less food as their  energy needs decline. Sadly, Americans fall short on  fiber, consuming on average only about 15 grams of  fiber a day. 

As with other nutrients, fiber is healthiest when it  comes from whole foods rather than processed ones.  Some “high-fiber” products on store shelves are filled  with isolated fibers, such  

tes, and obesity, as well as  better appetite control and  digestive function. There’s  also some evidence that it  might reduce the risk for  duodenal ulcers, breast can 

cer, and ovarian cancer, but  more studies are needed.  Some fibers act as prebi otics, meaning they promote  the growth or activity of  “good” bacteria in the colon  (see “Powering up with pro biotics,” page 38). The bac teria feed on these fibers  and cause them to ferment,  producing compounds that  help the body regulate appe tite, metabolism, and glu cose. Prebiotics include guar  gum (found in legumes),  inulin (found in artichokes,  asparagus, chicory, garlic,  leeks, and wheat), fructooli gosaccharides (found in a  variety of fruits and vegeta bles, including bananas and  

Table 1: High-fiber foods



Flaxseed (1 ounce) 

Lentils, cooked (½ cup) 


Minestrone soup (1 cup)* 

Artichokes, cooked (½ cup) 


Chickpeas, cooked (½ cup) 


Pear (1 small) 


Raspberries (½ cup) 


Almonds (1 ounce) 

Orange (1 large) 


Figs, dried (2) 


Whole-grain bread (1 slice)* 

Snow peas, fresh (1 cup) 


Banana (1 small) 


Whole-wheat spaghetti, cooked (½ cup) 


Quinoa, cooked (½ cup) 


Broccoli, cooked (½ cup) 


Whole-grain hot cereal, cooked (½ cup)* 

Peanut butter (2 tablespoons) 


Walnuts (1 ounce) 

*Amount of fiber varies based on brand. 

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. 


as inulin, which is added  to many food products to  increase the total volume of  fiber. While inulin is a pre 

biotic, it is not linked with  the multitude of health ben efits found in whole plant  foods that are naturally rich  in fiber. So prioritize whole food fiber sources in your  diet.  

It’s easy to meet your  fiber goals if you’re loading  up on whole plant foods— especially legumes and  whole grains. But fruits,  vegetables, nuts, and seeds  are also good sources. (See  Table 1, at left, for a list of  foods that are naturally high  in fiber.) Every gram counts  toward your goal. Note that  if your intake of fiber is low  and you increase it dramati 

cally, you may notice some  gastrointestinal symptoms  at first.  

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“Bad” carbs 

“Bad” carbs are those that  are highly processed, such as  refined grains (white flour,  white rice), fruit juices, and sug 

ars (from beets, cane, or corn,  for example). During the course  of processing, they are stripped  of many of their nutrients—in  particular vitamins, miner 

als, phytochemicals, and fiber.  s 


Without that fiber, the natural  






starches and sugars are digested  








more quickly, and are therefore  







absorbed into the bloodstream  







more rapidly in the form of  ©

glucose. That’s one reason why  a glass of orange juice isn’t as  good for you as a whole orange.  While most of the poor  

Doughnuts may tempt you with sprinkles and  icing. But they are made with refined sugar and  flour, are digested very quickly, and can make your  blood sugar spike shortly after you eat them. 

Glycemic index and glycemic  load 

“Bad” carbs are typically  digested more quickly than good  carbs—a fact that is reflected in  a measurement called the gly 

cemic index (GI). In general,  highly processed carbohydrate containing foods, such as white  bagels, sugary beverages, and  white rice, have a higher GI,  while minimally processed car bohydrate-containing foods,  such as wheat berries, beans,  

and spinach, have a low GI.  The problem with high-GI  foods eaten in isolation is that  they tend to flood your blood stream with sugar all at once,  triggering a gush of insulin to  

carb choices tend to be highly refined foods, some  are not. Take potatoes. Baked potatoes with the skins  are whole plant foods that contain good amounts of  potassium and vitamin C, along with some fiber, but  potatoes have a high glycemic index, meaning they  raise blood sugar rapidly (see “Glycemic index and  glycemic load,” above right). Potatoes have also been  linked with higher weight, so they should be limited  to more moderate consumption. “Quick-cooking”  whole grains are another whole food that can be prob lematic, since the processing needed to reduce their  cooking time can raise their glycemic index value. 

So which foods are on the “bad” carb list? The fol lowing should be limited in the diet: 

• foods made with large amounts of refined sug ars (including table sugar and high-fructose corn  syrup, among others), such as many types of des serts, ice cream, pastries, doughnuts, flavored yo gurt, beverages, and cereals  

• foods made with refined (white) flour, such as  breads, bagels, crackers, and other baked goods  • white potatoes 

• white rice 

• quick-cooking oats or grits 

• fruit juice. 

clear the sugar from your blood and leaving your  blood sugar too low after just a few hours. This can  make you feel hungry, which can lead to overeating  and weight gain. Over time, a steady diet of high-GI  meals may impair your body’s system of responding  to insulin, causing a problem known as insulin resis 

tance, which in turn can lead to type 2 diabetes and  other problems, such as heart disease and perhaps  some cancers. 

However, the glycemic index doesn’t provide  a perfect gauge of what happens when you actually  eat a meal. For example, if you eat a mixed meal con taining both high- and low-GI foods, as well as some  protein and fat, the sugar rush is blunted. In addi tion, numerous factors can influence the GI of a food,  such as ripeness, variety, and preparation method.  And people may have a unique, individual glycemic  response to foods that can even vary during certain  times of the day.  

More important, GI numbers can be misleading.  For example, carrots have a high GI, meaning that  the sugar from them hits your bloodstream quickly,  but because they contain so few total carbohydrates  over all, the amount of sugar you get from them in  a normal serving size is not a problem. That’s where  

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Table 2: How much sugar are you really eating? 

You expect to find sugar in your ice cream and pound cake. But many other foods contain  added sugar, too—from fruit smoothies to bread, tomato sauce, and yogurt—and  these sugars can add up quickly. Here are some examples. Note that while food labels  are beginning to include “added sugars,” this information is not yet available for some  products as well as for restaurant foods and beverages. 





Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino, tall  (12 ounces), with whipped cream 



Not available

Pepsi (12-ounce can) 




Snapple Peach Tea  

(16-ounce bottle)




Coca-Cola (12-ounce can) 



Panera Strawberry Banana  

Smoothie (16 ounces)


Not available

Gatorade Original Thirst Quencher  (20-ounce bottle)



McDonald’s Fruit ’N Yogurt Parfait  (5.2 ounces)


Not available

PowerBar Performance Energy,  Chocolate (65-gram bar) 


Not available

Clif Bar, Blueberry Crisp  

(68-gram bar)


Not available

Yoplait Original Mixed Berry Yogurt  (6-ounce container)


Not available

Sara Lee Pound Cake (76 grams) 


Not available

Tillamook California Peach,  

2% Farmstyle Greek Yogurt  

(5.3-ounce container)



Luna Protein, Chocolate Salted  Caramel (45-gram bar)



Capri Sun Fruit Punch  

(6-ounce pouch)


Not available

Bertolli Tomato and Basil Pasta  Sauce (½ cup)


Not available

Pillsbury Blueberry Toaster Strudel  (55-gram pastry)


Not available

Thomas Blueberry Bagel  

(95-gram bagel)

Not available

Prego Traditional Pasta Sauce  (½ cup)


Thomas Cinnamon Raisin English  Muffin (61-gram muffin)

Not available

*1 teaspoon of sugar is equivalent to 4.2 grams of sugar; values are rounded to the nearest  whole number. 

Source: Company websites and product packaging.


another measurement called the gly cemic load (GL) comes into play. GL  takes into consideration the amount  of carbohydrates you typically con sume in a serving of food, in addi tion to how quickly those carbs are  digested. Carrots have a high GI but  a low GL, making the GL a much  more accurate picture of their glyce mic impact.  

To achieve a low-GL diet, avoid  highly processed carb-containing  foods and try to make a higher pro portion of your carbs intact grains,  legumes, whole fruits, and vegeta bles. Following are some suggestions:  • Skip fruit juice and instead focus  

on whole, unsweetened fruits, such  as oranges, apples, and berries.  • Replace quick-cooking oats and  grits with steel-cut oats and whole grain porridges. 

• Limit intake of sugar-sweetened  pies, cakes, or cookies. Instead,  enjoy unsweetened yogurt with  ripe berries or chopped fruit.  

• Swap out white rice for bulgur,  quinoa, or hulled barley.  

• Trade white bread for whole-grain,  whole-kernel, or “flourless” breads  made with legumes.  

• Instead of baked or mashed white  potatoes, choose roasted, cubed  sweet potatoes.  

Added sugars 

Once upon a time, the only sugars we  consumed were those naturally pres ent in the foods we ate—the sugars  found in tomatoes or blueberries, for  example. But then humans learned  how to extract sugar from sugar cane  and beets, and they began adding it  to foods. Nutritionists use the term  “added sugars” to refer to these sug 

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ars, which pile on calories and raise blood glucose lev els with no added nutritional value.  

Nutritious or not, we love the sweet stuff. It seems  that everywhere you turn, you see foods with added  sugar, from sugary sodas and energy drinks in the gas  station, to muffins and cookies in the coffee shop, to  candy and doughnuts in the vending machine at work.  Not surprisingly, this can contribute a lot of daily calo 




ries to a person’s diet. The average intake of added sug 








ars is 17.4 teaspoons a day (73 grams) for Americans  







ages 2 and older, according to data from the National  







Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. This  





amount is even higher (25.1 teaspoons, or 105 grams)  ©

among people who do not meet overall recommenda tions in the Dietary Guidelines. Research suggests that  increased intake of added sugars is linked with obe sity, metabolic disorders, and cardiovascular disease.  

How much sugar is too much? The Dietary Guide lines now recommend limiting added sugar to 10% of  your calories—and the American Heart Association  sets an even lower target of just 5% of total calories.  Even using the higher level, that’s only 200 calories  for someone who consumes 2,000 calories a day—or  about 12.5 teaspoons of added sugar each day for the  average person. (A teaspoon of sugar is 4.2 grams.)  That’s not much, when you consider how much sugar  is added to foods. To keep sugar in check, your best  bet is to enjoy most of your foods in their whole or  minimally processed form and to limit your con 

sumption of packaged foods, prepared entrees, baked  goods, and fast foods.  

It’s also important to keep an eye out for “hidden”  sugar in foods, which can add up quickly. It’s easy to  predict that added sugar will be in sweet things, like  sodas, cookies, and cakes. But there is also a lot of  added sugar in many products that sound healthy,  such as tomato sauce, yogurt (which can be as sweet  as ice cream), granola bars (often as sugary as candy  bars), and breakfast cereals (see Table 2, page 14).  

The FDA has approved new food labels (see Fig ure 1, page 5). These labels indicate how much added  

Nutritious or not, we love the sweet stuff. Food manufacturers know  that, and they sneak sugar into products that sound healthy, like  tomato sauce, yogurt, and granola bars. Always check labels for sugar. 

sugar a food has. That helps you distinguish between  the natural sugars present in foods and those that have  been added as sweeteners. You can also check the  ingredients list of a food product to find added sugars.  Steer clear of products that list sugar, honey, molas 

ses, corn syrup, corn sugar, fructose, or high-fructose  corn syrup, since those are clearly added—and espe cially avoid foods that list multiple forms of sugars  or include a sugar among the first three ingredients,  indicating that the product contains a lot. Other sugar  aliases to watch for include agave nectar, brown sugar,  cane sugar, corn sweetener, dextrose, maltose, fruit  juice concentrate, brown rice syrup, and glucose.  

Note that while “natural” sugars such as agave,  coconut palm sugar, and honey are growing in pop ularity because they are considered less processed  than cane or beet sugar, they are still added sugars  and should be limited. In addition, low-calorie or  no-calorie sweeteners such as stevia, aspartame, and  sucralose are present in many food products, such as  yogurt and beverages. While these sweeteners don’t  add sugar to meals and appear to be safe, they aren’t  always linked with effective weight control. You’re  better off enjoying the natural flavor of foods without  the addition of sweeteners. 

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Finding the best fats 

A few decades ago, people feared fats, which were  

thought to make you fat, as well as raise your risk  of disease. But in recent years, scientists and nutrition ists have been re-evaluating the role of fats in the diet.  Now we know that, as far as health is concerned, the  important thing is not so much the amount of fat, but  the type of fat you choose. While the wrong ones can  clog your arteries and lead to heart disease, the right  kinds can actually lower your risk of cardiovascular  trouble. That helps explain why the Mediterranean  diet—which is rich in healthful fats, such as olive oil  and those found in nuts and fish—is so good for you.  

Fat is actually an essential element of the diet. It’s a  major source of energy, helping to fuel your activities,  insulate your body, and keep you warm. In addition,  the body requires fat to make cell membranes, sheath  nerves, maintain healthy skin and hair, and perform  other vital functions. Fat even aids in the absorption  of certain key nutrients from food. For example, you  need to consume some fat in order for your body to  absorb the fat-soluble vitamins—vitamins A, D, E, and  K—from the digestive tract into your bloodstream. 

At the same time, fat slows the absorption of sugar  and other refined carbs from your digestive tract. If  you guzzle a tub of fat-free ice cream on an empty  stomach, there is nothing to hinder the rush of sugar  from your digestive tract into your bloodstream. But  fat slows down the process. That’s a positive thing,  because it means that your body isn’t hit with a surge  of sugar all at once, but can absorb it more gradually.  

As for weight gain, the role of fat is paradoxical.  True, each gram of fat contains 9 calories, as opposed to  just 4 calories per gram for carbohydrates and proteins,  so a little goes a long way. If you overload on fats on a  regular basis, you can easily increase your calorie intake  and end up gaining weight. Yet the plethora of fat-free  products that swamped the market a few decades ago  didn’t lead to weight loss. In part, that’s because the fat free label made people assume they could eat a lot of  

these products. But it’s also because fat has the virtue of  making food taste better and keeps you fuller longer, so  you’re inclined to be more satisfied with less food.  

That’s not carte blanche to load up on fat. Aim to  get 20% to 35% of your daily calories in the form of  fat. Just two to three servings of foods with healthy  fats each day—a serving being a handful of nuts or  seeds, 2 tablespoons of nut butter or seed butter, half  an avocado, or food cooked with 1 tablespoon of olive  oil—will put you at the lower end of that range.  

“Good” fats 

Like carbohydrates, fats can be divided into more  healthful and less healthful types. In general, the “bad”  fats come from animal sources and tropical oils. The  so-called good fats come mostly from vegetables, nuts,  and fish. You can easily spot them because they are  liquid at room temperature.  

There are two categories of healthy fats: polyun saturated and monounsaturated.  

Polyunsaturated fats  

Fish oil, flaxseeds, and sunflower seeds are all sources  of the healthy group of fats known as polyunsaturated  fatty acids (see Table 3, page 17). Polyunsaturated fats  are essential in your diet, meaning that your body  can’t manufacture them, so you must get them from  food. These fats are required for normal body func 

tion, including brain development, inflammation con trol, and blood clotting. These fats are also important  components of cell membranes, affecting the structure  and properties of the cell. Some of these fats are found  in very high concentrations in cells in the retina and  brain. They also help reduce total and LDL (bad) cho lesterol and triglycerides, if substituted for saturated  fat and carbs, respectively. There are two major types  of polyunsaturated fats—omega-3 fatty acids and  omega-6 fatty acids. Both offer health benefits. 

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Omega-3 fatty acids. These can consist of either  longer or shorter chains of carbon, hydrogen, and  other atoms. Research has shown that the long-chain  omega-3s in fish and fish oil—specifically, eicosa 

pentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid  (DHA)—help prevent and even treat heart disease and  stroke. These fats help reduce blood pressure, lower  triglycerides, and prevent heart rhythm disorders, and  may raise HDL (good) cholesterol. Evidence also sug 

gests they help reduce the need for anti-inflammatory  medications in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Fatty  fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, are espe cially good sources of omega-3s.  

Of course, you can buy omega-3 supplements, too.  However, a recent analysis of 79 clinical trials found  supplementation had little impact on cardiovascu lar disease risk. A better bet for heart health is to eat  actual foods that contain omega-3s. If you eat fish  

and other seafood, for example, you not only gain the  healthy fats together with other beneficial compounds  present in the food, but you also replace something on  your plate—often something less healthy, such as red  or processed meat.  

While the most helpful omega-3s are the long chain ones found in seafood, there is also a shorter chain omega-3 fatty acid, called alpha-linolenic acid  (ALA), that is found in some plants, such as flaxseeds,  walnuts, chia, canola oil, and soy. Studies have linked  ALA with a reduced risk of certain heart conditions  and inflammatory diseases. The body can also convert  ALA into the long-chain omega-3s—EPA and DHA.  However, it is not very efficient at doing this, so to  ensure that you get enough EPA and DHA, you should  consume them in your diet regularly. The adequate  intake (AI; see “Dietary alphabet soup,” page 9) for  ALA is 1.6 grams per day for men and 1.1 for women.  


Table 3: Plant foods containing healthy fats  

In whole foods, various types of fat are rarely found in isolation. Nuts, seeds, and olives all contain mixtures of fats, including healthful  monounsaturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), along with saturated fat. Although saturated fat is  generally regarded as a less healthful form of fat, it is more than balanced out in plant-based foods by the higher levels of healthy fats. 











15 g 

1 g 

10 g 

4 g 

0 mg



5 g 

1 g 

3 g 

1 g 

33 mg

Brazil nuts 


19 g 

4 g 

7 g 

6 g 

5 mg



12 g 

2 g 

7 g 

2 g 

17 mg

Chia seeds 


9 g 

1 g 

1 g 

7 g 

4,915 mg



12 g 

1 g 

2 g 

8 g 

6,388 mg



18 g 

1 g 

13 g 

2 g 

17 mg

Hemp seeds 


12 g 

1 g 

1 g 

9 g 

2,264 mg

Macadamia nuts 


22 g 

3 g 

17 g 

0 g 

55 mg

Olives, ripe, canned 


3 g 

0 g 

2 g 

0 g 

18 mg



14 g 

2 g 

7 g 

4 g 

1 mg



21 g 

2 g 

12 g 

6 g 

278 mg

Pine nuts 


19 g 

1 g 

5 g 

10 g 

32 mg



13 g 

2 g 

7 g 

4 g 

72 mg

Pumpkin seeds 


13 g 

3 g 

4 g 

6 g 

51 mg

Sesame seeds 


14 g 

2 g 

5 g 

6 g 

105 mg

Sunflower seeds 


14 g 

2 g 

3 g 

9 g 

19 mg



18 g 

2 g 

3 g 

13 g 

2,565 mg

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.


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No AI has been established for EPA and DHA. Omega-6 fatty acids. These fats get relatively  little attention in the media, but they may help pro tect against heart disease, too. Research shows that  replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated ones,  including omega-6 fatty acids, consistently lowers  levels of LDL cholesterol—and a pooled analysis  of studies found that replacing 5% of total energy  intake of saturated fats with omega-6s could reduce  the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and similar events  by 13% and heart-related deaths by 26%.  Linoleic acid, the omega-6 that appears to lower  LDL the most, can be found in abundance in such veg etable oils as safflower, soybean, sunflower, walnut, and  corn oils. These are good oils to use for sautéing foods,  making salad dressings, and baking. (Be aware, how ever, that high-oleic safflower and sunflower oils, often  used in chips, have much lower omega-6 content.) The  AI for linoleic acid is 17 grams per day for men ages 19  to 50, 14 grams for men 51 to 70, 12 grams for women  19 to 50, and 11 grams for women 51 to 70.  However, omega-6s, which are also plentiful in  processed foods, can end up crowding out healthful  omega-3s, if you aren’t careful. You can improve your  ratio of omega-3 fats to omega-6 fats in your diet by  prioritizing omega-3 food sources such as seafood, soy  foods, walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds, and reducing  your intake of highly processed foods.  

Monounsaturated fats 

Olive oil is probably the most famous example of a  rich source of monounsaturated fats. While there’s  no dietary reference intake (DRI) for these fats, the  Dietary Guidelines recommend using them as much  as possible, along with polyunsaturated fats, to replace  saturated fats in the diet. Monounsaturated fats  decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2  diabetes because they help improve blood cholesterol  levels and your body’s responsiveness to insulin. In  addition, extra-virgin olive oil, which is cold-pressed  and unrefined, contains plant compounds with anti inflammatory activities. Other good sources of mono 

unsaturated fats include olives, canola oil, avocados,  and most nuts (and their oils), as well as high-oleic  safflower and sunflower oils (look for the words “high  

oleic” on the label). All you have to do is look to the  Mediterranean diet pattern, with hundreds of studies  showing health benefits, to see an example of an eating  approach rich in monounsaturated fats.  

“Bad” fats 

Just as there are healthy fats, so are there unhealthy  fats—namely, saturated fats and artificial trans fats.  Such fats boost your chances of developing heart dis 

Table 4: Foods high in saturated fat  

The following are examples of food products that are high in  saturated fat. Eating too many of them can easily put you over your  daily allowance. 







Outback Steakhouse Aussie  Cheese Fries, large 



PF Chang’s Thai Harvest Curry  with Chicken



KFC Chunky Chicken Pot Pie 



Del Taco Macho Combo Burrito 



Domino’s Chicken Carbonara  Pasta



Beef short ribs (3.5 ounces) 



Croissant with egg, cheese,  sausage*



Pork chop (3.5 ounces) 



Burger King Bacon Double  Cheeseburger 



Au gratin potatoes (1 cup)* 


Cheesecake (one-sixth)* 


Butter (1 tablespoon) 


Fruit Danish* 


Heavy cream (1 ounce) 


Cheddar cheese (1 ounce) 


Cream cheese (1 ounce) 


Reese’s Sticks (1.5 ounces) 


Banquet Salisbury Steak Dinner 


Whole milk (1 cup) 


Bacon, pan-fried (1 ounce) 


*May vary depending on product.  

Sources: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference; restaurant  websites.


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ease by increasing blood levels of LDL cholesterol and  triglycerides. That’s why the Dietary Guidelines rec ommend avoiding them in your diet—and why the  FDA banned artificial trans fats from food products  (although some naturally occurring ones remain).  

Saturated fats 

Saturated fat has been the subject of much debate  recently, thanks to headlines hinting that these fats  are no longer the bad boys of heart health. Unfor tunately, a controversial meta-analysis published in  Annals of Internal Medicine in 2014—which is often  cited as “proof ” that saturated fats are not bad—is rife  with errors and omissions. The analysis, which drew  on data from multiple earlier studies, misconstrued  research originally performed by scientists at various  institutions, including Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of  Public Health. The analysis found that reducing satu 

rated fats did not lower heart disease risk, leading to  headlines stating that saturated fat wasn’t bad for the  heart after all—but many of the participants in these  studies had replaced saturated fat with refined carbs,  which are just as bad for the heart, blunting the effect  of the saturated fat reduction. Furthermore, the anal 

ysis omitted data from studies in which people who  replaced saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats did  reduce their risk for heart disease. In fact, after its ini tial publication, the study was corrected to include  

data that showed benefits from omega-3 fatty acids.  So, despite news stories suggesting that you don’t  need to worry about saturated fat, it’s a good idea to  keep levels in your diet low. The Dietary Guidelines,  which are based on the entire body of evidence, rec ommend that saturated fat intake remain below 10%  of dietary calories—about 22 grams per day for the  average person. The American Heart Association  recommends aiming even lower, limiting saturated  fat intake to just 5% to 6% of total calories—no more  than about 13 grams a day for the average person.  For perspective, both 3 ounces of regular ground beef  and 1 ounce of cheddar cheese have 6 grams of satu rated fat. Saturated fats are primarily found in animal  foods, including high-fat meats; high-fat dairy prod ucts, such as cheese, butter, whole milk, and cream (see Table 4, page 18); and tropical fats, such as palm,  

What’s up with coconut oil? 

Coconut oil is a trendy ingredient, turning up in a  

broad range of food products, health food stores,  and media stories. Many so-called experts claim that  coconut oil is some sort of tonic, good for all sorts of  benefits, such as “burning” fat, killing viruses, lowering  

cholesterol, and reducing seizures. However, there is  little evidence to back up the hype.  

Coconut oil is made up of 90% saturated fat, which  raises LDL (bad) cholesterol. Indeed, if you see a bottle  of coconut oil, you’ll notice that it’s solid at room  temperature—a hint that it is high in saturated fat.  Some people point to the fact that about half the  saturated fat comes in the form of lauric acid, which  boosts HDL (good) cholesterol. But, given the dearth  of data supporting its use, you’re best off limiting it for  now and using healthier vegetable oils, such as olive oil  and soybean oil. 

palm kernel, and coconut oils (see “What’s up with  coconut oil?” above). 

Trans fats 

Artificial trans fats—the partially hydrogenated oils  that were once commonly found in products like  crackers, cookies, cakes, frozen pies, snack foods, stick  margarines, coffee creamers, refrigerated dough prod 

ucts, and ready-to-use frostings—became the poster  child for poor nutrition after it became widely known  that they had no known nutritional value and no safe  level of consumption. In June 2018, an FDA ban on  products with artificial trans fats took effect.  

That said, some naturally occurring trans fats are  found at very low levels in foods such as in beef, lamb,  milk, butter, and cheese. It is not clear if the natural  trans fats are as harmful as artificial trans fats—in fact,  early testing suggests that they aren’t—but since they  often keep company with saturated fats, there’s reason  to be cautious.  

It’s also worth noting that while manufacturers  have stopped making products with artificial trans  fat, they frequently replace it with ingredients such as  palm oil that are high in saturated fat. Other replace 

ments include coconut oil, palm kernel oil, shorten ing, and full-fat dairy products, such as whole milk,  butter, and cream. 

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Picking healthful protein 

It seems like everywhere you turn these days, you’re  

hearing about the virtues of a protein-rich diet. Pro tein is undeniably important—you need it to maintain  your muscles, bones, skin, and every other organ and  tissue in your body. It has many functions, including  building the enzymes that trigger many of the body’s  important chemical reactions. A lack of protein in  the diet can slow growth, reduce muscle mass, lower  immunity, weaken the heart and respiratory system,  and even cause death.  

Not only is protein important in your overall diet,  but emerging research suggests that you should have  some at all three meals to maintain your muscles,  especially if you are older. Often people consume little  protein in the morning, preferring to pile up on pro 

tein during the evening. To prevent this imbalance, try  to ensure that you get adequate protein at breakfast,  too—for example, from Greek yogurt, eggs, legumes,  nuts, seeds, or tofu. 

However, you may not need as much protein as  you think you do at any given meal. Protein deficiency  is rare in the United States and other industrialized  countries. In fact, the opposite is often true. Ameri 

cans tend to overestimate how much protein they  

Beans provide lean protein, plus a healthful bonus of additional  nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. As long as you eat a  variety of plant proteins, you’ll get all the essential amino acids.  

really need. The recommended intake for protein is  10% to 35% of your total calories—that’s a range of  50 to 175 grams of protein per day for the average  person, depending on your energy needs—although  older people and athletes may need slightly more to  maintain their muscles. It’s not difficult to achieve this  level of protein intake. Almost all whole foods contain  protein—some more than others (see Table 5, below).  Protein is even found in whole grains and vegetables.  But it’s especially concentrated in foods like meat, fish,  poultry, soy, legumes, nuts, and seeds. A few servings  of protein-rich foods a day, and you’re there.  

The best protein choices 

So which types of protein are best? Start by consider ing what else you find in the same food. Along with  a healthy complement of minerals, does the food in  question pack a hefty dose of unhealthful saturated fat  (like ground beef)? Or does it come in a lean food with  

Table 5: Good sources of protein 

These healthful foods contain a hefty amount of protein. 






Fish, raw (3 ounces) 



Kidney beans, cooked (1 cup) 



Low-fat yogurt, plain  

(8 ounces)



Tofu, firm (½ cup) 



Lentil soup, canned (½ cup)* 


Nonfat milk (1 cup) 


Peanuts (1 ounce) 


Pumpkin seeds (1 ounce) 


Broccoli, chopped, cooked  (½ cup)


*May vary depending on product. 

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.






























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a healthful bonus of additional nutrients, such as fiber,  vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (like lentils)?  It’s these other considerations that largely determine  whether the proteins you put on your plate will help  



reduce—or increase—your risk of chronic diseases.  







Some people also place a high value on the food’s  







complement of amino acids—the building blocks of  






proteins. There are 20 amino acids that supply the raw  






material for the body’s proteins. Following genetic  ©

instructions, the body strings together these amino  acids into chains to make the specific proteins it needs.  Of the 20, only nine are considered “essential” amino  acids. Like the essential fats, these are components the  body cannot synthesize and must take in from food.  

Proponents of meat-heavy diets often claim that  meat is the superior source of protein because it is  a “high-quality” protein with significant amounts  of all nine essential amino acids. However, you can  get all nine by eating a variety of plant foods, such  as legumes, soy, and nuts. You may not find signifi 

cant amounts together in most individual plant foods  (one exception is soy, which has good balances of all  nine amino acids, comparable to levels found in ani mal proteins), but as long as you consume a variety of  plant foods every day, your body maintains a pool of  amino acids to meet your needs.  

If you rely on plant foods to supply most of your  protein, the easiest way to make sure you get enough  of these amino acids is by eating a range of protein containing foods. Many ethnic cuisines do this by  pairing grains and legumes. For example, Latin cui sines are often based on rice and beans; any essential  components missing from the beans are in the rice.  Similarly, in Indian cuisine, rice and dal (lentils) form  the basis of many meals. This formula can apply to  many pairings, such as farro and white beans or pea nuts and millet, for example. Any range of protein containing plants is likely to supply the nine, so this is  not something you should stress over.  

In order to fuel your body with the protein it needs  while reducing your risk of chronic disease, focus on  the following choices.  

Legumes. These plant-based foods—including  dried beans, lentils, and peas—are not only rich in  protein (about 8 grams per half-cup, cooked), but are  

The occasional slice of lean beef can deliver a hefty dose of protein  and minerals, such as iron and zinc. But research suggests that a  regular diet of it boosts the risks for heart disease and some cancers.  

also are packed with fiber, folate, manganese, potas sium, iron, magnesium, copper, selenium, zinc, and  phytochemicals. Studies have linked consumption of  legumes with lower risk of heart disease, high blood  pressure, obesity, some types of cancer, and type 2  diabetes. Most cultures once relied on these sustain able, nutritious plant proteins regularly, but in mod ern times our intake has waned. Try to consume more  legumes—aim for at least one half-cup serving daily as  a replacement for meat on the plate.  

Soy. Actually part of the legume family, soy is an  important food source traced back to ancient China. It  is uniquely rich in high-quality protein (15 grams per  half-cup, cooked), as well as iron, calcium, and—when  minimally processed—fiber. Soy also possesses phy 

toestrogens, which have antioxidant properties that  may account for some of soy’s health benefits, such  as lower risk of heart disease. Don’t believe the hype  you might read on the Internet about the alleged dan 

gers of consuming soy. There is no scientific basis for  avoiding this wholesome food source in its minimally  processed forms if you consume moderate amounts— about two or three servings per day of soy foods,  including tofu, tempeh, soybeans, edamame, soy milk,  and soy nuts.  

Nuts and seeds. Nuts (from almonds to walnuts)  and seeds (from chia to sunflower) are packed with  plant-based protein—3 to 9 grams per ounce, depend ing on the variety—as well as healthy fats, fiber, vita mins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Research shows  that a handful a day (about 1 ounce) can help cut your  risk of heart disease. Turn to these nutritional super stars, such as peanuts (technically a legume, but nutri 

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tionally similar to nuts), pistachios, and hemp seeds  for a source of protein on your plate.  

Plant-based meat alternatives. A number of  trendy meat alternatives, from the Impossible Burger  and Beyond Meat to frozen quinoa burgers, are mak ing a splash in the plant-based protein space. While it’s  a good idea to increase plant proteins in your diet, it’s  also important to check the Nutrition Facts on many  faux meats, which can be just as high in saturated fat  and sodium as conventional meat products. You’re  best off choosing minimally processed plant proteins,  such as tofu, beans, and peanuts.  

Fish. The best animal protein you can choose  is fatty fish or seafood, which is high in protein and  long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (see page 17). Fish  consumption has been linked to numerous benefits,  including reduced risks of heart attacks, strokes,  prostate cancer, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease.  That’s why the Dietary Guidelines and the American  Heart Association suggest that you include at least  

What to do about mercury in fish 

two 3-ounce servings of fish or seafood in your diet  weekly. Try to choose those that are richest in omega 3s. However, you should also be aware of mercury in  fish and try to avoid those with the highest levels (see  

“What to do about mercury in fish,” below). Poultry. Skinless chicken and turkey provide good  sources of protein, with minimal saturated fat, making  it a good protein choice. Include this versatile animal  protein in casseroles, stir-fries, salads, and stews.  

What about red meat? 

An occasional lean steak isn’t a problem. In fact, it can  deliver a hefty dose of protein and minerals, such as  iron and zinc. However, a growing body of research  indicates that diets heavy in red meat may contribute  to disease risk, such as certain types of cancer, heart  disease, diabetes, and early death. Harvard research 

ers analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study and  the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and found  

Fish is an excellent source of protein,  

and its healthy oils protect against  cardiovascular disease. Because a diet  rich in seafood protects the heart and  aids neurological development, fish  

remains an important component of a  healthy diet. 

However, nearly all fish and shellfish  contain traces of mercury, a toxic metal,  and some seafood contains other  contaminants known as persistent  organic pollutants (POPs). As small fish  are eaten by larger fish up the food  chain, concentrations of mercury and  POPs increase, so that large, predatory  deep-ocean fish tend to contain the  highest levels. That makes it best to  avoid eating large fish, such as shark,  swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel. As  long as you avoid these higher sources  of mercury, the benefits of eating fish far  outweigh the risks of mercury in fish. Recommendations  

The FDA recommends that adults should  eat up to 12 ounces per week of a  

variety of cooked seafood as long  as they avoid the large predatory  ocean fish mentioned above and  

pay attention to local seafood  advisories.  

For women who are pregnant or  may become pregnant, nursing  mothers, and children ages  

12 and younger, the following  

guidelines apply: 

• Eat 8 to 12 ounces (two to three  meals) a week of a variety of fish and  shellfish that are lower in mercury.  Five of the most commonly eaten fish  that are low in mercury are shrimp,  canned light tuna, salmon, pollock,  and catfish. 

• Another commonly eaten fish,  albacore (“white”) tuna, has more  mercury than canned light tuna. So,  when choosing your fish, try to select  light tuna, and limit albacore to 6  ounces per week. 

• Follow these same recommendations  

when feeding fish and shellfish to  


your young child, but serve smaller  














• Check local advisories about the  






safety of fish caught by family and  






friends in your local lakes, rivers,  



and coastal areas. If no advice is  

available, eat up to 6 ounces per  

week of fish from local waters, but  

don’t consume any other fish during  that week. Children under 6 should  limit consumption to 1 to 2 ounces  

per week, and those 6 to 12 years old  should limit intake to 2 to 3 ounces  per week. 

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that people who ate the most red meat  tended to die younger, and the cause  of death was more frequently cardio vascular disease or cancer. Further  research from the Nurses’ Health Study  found that eating one serving per day  of nuts, fish, or chicken in place of red  meat lowered the risk of heart disease  by 30%. The American Institute for  Cancer Research recommends eating  no more than 12 to 18 ounces of red  meat per week, and completely avoid 

ing processed meats, such as sausage,  ham, bacon, hot dogs, and deli meats.  Why is red meat problematic? One  factor may be the high saturated fat lev els of many cuts and products. Before  buying, check the labels on packaged  meats. Look for extra-lean cuts, which  contain less than 2 grams of saturated  fat per 3.5-ounce portion, and limit  your intake of cooked lean meat to no  more than 6 ounces in a given day.  In addition to its saturated fat con tent, another problem with red meat is  

Antibiotics in meat 

World attention has increasingly focused on the routine use of  

antibiotics in farming—not just to treat animals when they’re ill,  but, more often, to increase the rate at which healthy cattle, pigs, and  poultry gain weight, so their meat can be brought to market more quickly.  This might have seemed like a good idea in the past. But today, there is  mounting evidence that this overuse of antibiotics contributes to antibiotic  resistance in humans. That’s because the steady use of antibiotics over  long periods allows resistant strains of bacteria to emerge, and these new  strains can get into the environment and transfer to people.  

In 2017, a new FDA rule went into effect prohibiting farmers from treating  their animals with antibiotics that are important for human medicine simply  to promote the animals’ growth. Now 95% of the medically important  antibiotics used in animal feed require veterinary oversight. As a result, the  amount of medically important antibiotics used on livestock dropped by a  third in 2017. The new law has loopholes, though; it still allows antibiotics for  disease prevention at the same dosages as those used for growth promotion.  

Antibiotic resistance is a significant public health issue. It can limit your  treatment options when you’re sick, raise your health care costs, and increase  the number, severity, and duration of some infections. Many doctors warn  that some of our tried-and-true antibiotics are losing their ability to fight  disease. Many factors contribute to antibiotic resistance, including the use  of antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers and the unnecessary prescribing  of antibiotics. However, you can further reduce the growth of antibiotic  resistance by choosing antibiotic-free meats (look for “certified organic” or  “no antibiotics used” labels) and by consuming more plant proteins. 

that cooking it at high temperatures, such as on the  grill, promotes the formation of substances called het erocyclic amines, which can contribute to the devel opment of cancer. Meat is also rich in heme iron, a  form of iron that the body absorbs more easily than  the non-heme iron in plants; but the intake of heme  iron has also been associated with increased can cer risk. And emerging evidence links high levels of  a dietary metabolite called trimethylamine N-oxide  (TMAO)—which the body makes from nutrients  found in meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs—with a  higher risk of cardiovascular disease and early death,  providing another reason to keep animal protein  intake to a moderate level.  

However, the most worrisome of all meats appear  to be processed red meats—a category including  bacon, ham, hot dogs, bologna, pastrami, salami,  sausage, bratwurst, and pepperoni. In late 2015, an  international panel of experts convened by the World  Health Organization concluded that processed meat  

is a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning that there is now  sufficient evidence to state that it raises the risk of can cer—in this case, colon cancer. (By contrast, the panel  classified unprocessed red meat as only a Group 2A,  or probable, carcinogen.) The hazards of eating pro cessed meat are low compared with those of smoking,  for example, but they rise in proportion to the amount  of processed meat consumed. The panel defined pro cessed meat as meat that is “transformed through salt ing, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes  

to enhance flavor or improve preservation.”  In addition to the problems with red meat in  general, some processed meats also contain added  nitrates, which can lead to the formation of cancer causing nitrosamines in the body. Moreover, pro cessed meats tend to have higher concentrations of  saturated fat and sodium, which may partly explain  why they have been linked with heart disease and  related problems. A study published in the journal  Circulation analyzed data from 20 studies of diet and  

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Dairy products are rich in protein and calcium. But you can also  get plenty of calcium from nondairy sources, such as leafy green  vegetables, broccoli, beans, and calcium-fortified tofu.  

health, including 1.2 million initially healthy partici pants, about 3% of whom went on to develop heart  disease, diabetes, or stroke. Results showed that red  meat consumption wasn’t associated with heart dis ease or diabetes as long as the meat was unprocessed.  However, processed and cured meats, such as bacon,  hot dogs, and ham, boosted the risk of heart disease by  42% and diabetes by 19%. Research suggests that even  processed white meat, such as turkey and chicken cold  cuts and sausage, may be a concern.  

If you do eat red meat, make it just an occasional  part of your diet. Opt for small portions, choose lean  cuts, and avoid charring your meat on the grill. One  good option is a lean cut of grass-fed beef. While it is  more expensive, grass-fed beef contains less saturated  fat than regular beef, and because of the higher nutri 

ent value of grass compared with traditional feed, it  also contains higher levels of healthful fats, such as  omega-3s and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which  have been linked with lower cancer risk.  

The lowdown on dairy  

Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and cot tage cheese, are rich in protein and calcium, which is  important for keeping your bones healthy.  

However, there may be reason to exercise some  restraint in your consumption of dairy products. High  intake of dairy has been linked with increased risks  

of certain cancers. The World Cancer Research Fund  Third Expert Report found limited evidence linking  higher calcium intake and consumption of dairy foods  to increased prostate cancer risk. On the other hand,  some research links dairy consumption to lower risk  of colorectal cancer. Clearly, more research is needed  to understand the relationship of dairy to cancer.  

In the meantime, it’s a good idea to limit your  




intake of dairy products to two servings per day.  








You also can get calcium from regular consumption  









of nondairy products, such as leafy green vegetables,  







broccoli, beans, and calcium-fortified tofu—though  






the amounts available in these foods are often not  ©

enough to meet the recommended level of calcium  intake without including some dairy, calcium supple ments, or calcium-fortified foods. When you do eat  dairy products, choose those that are lower in fat, such  as low-fat milk, cottage cheese, and yogurt, instead  of high-fat cheese, whole milk, butter, and ice cream.  Note that butter has almost no calcium, and ice cream  has far less than milk.  

Eggs in moderation 

Eggs are a good, affordable source of high-quality pro tein, with about 6 grams of protein per large egg. In  addition, they are rich in vitamin B12, vitamin D, ribo flavin (vitamin B2), selenium, choline, lutein, and folate. 

Eggs were once demonized for their cholesterol.  Now, however, they have made something of a come back. According to the Dietary Guidelines, the mod erate amount of cholesterol in eggs doesn’t seem to  have a major impact on blood cholesterol levels. More  important, some studies have shown that moderate  egg consumption (up to one egg per day) does not  increase heart disease risk for healthy people.  

However, the research is confusing. A recent study  found that for every half egg consumed daily, the risk  of heart disease rose by 6% and premature death rose  by 8%. And nutrients in eggs also contribute to the  formation of TMAO (see “What about red meat?” on  page 22), which has been linked with cardiovascular  disease. For now, it seems best to keep your intake  moderate—no more than three eggs per week—espe cially if you are at higher risk for heart disease. 

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Vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals 

Every day, your body produces skin, muscle, and  

bone. It makes tens of thousands of red blood cells  that carry nutrients and oxygen to every cell in your  body, and it produces multitudes of white blood cells  to fight invaders. Your nerves send electrical signals  skipping along thousands of miles of brain and body  pathways, and your tissues create chemical messen 

gers that shuttle from organ to  

organ, issuing the orders that  

orchestrate and sustain your life.  

To do all that, your body  

requires many different raw  

materials. In addition to the  


fat, and protein, which were  

covered in earlier chapters— 

these include nearly 30 vitamins  

and minerals that your body  






cannot manufacture in suffi 








cient amounts on its own. These  








essential compounds perform  






thousands of roles in the body:  


the lack of a single nutrient leads directly to a spe cific ailment—are rare in the United States, because  of our extensive supply of inexpensive food and the  fact that many common foods are fortified with cer tain key nutrients. However, getting less than optimal  amounts of important vitamins, minerals, and other  compounds can still contribute to a number of major  illnesses, such as heart disease,  

diabetes, cancer, and osteopo 

rosis. Hence, concern about  

“insufficiency”—a controversial  

topic—is a major driving factor  

in both the Dietary Guidelines  

and the mass marketing of over 

the-counter supplements.  

So how can you make sure  

you’re fulfilling your nutrient  

needs? The answer may sound  

familiar by now. Eat a well 

rounded diet, with plenty of  

minimally processed fruits, veg 

etables, legumes, whole grains,  

they help shore up bones, heal  wounds, maintain your immune  system, convert food into  

Your body requires relatively small amounts  of vitamins and minerals. You can get almost  everything you need from a plant-based diet.  

and lean sources of protein,  along with healthy fats, such as  nuts and olive oil. In most cases,  

energy, synthesize necessary chemicals in the brain,  repair cell and tissue damage, and more.  The essential vitamins and minerals are often  called micronutrients because your body needs only  tiny amounts of them. Yet failing to get even those  small quantities virtually guarantees disease. British  sailors learned centuries ago that living for months  without fresh fruits or vegetables—the main sources of  vitamin C—caused the bleeding gums and listlessness  of scurvy, a disease that often proved fatal. Even today  in many low-income countries, people frequently suf fer from a variety of nutrient-deficiency diseases, such  as anemia, caused by too little iron.  

True vitamin and mineral deficiencies—in which  

it’s much better to get your vitamins and minerals  from real food than from supplements.  

The benefits of food vs. supplements A vast amount of research has shown that you can sig nificantly cut your risk for chronic disease and disabil ity by following a healthy diet, as well as by exercising  

regularly and not smoking. While there is also limited  evidence that a daily multivitamin-multimineral tab let may be a good general insurance policy against  nutrient shortfalls, the evidence for taking high-dose,  individual vitamin and mineral supplements for dis ease prevention is much less convincing.  

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Supplement manufacturers have not hesitated to  exploit positive news from studies about the benefits  of vitamins and minerals and to use this information  to tout their products. But when put to the test in clin 

ical trials, supplements in general have not performed  as well as real food—that is, minimally processed or  whole foods. For example, broad population studies  suggest that people who eat foods rich in vitamin A  and beta carotene (which converts to vitamin A in  the body) are less likely to develop many types of can 

cer, especially lung cancer. However, when research ers tested beta carotene supplements in smokers, they  found that people who took the supplements were  more likely to develop lung cancer. Subsequent ran domized clinical trials of predominantly nonsmoking  men and women have not replicated this finding, but  found that taking supplements presented neither ben 

efit nor risk for total or specific types of cancer.  One problem with taking supplements of the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) is that they aren’t  readily passed through the body—unlike the water soluble vitamins (C and the Bs), which are generally  excreted in urine if they’re not needed (unless taken  in exceedingly high doses). By contrast, the fat-soluble  vitamins are stored in fat and can build up to toxic lev els if you take too much. By contrast, it’s hard to get  too much from food in its natural form. For one thing,  the levels in food are lower than in supplements. For  another, in the special case of beta carotene, the body  slows down the conversion of this substance to vita min A when it has enough, making it hard to overdose.  While it’s more difficult to consume dangerous  levels of water-soluble vitamins, it’s not impossible.  Many nutrition bars contain 100% of the RDA for folic  acid. Because many other foods are also enriched with  folic acid, it’s not hard to exceed the safe upper limit of  daily intake for this nutrient if you take a multivitamin  and eat fortified products on a regular basis. And con trary to the claims of some so-called experts, mega doses do nothing to enhance any bodily functions.  It can also be easy to overload on minerals like cal cium, which are added to a broad range of products.  The body can only absorb 500 mg of calcium at a time.  Total intake beyond 2,500 mg a day (or, after age 50,  2,000 mg/day) may damage kidneys and blood vessels.  

Does your diet deliver the  

recommended dose?  

Assuming you rely on food rather than supplements to  supply your vitamins and minerals, that raises another  question: does your diet deliver enough?  

There are two ways to approach this question. The  more laborious method is to total up what’s in your  diet. If you choose that route, there are free online  tools and calculators that can help you analyze the  nutrient content of your meals, such as MyFitness 

Pal (www.myfitnesspal.com) or Canada’s eaTracker  (www.eatracker.ca). You can also research the nutri ent content of various foods using the USDA’s newly  revamped FoodData Central website (https://fdc.nal. usda.gov). Or you can consult a registered dietitian,  who can access computer programs and databases to  help with the most difficult calculations.  

Alternatively, you can take a more relaxed  approach—that is, not worrying too much about the  details and focusing instead on the big picture: eating  a balanced diet that contains a variety of colorful fruits  and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, dairy prod 

ucts, seafood, lean meats, and poultry. When choosing  what to eat, simply emphasize nutrient-dense foods,  which are packed with vitamins and minerals and  have relatively few calories. If your dietary pattern is  healthful and mirrors these guidelines, then you don’t  have much to worry about.  

Shortfall nutrients 

While a balanced diet should meet most of your needs,  you may have to work a little harder to get enough of  several essential nutrients. Nutrition scientists call  these the “shortfall nutrients,” because people often  fall short of them. According to the Dietary Guide 

lines, these three (plus fiber; see page 11) require spe cial attention.  

Potassium promotes blood pressure control.  Since almost everyone exceeds recommended limits  on sodium (which raises blood pressure in salt-sen sitive people), potassium’s role in countering harmful  effects of excess sodium is especially valuable. Potas sium may protect the heart and bones in other ways,  too. The recommended intake for women 19 and older  

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(excluding those who are pregnant or breastfeeding)  is 2,600 mg per day, and for men 19 and older, it is  3,400 mg per day—yet the average American gets only  1,997 mg per day. You can boost intake by eating more  fruits, vegetables, and beans. Bananas and citrus are  well known for being rich in potassium; other all-stars  include avocado, kiwi, and melon.  

Calcium is essential for bones and seems to help  lower risk of colon cancer. Fewer than 50% of Ameri cans meet the Daily Value of 1,000 mg through their  diets—but the risk of supplementation is that it can  supply too much. Rather than relying on pills, boost  your intake by including dairy or calcium-fortified  nondairy milk and yogurt twice a day. Dark green leafy  vegetables are good sources of calcium (though they  contain less than dairy). The body absorbs more from  kale, bok choy, and broccoli than from spinach, because  the oxalate in spinach binds much of its calcium.  

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, mak ing this vitamin essential for bone health. In addition,  newer research suggests that it may help protect against  cancer and other chronic diseases. Unlike other vita mins and minerals, however, D is not abundant in food  sources other than fortified dairy and fatty fish such as  salmon, sardines, mackerel, rainbow trout, and tuna.  Hence, you may need supplements in order to meet  current recommendations for 600 IU per day up to age  69 and 800 IU for age 70 or older. Five to 10 minutes a  day of unprotected sun exposure on the hands, arms,  and legs can also help, since ultraviolet light striking  the skin prompts the body to produce vitamin D.  

The power of phytochemicals In addition to vitamins and minerals, a healthful diet  will deliver substantial amounts of compounds known  as phytochemicals (literally, “plant chemicals”). Even  the most humble fruits and vegetables are replete with  these compounds, which affect the flavor, color, scent,  and other properties of plant-based foods. The sear ing bite of hot peppers, the pungent whiff of garlic, the  deep orange hue of carrots, and the red blush of toma toes all owe a tip of the hat to various phytochemicals.  

Although plants develop these compounds for  their own purposes, including defense against preda 

tors, many of these substances appear to be benefi cial for people, too. The results of certain studies on  phytochemicals are now well known—the lutein in  dark leafy greens may help protect against specific eye  ailments; the lycopene in tomatoes may help defend  against prostate disease; the proanthocyanidins in  cranberries may help ward off urinary tract infections;  the anthocyanins in blueberries may help preserve  brain health as you age. Many phytochemicals also  have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities,  which are linked to their wide range of benefits, from  reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease to helping to  prevent osteoporosis.  

There are thousands of phytochemicals in your  fruits and vegetables, and in many cases, they work in  networks, so taking a few in supplement form is not  the best choice. Instead—you guessed it—try to get  them from your food.  

While you’re at it, try to broaden the repertoire of  fruits and vegetables you eat, so that it includes produce  of many colors. Consuming a wide variety of colorful  produce—red, yellow, orange, green, purple—ensures  that you also get a broad range of phytochemicals in  your diet. That’s important because different phyto 

chemicals serve different functions in the body. For  example, the sulforaphane that comes from cruciferous  vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauli flower, and others) helps fight cancer by mopping up  certain cancer-promoting substances that form in your  body during the course of normal metabolism. But  you won’t find sulforaphane in your blueberries, even  though the anthocyanins—the compounds that give  blueberries their deep purplish-blue color—are steeped  in antioxidant activity. That’s why you need the variety.  

Note that, as a general rule, the darker the fruit or  vegetable, the higher the level of phytochemicals you’ll  find in it, since many of these beneficial compounds  are plant pigments. Thus, a juicy ripe strawberry that’s  red straight through will have higher levels of antho 

cyanins than one that’s mainly white inside.  Despite the importance of color in produce, cer tain white vegetables, such as onions and cauliflower,  also contain important phytochemicals. For example,  the allyl sulfides in onions, garlic, and leeks have been  linked with cancer protection. 

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Making healthy beverage choices  

Liquids are an essential part of a healthy diet. But  

which are best? Today there is a large array of bev 

erages to tempt you, including sodas, sports drinks,  

energy drinks, bottled teas, vitamin waters, and fruit  

drinks. The beverages you choose can have a huge  

impact on your health, so it’s worth learning to sort  

the healthful ones from the not-so-healthful.  








Water on tap 










You can’t survive without water. Among its many  






functions, it helps aid digestion, prevent constipation,  normalize blood pressure, and stabilize your heart beat. Water also carries nutrients and oxygen to cells,  cushions joints, protects organs and tissues, helps  regulate body temperature, and maintains electrolyte  (sodium) balance.  

In addition, drinking two glasses 30 minutes  before eating may help you lose weight. A similar  strategy is simply to drink water between meals. If you  wait until you’re thirsty to drink, it’s easy to mistake  thirst for hunger and end up eating food when all you  really needed was a tall, cool glass of water.  

All beverages contain water, but water itself— because it’s naturally calorie-free—is an excellent  choice. If plain water seems too boring, you can make  it more interesting by drinking sparkling water, or  adding citrus or cucumber wedges, or infusing it with  herbs, such as basil, lavender, or mint.  

Sports drinks and energy drinks 

If you work out, do you need special drinks to fuel your  

performance? For the most part, no. Most experts  agree that water is the perfect hydration beverage for a  typical workout. In particular, beware of energy drinks,  which can contain a lot of sugar and caffeine. Serious  endurance athletes, however, may benefit from the extra  calories and electrolytes found in sports drinks. 

All beverages contain water, but water itself—because it’s naturally  calorie-free—is ideal. If plain water is too boring, try adding citrus  or cucumber wedges or infusing it with herbs, such as mint or basil. 

A variety of vitamin, sports, infused, and perfor mance waters—which may have small amounts of  micronutrients added to them—are widely available.  While they may help you meet your daily target for  water, it’s best not to rely on them to meet your quota  for anything else, as the added levels of micronutri ents are often too low to make an impact on your diet.  You’re better off with a balanced diet that provides  whole-food sources of these micronutrients. 

Coffee and tea 

After water, your second best choice is unsweetened  coffee or tea. Both are derived from plants and are  packed with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory com pounds. They both contain caffeine, which boosts  alertness and performance. And they offer a delicious,  flavorful choice of beverage, without fat and sugar (as  

long as you’re not stirring these into the mix).  Coffee. Once frowned upon by health profession als, coffee has experienced something of a renaissance  for its numerous health rewards. Originally from  Ethiopia, coffee is a brew made from roasted, ground  coffee beans that has been enjoyed around the world  

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for hundreds of years. A growing body of research  finds many health benefits related to coffee intake; it  has been linked to better mental and athletic perfor mance and lower risk of diabetes, liver disease, heart  disease, Parkinson’s disease, colon cancer, and prema ture death. A recent study, which analyzed data from  a half-million people, found reduced risk of prema ture death among coffee drinkers who drank 1 to 8  cups per day. The benefits of consuming coffee may be  related to a range of compounds found in coffee beans  beyond caffeine, including chlorogenic acid, lignans,  quinides, trigonelline, and magnesium, which may  help reduce insulin resistance, quell inflammation,  

block liver scarring, and discourage fat deposition.  Tea. Originally from Asia, tea has been enjoyed  for centuries. Today it is the most widely consumed  beverage in the world (besides water). Prepared from  the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, tea (especially  green tea) can be found in just about everything these  days, from facial moisturizers to cookies, but you’ll get  the most benefits from drinking it. Tea leaves are very  high in catechin compounds, which have strong anti oxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. That’s why  tea has been linked with heart health, cancer defense,  immune function, bone health, and even weight loss.  

Pouring a healthy cup 

Even though coffee and tea are healthful—and have  zero calories if you drink them plain—both can be  a source of significant calories if you don’t. At coffee  shops, many people order large coffee drinks laden  with milk and sugar that can equal the caloric con 

tent of an entire meal. Even a modest tall (12-ounce)  cafe latte made with skim milk adds 100 calories to  your daily total. With today’s specialty coffee drinks,  it’s easy to load up on unhealthy fat, sugar, and calories  without eating a bite of food. And since liquid calories  are less filling than solid food, drinking sweet drinks  increases the chance that you will consume excess  calories. Studies also show that consuming too many  sugary foods and beverages can increase your risk of  heart disease and diabetes.  

As for tea, the selection of bottled tea beverages  has expanded dramatically in recent years. They may  seem like healthy choices, but think again. Many con 

tain as much added sugar (and therefore, calories) as  soda, and they may not have as much real tea in them  as brewed tea. Studies have shown that bottled teas  often contain significantly lower levels of the healthful  compounds than a cup you brew yourself. 

Finally, keep in mind that in some individuals,  excessive caffeine can pose problems such as insom nia, esophageal reflux, and migraines. If these are an  issue for you, limit caffeine consumption. One way to  do this is by drinking no coffee or tea after a certain  hour—say, 3 p.m. Another is by switching to decaf  later in the day.  

Drinks to limit or avoid 

Studies increasingly link sugary beverage intake to  obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. With the recent  attention on the health impact of sweetened beverages  and soft drinks, intake in the United States is declin 

ing and has already fallen from 53 gallons per person  per year in 2000 to 39.25 in 2017. However, sweetened  beverages are still a leading source of added sugars  in the standard American diet. For example, a can of  soda provides about 35 grams (9 teaspoons) of refined  sugar. And when you drink your calories, you don’t  gain the same sense of satiety as you do from eating  solid food, so it’s easy to keep piling on additional cal ories above and beyond those in the drink.  

Even artificially sweetened sodas may pose a  problem. Although they are very low in calories,  some studies have found that they do not necessarily  help people lose weight. Some scientists believe that  a disconnect between the body and the brain may  occur when you guzzle these artificially sweet drinks.  The brain thinks energy is going to come along with  that sweet-tasting drink, and when no source enters  the bloodstream, it may increase feelings of hunger.  Intriguing preliminary research also indicates that  artificial sweeteners may interfere with gut bacteria  in a way that promotes metabolic disorders. While we  certainly need more research to understand the full  effect that artificial sweeteners have on the body, one  thing is certain: there are no nutritional benefits from  consuming these beverages, which are often filled with  other artificial ingredients.  

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Juice drinks. There’s obviously no comparison  between soda and fresh-squeezed orange juice. But  scientists include juice drinks along with soda as bev erages that people should avoid or drink only occa sionally. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics  recommends no fruit juice for children under 1 year of  age, no more than 4 ounces per day for children ages 1  to 3, no more than 4 to 6 ounces for children ages 4 to  6, and no more than 8 ounces for anyone age 7 or older.  Many “fruit drinks” are laced with added sugars. Even  apple juice, which serves as the basis for many juice  drinks, contains a lot of quick-digesting sugars and not  much more. If you really enjoy a glass of orange juice  every morning, it’s all right to include a single 4-ounce  serving every day. Just make sure that it’s 100% fruit  juice. And remember that it takes several oranges to  make a single glass of orange juice, so you’re getting  more sugar than if you ate the natural fruit. Processing  also removes much, if not all, of the fiber-rich pulp.  

What about alcohol? 

Some sources may proclaim red wine a health tonic,  but the science is not as clear-cut as it once seemed.  On the positive side, moderate consumption  of alcohol in general—not just red wine—has been  linked with heart-health benefits. More than 100  studies have found a link between moderate drink ing (no more than one serving per day for women; no  more than two for men) and a decreased risk of heart  attacks, peripheral vascular disease, strokes, and sud 


































The science on alcohol consumption is not as clear as it once  seemed. While moderate drinking may benefit the heart and reduce  diabetes risk, new research has linked it with many forms of cancer.  

den cardiac death. Moderate drinking has also been  linked to lower incidence of diabetes. And it is part of  the healthful Mediterranean diet.  

However, the bottle also holds risks. Heavy drink ing can result in a range of health problems, includ ing liver disease and heart disease. A 2018 analysis  published in The Lancet found that while there was  some protective effect with light drinking (less than  one drink a day), “the safest level of drinking is none.”  Other studies have found that even moderate alcohol  consumption raises the risk of cancer, including of the  head and neck, esophagus, liver, breast, and colon. The  newly released Third Expert Report from the World  Cancer Research Fund recommends not drinking  alcohol at all in order to reduce cancer risks.  

So, what should you do? If you’re already drink ing, do so in moderation. If you don’t drink, don’t  start in order to gain supposed health benefits. And if  you’re at high risk for cancer or alcoholism, consider  avoiding alcohol entirely. 

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Putting it all together 

Now that you’ve got a better understanding of what  

goes into a healthy diet, it’s time to take the plunge.  But how do you get started? Knowing the best sources  of fat, carbohydrates, and protein is one thing. Figur ing out how to pack your diet with these healthful foods  is another. The reality is that we all tend to eat foods  that are familiar. So how do you break those habits and  start improving your diet? The greatest challenge for  most people is incorporating enough vegetables and— 

to a lesser extent—fruits. This chapter includes ways to  boost your intake of produce in delicious ways. We also  include tips for meal planning, healthful shopping, and  doing everything you can to ensure food safety.  

Meal planning 

If you come home from work to an empty refrigerator,  you’re not likely to cook a healthful meal. It takes a bit  of organization and planning to stay on top of healthy  eating. Following are some tips to help you out.  

• Plan your meals for the week, even if it’s just a rough  outline. Rely on a mixture of easy go-to dishes you  can prepare without a recipe (see page 32), alternat ing with one or maybe two new recipes a week on  less busy days to make things more exciting.  

• Jot down a shopping list, making sure to include the  fresh items you’ll need, as well as pantry staples you  may be low on (see “A healthful shopping basket,”  page 34).  

• Plan your weekly shopping trips for times when  you are least stressed and not hungry, so you can  make wise food decisions. 

• Make sure you always have on hand enough staple  






ingredients—such as frozen vegetables, canned  







beans, whole grains, eggs, and whole-grain pasta— 









to create a healthful meal any day of the week. 





• When purchasing perishable foods, buy only those  ©

you need for the week, so you won’t waste food or  money or feel obliged to overeat.  

• Read food labels, avoiding products with excess  sodium, added sugars, and saturated fat. 

• Prep your meals the night before as needed—put  frozen fish in the refrigerator to thaw, soak beans  and cook them, and even chop vegetables for your  menu the next day.  

• Prepare foods with healthful cooking techniques:  sauté (in moderate amounts of healthful vegetable  oils), roast, bake, poach, or simmer instead of deep fat frying.  

• Consider keeping a food journal, which may help  you be more accountable for and successful with  your health goals, according to several studies.  

Sneaking in more vegetables The vegetable world is filled with a dazzling array  of colorful leaves, stems, shoots, bulbs, and roots,  all offering delicious, nutritious fare. Once humans  feasted on mounds of a diverse range of vegetables,  but now our consumption is low. Only 9% of Ameri cans meet their recommended level of vegetable  intake. And most Americans eat a limited variety of  vegetables, relying heavily on potatoes, followed by  tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and corn.  

The greatest dietary challenge for most people is figuring out how  to incorporate enough vegetables. Grilling is a great way to let the  deep, rich flavors of vegetables shine through.  

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Easy go-to dishes you can prepare without a recipe  

Easy, healthful meals are within your reach. Just follow these simple ideas for creating meals with supplies you should have on hand in your  pantry and refrigerator.




Tofu-vegetable stir-fry  with whole grains

Whole grain: brown rice, quinoa, or barley 

Protein: diced tofu 

Vegetables: onions, bell peppers, snow peas, others Seasonings: peanut oil, reduced-sodium soy sauce

Simmer grain. 

Stir-fry vegetables in peanut oil, add tofu and soy  sauce, and cook until tender.

Whole-grain pasta with  greens and poultry

Whole grain: whole-wheat fettuccine, penne, or rotini Protein: cooked chicken or turkey 

Vegetables: greens (e.g., spinach, kale, chard), tomatoes Seasonings: olive oil, garlic

Boil pasta. Chop rest of ingredients. When pasta is  done, drain and return to stove. Add olive oil, garlic,  greens, tomatoes, and chicken or turkey. Heat for 5  minutes.

Bean-corn chili with  

green salad and whole grain bread

Whole grain: whole-grain bread 

Protein: canned beans (e.g., black, kidney, pinto; no salt  added) 

Vegetables: canned tomatoes (no salt added), frozen  corn, onions, bell peppers, others; bagged lettuce mix Seasonings: garlic, chili powder, olive oil, lemon juice

Mix beans, tomatoes, chopped onions, chopped bell  peppers, frozen corn, garlic, and chili powder in a  pot. Simmer for 30 minutes. 

Separately, toss lettuce with olive oil and lemon  juice. Serve with whole-grain bread.

Mediterranean fish fillet  with sautéed vegetables  and grain

Whole grain: farro, brown rice, or millet 

Protein: fish fillet (e.g., salmon, cod, or halibut) Vegetables: kale, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans,  others 

Seasonings: olive oil, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, olives,  pine nuts

Simmer grain. 

Sauté vegetables in a skillet until tender. Cover to  keep warm. 

Sauté fish fillet with olive oil and garlic until opaque  throughout. 

Serve cooked fish with grain and vegetables. Garnish  with sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and pine nuts.

Buddha bowl with whole  grain, vegetables, plant  protein, and flavorful  sauce

Whole grain: brown rice, quinoa, or sorghum (cooked,  chilled) 

Protein: canned beans, baked tofu, pumpkin seeds, or  seasoned tempeh 

Vegetables: fresh asparagus, broccoli, kale, cucumbers,  tomatoes, bell peppers, others 

Seasonings: tahini, reduced-sodium tamari, or olive oil  vinaigrette

Put cooked whole grain in a bowl. Chop vegetables  and arrange over grains. Arrange beans (or other  plant protein) over vegetables. Drizzle with sauce or  dressing.

Moroccan-style baking sheet meal with roasted  vegetables, brown rice,  and beans

Whole grain: Cooked brown rice 

Protein: canned (no salt added) or cooked chickpeas,  black beans, or white beans 

Vegetables: onions, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, squash,  zucchini, others 

Seasonings: olive oil, turmeric, cumin, and garlic

Slice vegetables and spread on a baking sheet with  brown rice and chickpeas or beans. Drizzle with olive  oil and toss with tongs. Sprinkle with spices. Roast  on top shelf of oven at 400° F until golden brown,  stirring after 15 minutes.


This needn’t be the case. There are many ways to  boost your vegetable intake to recommended levels  (see Table 6, page 33), and you can do it without spend ing hours in the kitchen, chopping, slicing, and dicing.  Many supermarkets now have salad bars, which include  offerings like kale salads or roasted red peppers. You  can often find precut vegetables in the produce section.  Or you can buy frozen chopped vegetables.  

You can incorporate vegetables into almost any  meal. Here’s how.  

Don’t be afraid to start your day with vegeta bles. Some cultures enjoy vegetables at breakfast. Try  radishes on toast, baked tomato halves with eggs, and  fajita vegetables with a breakfast burrito.  

Try interesting ways of preparing vegetables. Use a spiralizer to make “noodles” out of zucchini  

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or squash. Use a vegetable peeler to create ribbons of  cucumbers, asparagus, and carrots to add to salads.  Begin a meal with soup. Vegetable-rich soups— such as carrot-ginger, tomato-fennel, or gazpacho— are an excellent way to pack a couple of servings of  vegetables into your meal. 

Turn vegetables into healthful snacks. For  example, bell peppers, carrots, and celery can be deli cious dipped in hummus or unsweetened yogurt, or  spread with peanut butter or sunflower-seed butter.  

Have a salad with dinner. Stock your salad with  dark green leafy lettuce and toss in petite peas, toma toes, onions, celery, carrots, broccoli, and peppers.  Bonus: In addition to the nutrient bonanza you’ll get,  studies show that starting meals with a low-calorie  salad can help you consume fewer calories at the meal,  as long as the salad is no more than 100 calories. To  help control calories, avoid creamy dressings. A simple  dressing you can make yourself is half olive oil and half  vinegar or lemon juice, seasoned to taste with herbs  and pepper. 

Cook vegetables the delicious Mediterranean  way. Place any type of fresh vegetables—carrots,  greens, broccoli, or cauliflower—in a skillet or sauté  pan with a drizzle of olive oil and water. Season as  desired and sauté only until crisp-tender.  

Roast vegetables along with whatever entree is  in the oven. Roasting is a great way to let the deep,  rich flavors of vegetables shine through because their  starches start to convert to sugar at around 375° F,  releasing a nutty sweetness. To roast, just bake cut-up  vegetables with a drizzle of healthy oil at 375° F for  20 to 25 minutes or until they’re lightly browned. Any  vegetable is a roasting candidate—from mushrooms,  onions, eggplant, and zucchini to tomatoes, broccoli,  and carrots—so don’t limit yourself. Enjoy roasted  vegetables as a side dish or toss them into pasta dishes  and other recipes. 

Poach vegetables in low-sodium broth and  white wine. Add garlic, basil, thyme, oregano, or tar ragon for a flavor bonus. To poach, boil enough liquid  to cover the vegetables. When it boils, add the vege tables. Turn down the heat to just below boiling and  cook the vegetables for about five to seven minutes,  until they’re brightly colored and tender-crisp. To  

retain nutrients, keep a watchful eye on the pot or set  a timer so you don’t overcook. 

Add fresh cut vegetables to main dishes. Try  adding mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, onions, or car rots into pasta sauce, casseroles, soup, stews, scram bled eggs, and chili. 

Smuggle pureed vegetables into recipes. A  Penn State study found that covertly adding pureed  vegetables to classic foods like a casserole, macaroni  and cheese, or carrot bread reduced calorie intake and  boosted vegetable consumption. Pureed cooked veg 

etables can easily be used as sauces, soups, spreads,  and toppings. 

Reaping nature’s sweet reward: Fruits Unfortunately, we’re not doing so great on the fruit  front either. The recommended intake is 1½ to 2 cups  per day (see Table 6, below), but only 12% of Ameri cans eat that much, according to the CDC. One of the  reasons people fall short on fruit intake is that they  opt instead for processed snacks, treats, and desserts,  thus crowding out fruit.  

Fruit is nature’s most perfect dessert. Rich in nat ural sugars, it is truly the first sweet treat our early  

Table 6: Vegetables and fruits: How much  is enough? 

If you think eating “five a day” of fruits and vegetables is enough,  think again. The USDA now recommends 2½ to 3 cups of vegetables  per day (roughly five to six half-cup servings) in addition to 1½ to  2 cups of fruit (roughly three to four half-cup servings). That’s eight  to 10 servings of produce a day. It seems like a lot, but fruit and  vegetable consumption is linked with so many benefits, including  weight control and lower risk of chronic diseases. 






2½ cups 

2 cups


2½ cups 

1½ cups


2 cups 

1½ cups



3 cups 

2 cups


3 cups 

2 cups


2½ cups 

2 cups

Source: USDA MyPlate. 


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Make copies of this shopping list to take on your supermarket runs. You won’t buy everything on this list each time you  shop, but it will help remind you of healthy categories. Check off the items you need before you go.  


❑ Whole grains  

(e.g., quinoa, spelt) 

❑ Brown rice  

❑ Bulgur/cracked wheat  ❑ Oatmeal, old-fashioned  or steel-cut 

❑ Popcorn, light  

❑ Whole-grain breads,  pitas, tortillas  

❑ Whole-grain cereal  ❑ Whole-grain pasta 

Legumes, nuts, and seeds  ❑ Almonds  

❑ Black beans  

❑ Chickpeas (garbanzos)  ❑ Kidney beans  

❑ Lentils  

❑ Peanut butter  

❑ Peanuts  

❑ Pine nuts  

❑ Pinto beans  

❑ Pistachios 

❑ Pumpkin seeds  

❑ Sesame seeds 

❑ Soybeans/edamame ❑ Sunflower seeds  

❑ Tofu  

❑ Walnuts  


❑ Asparagus 

❑ Avocado 

❑ Beets 

❑ Bell peppers (green,  red, orange, yellow)  ❑ Broccoli  

❑ Brussels sprouts  ❑ Cabbage (green, red) ❑ Carrots  

❑ Cauliflower 

❑ Corn, sweet yellow ❑ Green beans  

❑ Garlic 

❑ Kale 

❑ Lettuce/greens 

❑ Mushrooms  

❑ Onions (green, red,  white, yellow) 

❑ Peas  

❑ Radishes  

❑ Squash  

(summer, winter) 

❑ Spinach  

❑ Sweet potatoes  ❑ Swiss chard 

❑ Tomatoes  


❑ Apples 

❑ Apricots  

❑ Bananas  

❑ Blueberries  

❑ Cantaloupe  

❑ Cherries  

❑ Cranberries  

❑ Grapefruit  

❑ Grapes  

❑ Kiwifruit  

❑ Mangoes  

❑ Oranges 

❑ Peaches  

❑ Pears 

❑ Pineapples  

❑ Plums  

❑ Prunes (dried plums)  ❑ Raisins  

❑ Raspberries  

❑ Strawberries  

❑ Watermelon  


❑ Canola oil  

❑ Olive oil  

❑ Safflower or  

sunflower oil 

Dairy and dairy  


❑ Cheese, reduced-fat ❑ Cottage cheese, low-fat ❑ Eggs  

❑ Milk, low-fat or fat-free  ❑ Plant-based milk (e.g.  soy milk, almond milk) ❑ Yogurt, low-fat or  fat-free 

Fish and shellfish 

❑ Cod  

❑ Flounder  

❑ Halibut  

❑ Salmon  

❑ Scallops 

❑ Shrimp 

❑ Sardines, canned in  olive oil or water  

❑ Tuna, light, canned  in water or olive oil 


❑ Skinless chicken breast/ thigh 

❑ Skinless ground chicken  or turkey breast  

❑ Skinless turkey breast/ thigh 

ancestors experienced (other than the occasional bit  of honeycomb). But unlike processed sweets, which  are largely devoid of nutrients, fruit comes packed  with a vibrant array of healthful nutrients, including  slow-digesting carbs, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and  phytochemicals—all in a very low-calorie package. A  serving of fruit (one small piece, or half a cup) con tains about 60 calories, on average. Eating fruit on a  regular basis is a very healthy habit and is linked with  myriad benefits, including a lower risk of high blood  pressure, heart disease, stroke, certain types of cancer,  

degenerative eye disease, diabetes, obesity, Alzheim er’s disease, and diverticulitis.  

Some fruits have particular benefits. For example,  berries may help protect the brain from age-related  decline, according the Nurses’ Health Study, which  found that greater intake of blueberries and strawber 

ries was linked with preserved brain function. In fact,  research shows that eating more fruits (as well as veg etables) can improve psychological well-being. And  citrus fruit has been found to have cancer-fighting  potential, according to growing research. So it’s a good  

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idea to enjoy a variety of colorful,  seasonal fruits every single day.  




Here are some ideas to help  








you boost your fruit consumption  







throughout the day: 








• At breakfast, include fruit, such  ©

as sliced strawberries over cereal,  peach chunks stirred into yogurt,  or applesauce over whole-grain  pancakes. 

A number of studies have correlated  a higher intake of blueberries and  strawberries with better brain function  over time.  

health of waterways, soil, air, wildlife,  farm workers, and the climate.  The evidence that organic foods  are also healthier for people is not as  strong, but it’s growing. Recent stud ies have noted higher levels of vitamin  C, phytochemicals, and antioxidant  activity in organic produce. In addi tion, researchers have documented  lower pesticide residues in people  

• For breakfast or lunch, whip up smoothies with fro zen berries, mangos, pineapple, or bananas, along  with water or milk. (To boost your veggies at the  same time, try tossing in some spinach or other  greens.) 

• Pack a piece of fruit for on-the-go eating at the  office, at school, or while commuting. Some of the  best choices (which require no special preparation  other than peeling or washing) are bananas, apples,  pears, oranges, and nectarines. 

• Keep a bag of dried fruit—such as raisins, dried ber ries, and dried apples—in your purse or briefcase  for a quick snack when hunger hits. But remember,  a quarter-cup is the portion size for dried fruit, so  keep portions small. And look for versions without  added sugars.  

• When making a stir-fry, try adding some frozen  unsweetened mango or canned pineapple (without  the juice).  

who eat organic foods. This has potential health impli cations. A highly publicized study, published in JAMA  Internal Medicine in 2018, followed nearly 70,000  French adults and found that those with the highest  consumption of organic foods had a 25% reduced risk  of cancer over the seven years of the study. However,  such a study doesn’t prove cause and effect, and there  were some shortcomings inherent in the methodology,  so more research is needed.  

One drawback for many people is that organic  foods come at a higher price. If you’re interested in  organic production, focus your food dollars where it  matters the most—by avoiding the types of fresh pro 

duce most likely to retain pesticide residue. The Envi ronmental Working Group publishes a list called the  Dirty Dozen that names the fruits and vegetables with  the highest levels of pesticide residue when grown  conventionally. These are the most important ones to  buy organically, if your grocery budget allows:  

• Make fruit your go-to dessert. Enjoy the simple,  sweet flavor of fruit at the end of each meal to sat isfy that sweet tooth. For special occasions, you can  indulge in fruit-based desserts, such as apple crum bles, strawberry shortcake, cherry bars, or plum  

1. strawberries 2. spinach 

3. kale 

4. nectarines 5. apples 

6. grapes 

7. peaches 8. cherries 9. pears 

10. tomatoes 

11. celery 

12. potatoes 

13. hot peppers  (an extra  

item in 2019). 


Are organics worth it? 

The Environmental Working Group also publishes  a list called the Clean Fifteen, which names the foods  that have the lowest levels of residues and are there fore fine to buy in conventional form:  

Organic foods continue to grow in popularity. Organic  sales broke through the $50 billion mark in 2018 for  the first time, according to the Organic Trade Associa tion. Organic foods are clearly healthier for the planet,  because they support an agricultural system that  avoids synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and promotes  

1. avocados 2. sweet corn 3. pineapples 4. sweet peas,  frozen 

5. onions 

6. papayas 

7. eggplants 8. asparagus 9. kiwis 

10. cabbages 11. cauliflower 

12. cantaloupes 13. broccoli  14. mushrooms 15. honeydew  melons. 

a more biodiverse ecosystem, with attention to the  

If you can, it’s also good to buy meat and dairy  

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Table 7: Culinary uses of common herbs and spices 

Don’t hesitate to experiment with herbs and spices to boost the  flavor and health of your meals, not to mention the pleasure you  can derive from the bounty of scents and colors they provide. A  combination of herbs and spices in meals provides even greater  flavor and health rewards. Use this guide to help inspire you. 




Use in breads, desserts, and cereals; pairs well  with savory dishes, such as soups, sauces, grains,  and vegetables. 


Slice into salads, appetizers, and side dishes; enjoy  in pesto over pasta and in sandwiches. 


Good in breads and baked goods, and in Indian  dishes, such as curry.


Use to season Mexican, Southwestern, Thai, and  Indian foods. 


Stir into fruit compotes, baked desserts, and  breads, as well as Middle Eastern savory dishes. 


Good in baked goods and breads, but also pairs  with vegetable and bean dishes. 


Accents Mexican, Indian, and Middle Eastern  dishes, as well as stews and chili. 

Dill weed 

Include in potato dishes, salads, appetizers, and  dips. 


Add to soups, pastas, marinades, dressings, grains,  and vegetables.


Great in Asian and Indian sauces, stews, and stir fries, as well as beverages and baked goods. 


Add to stews, soups, potatoes, beans, grains,  salads, and sauces.


Flavors savory dishes, beverages, salads,  marinades, and fruits.


Stir into fruits, baked goods, and vegetable dishes. 


Delicious in Italian and Mediterranean dishes; it  suits tomato, pasta, grain dishes, and salads. 


Enjoy in soups, pasta dishes, salads, and sauces. 

Pepper (black,  white, red)

Seasons soups, stews, vegetable dishes, grains,  pastas, beans, sauces, and salads. 


Try it in vegetables, salads, vinaigrettes, and pasta  dishes. 


Enhances grains, breads, dressings, soups, and  pastas.


Add to sauces, marinades, salads, and bean  dishes.


Excellent in soups, tomato dishes, salads, and  vegetables. 


Essential in Indian foods; pairs well with soups,  beans, and vegetables. 


organically, since no antibiotics or added hormones  are used. But the most important step you can take  toward a healthier diet is simply eating more fruits  and vegetables, whether they’re organic or not. The  health benefits of eating more produce—even if it is  conventionally grown—far outweigh the downsides  of higher pesticide residues. And while you’re at it,  steer clear of organic snack foods. After all, organic  junk food, such as chips, cookies, and crackers, is just  that—highly processed, low-nutrient junk.  

Boosting flavor with herbs and spices Spices and herbs have been treasured for their role in  healing, food preservation, and flavor since the begin ning of time. Snippets of herbs (the leaf of a plant,  such as parsley or basil) and pinches of spices (any  other part of the plant, such as buds, bark, berries,  roots, seeds, or stigmas) provide much more than  flavor. These plant foods are concentrated sources of  phytochemicals with antioxidant and anti-inflam matory properties. The mere act of adding herbs  and spices to your salad dressing can boost the level  of antioxidant compounds in your salad, as much as  doubling it, depending upon the seasonings and the  amount you use.  

A growing body of evidence suggests that this may  translate into health protection. Some spices have par ticular benefits. For example, turmeric—an essential  spice in Indian curries—has been investigated for its  potential in Alzheimer’s disease protection, and ginger  has been shown to be effective for fighting nausea dur ing pregnancy and chemotherapy. Studies have found  that spices have synergistic benefits—that is, the com bination of several at once may have additive effects.  

Research now suggests that herbs and spices also  possess anti-cancer, glucose-lowering, and choles terol-lowering abilities, as well as the potential to  influence mood and cognition. Preliminary evidence  even suggests that people who eat spicy foods live lon ger. In one study published in the journal BMJ, Har vard researchers looked at data gathered from more  than 480,000 people in China over a period of about  seven years and found that people who ate food with  spices (in particular, chili peppers) every day had a  

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Top 10 sources of sodium 




More than 40% of the sodium in the average American  









diet comes from these 10 types of food, mostly because  






of the addition of salt in the preparation and processing of  




these foods and dishes. 



Adding herbs and spices to food allows you to cut down on sodium  without cutting down on flavor. And growing evidence suggests  that, like other plant foods, they pack a variety of health benefits. 

14% chance of living longer than those who ate spicy  foods less than once a week. In addition, those with  higher consumption of spicy food were less likely to  have died from cancer, heart disease, or respiratory  disease during the study period.  

1. breads and rolls 2. pizza 

3. sandwiches 

4. cold cuts and cured  meats 

5. soups 

6. burritos and tacos Source: CDC. 

7. savory snacks (chips,  popcorn, pretzels, snack  mixes, crackers) 

8. chicken (fried chicken,  prepared entrees) 

9. cheese 

10. omelets and other egg  dishes. 

For some ideas on how to liven up your diet with  spices and herbs, see Table 7 (page 36).  

Trimming salt 

Another side benefit of spicing up your diet is that  it can help boost flavor and allow you to trim salt in  foods. Too much salt in the diet is a bad thing. As  sodium accumulates in the bloodstream, the body may  hold on to water to dilute it, which increases the fluid  in blood vessels and surrounding cells. Over time, this  can lead to the stiffening of blood vessels, high blood  pressure, heart attack, stroke, and heart failure. A new  study in northern China found that nearly 20% of car diovascular disease deaths among adults ages 25 to 59  were attributable to high sodium intake. Too much  sodium can also damage kidney function and the ner 

vous system.  

Sadly, Americans consume way too much sodium— more than 3,400 milligrams (mg) per day on average,  most of it from prepared and processed foods (see “Top  10 sources of sodium,” above right). The National Acad emies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently  updated their sodium Dietary Reference Intakes, not ing that for people over age 14, just 1,500 mg of sodium  a day is sufficient, and that to reduce risk for chronic  disease, you should consume no more than 2,300 mg  per day—the amount in about 1 teaspoon of salt.  

Try these tips for reducing salt in your diet:  Do more of your own cooking. Most of our  sodium comes from prepared and processed foods. So,  

preparing more of your own foods—soups, entrees,  side dishes, sandwiches—from scratch using fresh,  whole ingredients can have a sizable impact on your  sodium intake. Use more herbs and spices as season 

ings, and don’t automatically reach for the saltshaker  before tasting foods.  

Take it slowly. You get used to a certain level of  saltiness and notice right away when a food is miss ing salt. But your taste buds aren’t sensitive enough for  you to notice small reductions. By gradually cutting  back the amount of salt in your foods, you can retrain  yourself to be perfectly happy with less salt. 

Be a reader. Scanning the Nutrition Facts on  packaged or processed foods can help you make  healthier choices. Look for foods that have less than  240 mg of sodium per serving. Since sodium appears  in processed food in many forms, simply checking  for salt (sodium chloride) in the ingredient list won’t  work. You also need to be on the lookout for the word  sodium in various combinations—such as sodium  benzoate, disodium or monosodium glutamate, and  sodium nitrite.  

Choose low-salt versions of packaged foods. Many products, including various soups, crackers,  and canned vegetables and beans, come in low-salt,  reduced-salt, or no-added-salt versions. For nuts,  choose unsalted.  

Beware of portion distortion. When it comes to  packaged food, restaurant food, and even food made  at home, the more food you eat, the more sodium  you’ll take in. Controlling your portion sizes will  

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help you trim your salt intake—and maybe your  waist as well. 

Take charge when dining out. Restaurant foods  are often loaded with sodium. While that’s most obvi ous at fast-food and chain restaurants, it also applies  to many so-called white-tablecloth restaurants. Fortu nately, many dining establishments now offer lower sodium choices. If your food is being made to order,  don’t hesitate to ask that it be made without salt. 

Don’t get sauced. Many traditional gravies and  sauces are loaded with salt, as are some salad dress ings. When dining out, ask that sauces be served on  the side so you can control the amount. When cook ing at home, try a low-sodium recipe. Home and pro fessional chefs have cooked up low-sodium versions  

Food safety 

Food-borne illness is a serious matter. The CDC  

estimates that every year, one in six Americans, or  48 million people, get sick with vomiting, diarrhea, or  worse (such as life-threatening kidney failure)—all  as the result of pathogens they consume in food  or water. The result is 130,000 hospitalizations and  3,000 deaths annually, with untold numbers of people  suffering in silence at home with what they mistakenly  call “stomach flu.”  

of barbecue sauce, hollandaise sauce, pesto, and more.  You can find hundreds of these updated recipes on the  Internet, or make up your own. 

Break your fast with less sodium. A bowl of  fiber-rich cereal with skim milk and fruit is a great  way to start the day. But make sure it isn’t delivering a  lot of hidden sodium. Some healthy-sounding cereals  contain a wallop of sodium, so check the label.  

Powering up with probiotics  Your large intestine contains 100 trillion “good” bac teria that are essential to your health. They help main tain healthy bowel function, fending off ailments like  inflammatory bowel disease and Salmonella and E.  coli infections. They may even play a role in regulating  weight, liver function, and mood, though more study  is needed to confirm those findings.  

All people start out with a colony of these benefi 

Figure 5: How much should you heat foods?  

Use the following guide to keep perishable foods at safe  temperatures during storage, preparation, and serving.  

Older people and the very young are especially  vulnerable to the effects of contaminated food. The best  defense against food-borne illness is to be careful about  how you buy, clean, separate, cook, and chill the foods  you eat. The USDA recommends these strategies to keep  yourself safe from food-borne illness: 

165° F (74° C) 

160° F (71° C) 

Poultry, stuffing,casseroles, reheated leftovers 

Ground meats (beef, pork,  lamb, veal); egg dishes 

Beef, pork, lamb, veal steaks  

• Clean your hands  and all food surfaces  (counters and chopping  boards) with hot soapy  water before preparing  any food. 

• Wash all fruits and  vegetables before  

preparing or eating  


• Separate raw foods  from cooked and ready to-eat foods while  

shopping, preparing,  and storing foods. 

• Cook foods to a safe  temperature (see  

Figure 5, at right) to kill  microorganisms.  

• Refrigerate perishable  foods promptly. 

• Defrost frozen foods  by thawing in the  

refrigerator, in a cold water bath, or in the  microwave. 

• Avoid raw,  

unpasteurized milk. 

145° F 

(63° C) 

140° F 

(60° C) 

40° F 

(4° C) 

0° F 

(–18° C) 

Source: FDA. 

and roasts with a 3-minute  rest time; seafood* 

Ham, fully cooked (to reheat);  holding temperature for cooked  foods  

Danger zone 

Refrigerator temperatures 

Freezer temperatures 

* Fish is properly cooked when  it flakes easily with a fork. 

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cial microorganisms in their gut, courtesy of physi cal contact with their mothers—in the womb, during  the birth process, and via breastfeeding. But you take  in other beneficial bacteria—known as probiotics— through food. The microbes that turn milk into yogurt  and kefir are among the most helpful, but they can be  destroyed during processing. When you buy com mercial yogurt and kefir, look for the words “live and  active cultures” on the label, to make sure the manu facturer has tested production methods and knows  the bacteria can survive.  

Fermented foods are another good source,  under the right circumstances. Beneficial microbes  turn cabbage into sauerkraut, cucumbers into sour  pickles, soybeans into miso, and sweetened tea into  kombucha. But if the products have been pasteur 

ized—as with most fermented foods in packages— the microbes will be dead. In addition, most pickles  and sauerkraut are canned and pickled in hot vinegar  solutions with high acidity that combines with the  heat to kill live, active bacteria. The best solution is to  buy from delis where they do the pickling themselves  or natural food stores that carry fermented foods. Or  make your own; you can find clear and easy instruc 

tions in the book The Art of Fermentation by Sandor  Ellix Katz (see “Resources,” page 53). 

There are also probiotic supplements on the mar ket, of course. But it’s not easy to sift through them  and find exactly what you need. Usually the number  of bacterial strains in these products is limited to a  handful, compared with 3,000 or so in your gut. And  as with antioxidants, not all gut bacteria are alike. Dif ferent ones play different roles in the body, so if you’re  trying to treat a specific condition, such as irritable  bowel syndrome or diarrhea, you need to find the  right ones with documented benefits for that condi tion. Ask your health care provider if there’s a product  that’s specific to your health needs. For general health,  s 


look for brands that contain both Lactobacillus and  














Another way to nurture your good gut bacteria  







is to eat foods known as prebiotics. These are foods  






that the bacteria themselves like to feed on, and they  ©

include the fermentable fibers that are found in foods  like onions, bananas, leeks, garlic, oats, and soybeans  

(see “Fiber,” page 11). Once again, a whole-foods diet  appears to be the most healthful—for both you and  your gut bacteria.  

Restaurant survival strategies Your best bet for meeting your health goals is to cook  your own meals at home, where you can control the  ingredients and portion sizes. However, we all enjoy  eating out from time to time. Just keep in mind that  restaurant meals—in particular, fast-food meals—are  linked with higher intakes of calories, sugar, saturated  fat, and sodium, and lower intakes of healthful foods,  such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. One of  the biggest problems you’ll face when you dine out is  sheer portion size, which has increased dramatically  over the years. Those bigger portions translate into  more calories, sodium, sugar, and saturated fat.  

Fortunately, the dining scene has improved. The  FDA now requires chain restaurants to provide con sumers with clear and consistent nutrition informa tion on menus, menu boards, and in writing, which  can help you make healthier choices. And more and  more restaurants are meeting consumers’ desires for  healthier fare by providing smaller portions, more  fruits and vegetables on the menu, more vegetarian  options, and lighter preparation styles.  


Before going to a restaurant, try checking out the menu online to  find the healthiest dishes. Then pick out a healthful selection instead  of making an impulse decision that could be less nutritious.  

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Table 8: Monster restaurant meals 

Beware of extremely high levels of calories, saturated fat, sugar, and sodium in restaurant food. The following values are for a single serving. 








Red Robin: Monster Chocolate Milkshake 


24 g 

128 g 

380 mg


California Pizza Kitchen: Avocado Club Egg Rolls 


21 g 

24 g 

1,980 mg


Panera Bread: Vegetarian Creamy Tomato Soup (in a bread bowl) 


8 g 

13 g 

1,740 mg


Applebee’s: Oriental Grilled Chicken Salad 


13 g 

47 g 

2,140 mg


The Cheesecake Factory: Lunch Pasta Carbonara with Chicken 


47 g 

7 g 

2,960 mg


IHOP: Fisherman’s Platter 


16 g 

11 g 

3,750 mg


Sonic: Bacon Double Cheese Double Burger 


23 g 

12 g 

1,880 mg


Olive Garden: Tour of Italy 


48 g 

19 g 

3,250 mg


TGI Fridays: Chicken Parmesan Pasta 


43 g 

22 g 

4,060 mg


BJ’s: Salted Caramel Pizookie 


29 g 

154 g 

1,415 mg

Source: Restaurant websites. 


Follow these tips for dining out healthfully:  • Patronize restaurants where good choices— seafood, whole grains, legumes, fruits, and  vegetables—abound. 

• Check out the restaurant website in advance in  order to decide what you’ll order, instead of mak ing impulse decisions. Many restaurants post their  menus online, enabling you to find the healthiest  entrees. Some even list nutritional information on  menu items. Beware of those with high calorie, fat,  sugar, and sodium levels (see Table 8, above).  

• Skip pan-fried or deep-fried foods. Instead, look for  foods prepared with healthful techniques, such as  baking, grilling, poaching, or roasting.  

• Avoid dishes prepared with gravy and heavy sauces.  Or ask the waiter to use half the sauce or to serve  the sauce on the side so you can decide how much  of it to use. Because gravy is often made with fatty  pan drippings from meat, it’s relatively high in sat 

urated fat. Many sauces are made with butter and  cream, which are also high in saturated fat. • Resize your portions: split a meal with a friend,  

order small plates or side dishes, or take half of it  home for lunch the next day. Take advantage of the  “small plates” trend, in which you and your dining  companions share small servings and avoid large  portions of single dishes.  

• Get extra vegetables. Many restaurant entrees don’t  come with a generous serving of vegetables. But  you can easily remedy that by asking for more vege tables, ordering vegetables from the side dish selec tion, or substituting vegetables or a salad for a less  healthful side dish, such as fries.  

• Lighten up dessert. Skip the indulgent, rich des serts, such as ice cream, cakes, and pastries (some  can contain more than 1,000 calories) and go for  simple treats, such as berries and peaches. If you  want a sweet dessert, share it with others at your  table. You’ll get the full taste, but just a fraction of  the calories, sugar, and unhealthy fats.  

• Watch those beverages. Sweetened drinks (often  refilled during the meal) and alcoholic beverages  can add hundreds of calories to your meal. Opt for  sparkling water, plain tea, or coffee. 

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Snack food makeover 

S nacking is at an all-time high: 80% of American  

consumers say they snack at least once per day,  according to a 2018 Technomic survey, and consumers  are more likely now to replace one or two meals per day  with snacks, compared with 2016. That’s not to say that  there is anything inherently wrong with snacking. Many  people find that their energy flags unless they eat some 

thing every four hours or so. In fact, snacking can even  




help prevent weight gain, if it staves off the type of rav 








enous hunger that often derails the best diet intentions.  








The problem isn’t snacking per se. It’s that, rather  







than planning ahead to have healthy snacks on hand,  ©

people typically grab things like chips, cookies, sweet  or salty snack mixes, and chocolate-dipped granola  bars from vending machines or checkout counters.  Often snacks furnish nothing more than calories in  the form of refined grains, sugars, and saturated fat,  with a dose of sodium to boot. And more consum 

ers are eating mindlessly, in front of TVs, computer  screens, tablets, and phones. They are also turning to  highly processed snack foods instead of regular meals,  squandering an important opportunity to boost the  diet with nutrient-rich whole foods.  

So how can you get back on track? This chapter  will outline some ways.  

Smarter snacks 

When snacks contribute such a large percentage of the  day’s calories, they need to provide important nutri ents, too. It’s easy to see that many common snack  foods like chips, cookies, doughnuts, and candy bars  are not healthful choices. But many snack foods mar keted as healthy, organic, or natural are just as bad for  your health. Bran muffins masquerade as nutritious  even when they are packed with butter and sugar. The  same goes for cereal bars and energy bars. Other foods  such as fruit leather, yogurt raisins, and organic can dies also hold out a deceitful hand, pretending to be  

When choosing snacks, try to follow the same guidelines you would  for a meal, prioritizing whole foods and the healthiest souces of fats,  carbohydrates, and protein.  

healthful while they may really be full of added sugar  and excess calories.  

Many people are confused about what makes a  healthful snack, but it’s not complicated. When choos ing snacks, simply follow the same guidelines as you  do for meals—prioritize whole foods with little pro cessing, and look for the healthiest sources of fats, car bohydrates, and protein (see “Mix and match,” page  42). Here are some suggestions, each one providing  roughly 150 to 200 calories:  

• 8 ounces plain Greek yogurt with fresh or frozen  berries and a sprinkle of granola 

• 1 cup garlic-roasted edamame in the pod • 1½ ounces trail mix of dried cherries, dark choco late, and walnuts  

• ¼ cup hummus with 1 cup fresh vegetables, such as  baby carrots, broccoli florets, and cherry tomatoes • 1 slice whole-grain flatbread with 1 tablespoon  

almond butter and 1 teaspoon fruit spread • 1 banana, sliced and spread with 1 tablespoon pea nut butter  

• 1 cup cooked oatmeal with a dusting of cinnamon,  1 tablespoon raisins, and ½ cup low-fat milk or soy  milk. 

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Seven snacking strategies 

How can you keep snacking from derailing your  healthy eating program, not to mention weight con trol? Try these tips.  

Don’t skip meals. Skipping meals may seem like  a good way to cut calories, but in fact this just makes  you so hungry later in the day that you’re vulnerable  to devouring mega-portions of snack food, in order to  supply your body with easily digested sugars.  

Keep junk food out of the house. There’s a lot  of truth to the old joke about the “see-food diet”—if  you see food, you eat it. The opposite is also true. If  you don’t have junk food lying around, you won’t be  tempted by the sight of it, so don’t even bring it home.  After all, you can’t eat what isn’t there. Or, if some 

one in your household tends to buy chips or other  unhealthful snacks, put them out of sight. Don’t eat straight from the bag or carton. If you  snack on an open, club-store bag of crackers or a tub  of frozen yogurt, chances are you’ll eat more than a  single serving. Instead, portion out your serving in a  dish or bowl to take better control.  

Eat mindfully. Have you ever watched a show on  television with a bag of chips or pint of ice cream in  hand, only to find that it was all gone before you knew  it? This type of mindless eating can pack on a lot of  unwanted calories. The solution is simple. Try not to  snack while doing something else like surfing the Web,  watching TV, or working at your desk. Instead, stop  what you’re doing for a few minutes and pay attention  to your snack. Savoring a piece of fine chocolate can  be more satisfying than mindlessly gobbling down a  whole chocolate bar.  

Remember, you can take it with you. Think  

Mix and match 

The most healthful snacks have more than one  

macronutrient—protein, fat, carbohydrates. Try a  

handful of whole-grain crackers (carbohydrate) with some  low-fat cheese (protein, fat) or tofu (protein); a small  amount of dried fruits (carbohydrate) with nuts (protein,  fat); or plain popcorn (carbohydrate) sprinkled with low fat cheese (protein, fat). The mix of macronutrients is  more satiating than straight carbohydrates. 
























The most healthful snacks combine macronutrients—for example,  ©

mixing nuts (protein and fat) with dried fruits (carbohydrates). The  protein and fat slow down the digestion of the carbs.  

ahead, and carry a small bag of healthful snacks in  your purse or the glove compartment of your car. If  you have a healthy snack handy—preferably, one you  really like—you won’t turn in desperation to the cal 

orie-laden cookies at the coffee counter or the candy  bars in the office vending machine. 

Zero in on hunger. Before you snack, ask yourself,  “Am I truly hungry?” Many of us mistake emotions,  such as stress and fatigue, for hunger. If the answer  is yes (your stomach feels hollow), make sure you’re  not confusing hunger with thirst. Drink an 8-ounce  glass of water; then wait 10 to 15 minutes. If you’re still  hungry, have a healthful snack.  

Know your cravings. If you want a snack but  you’re not hungry, attack cravings from a psycho logical level. Ask yourself how you’re feeling. Lonely?  Bored? Stressed? Then, ask yourself the bigger ques tion: will food fix this problem? The answer is always  no. Eating a cookie, for example, won’t address a prob lem at work that you’re worried about. Go for a walk  around the block, do a few stretches, put on some  music, or choose another simple activity that might  distract you or boost your mood. Then if you still want  the food, fine. Ask yourself what food you really want.  Then eat only a small amount, and make it good. If  you’re craving chocolate, for example, eat one small  square and savor it. It’s important that you snack on  what you’re craving rather than deny the craving. Eat ing around a craving may only cause you to eat more  because the craving isn’t satisfied. 

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Healthy recipes 

On most nights of the week, you may be too  

busy and tired to cook elaborate dishes. On  those nights, try some of the suggestions  listed in “Easy go-to dishes you can prepare without  a recipe,” page 32. But when time allows—perhaps  twice a week—try preparing more complicated dishes  

as a treat for your palate. You’ll find out just how deli cious and rewarding healthy eating can be.  

Appetizers, soups, and salads 

Beet and White Bean Hummus 

➤ Makes 12 servings (about 3 tablespoons per serving) Active prep time: 15 minutes 

You can find thousands of recipes online, but this  selection will get you started with some dishes that  we know are healthy. These recipes were developed,  tested, and photographed by registered dietitian Sha 

ron Palmer, the nutrition editor of this report. All  the recipes include a nutritional analysis. (Optional  ingredients, such as salt, are not included in the  analysis.)  

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini  or white beans, rinsed,  drained 

3 medium cooked beets,  drained, chopped (about  1 cup) 

1 large clove garlic, minced Juice of 1 small lemon 1½ tablespoons tahini 

1 tablespoon extra-virgin  olive oil 

½ teaspoon paprika 

¼ teaspoon red chili  pepper flakes 

Salt (optional) 

Fresh mint or other herbs  for garnish (optional) 

Balsamic vinegar for  garnish (optional) 

Add beans, beets, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, olive oil,  

paprika, and red chili pepper flakes to a blender container  

and blend until smooth. Season with salt as desired. Pour  

into a serving container and garnish if desired with fresh  

mint or other herbs, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and  

additional olive oil. Chill before serving. 

Nutrition information per serving: 68 calories, 3 g protein, 2 g fat,  

0 g saturated fat, 10 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 14 mg sodium. 

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SPECIAL SECTION | Healthy recipes 

Classic Bruschetta 

➤ Makes 2 servings (1 heaping cup per serving) Active prep time: 10 minutes 

Kabocha Squash Leek Soup with Pistachios ➤ Makes 6 servings 

Active prep time: 30 minutes 

2 cups diced ripe tomatoes ¼ cup diced white onion 2 cloves garlic, minced 

1 tablespoon extra-virgin  olive oil 

1 tablespoon red wine  vinegar 

½ teaspoon dried oregano ½ teaspoon dried basil (or  

1 small (about 2 pounds)  kabocha squash (or  another squash) 

2 tablespoons extra-virgin  olive oil, divided 

1 leek, trimmed, sliced  (white and green parts) 

2 cloves garlic, minced 1 teaspoon dried tarragon 

1 teaspoon dried oregano 1 teaspoon dried marjoram 

½ cup pistachios (plus  more for garnish) 

2 bay leaves 

3 cups vegetable broth 

1 cup milk or plant-based  milk (e.g., soy milk) 

Salt and pepper (optional) 

2 tablespoons chopped  fresh basil) 

Salt and pepper (optional) 

Preheat oven to 400° F. Slice squash in half, scoop out  seeds, and then slice each half into four pieces. Place in a  

Toss together all ingredients and let stand for 30 minutes.  Serve at room temperature as an accompaniment for  toasted bread (or veggie burgers, pasta, or a nut loaf). 

Nutrition information per serving: 57 calories, 1 g protein, 4 g fat,  1 g saturated fat, 6 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 6 mg sodium. 

French Wild Rice Vegetable Soup 

➤ Makes 6 servings (about 11/3 cups per serving) Active prep time: 15 minutes 

baking dish in ½ inch of water. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon  of the olive oil. Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes, just  until tender when pierced with a fork. Remove squash  from oven and allow  

to cool slightly. Scoop  

out cooked squash from  

the peel with a spoon  

and set aside. Heat the  

remaining 1 tablespoon  

olive oil in a large pot.  

Add leek and garlic and  

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced  tomatoes 

½ cup uncooked wild rice 1 medium carrot, sliced 1 small zucchini, sliced 

1 small leek, sliced (about  1 cup) 

2 cloves garlic, minced 1 cube vegetable bouillon 

1 teaspoon Herbes de  Provence (seasoning  blend) 

Dash black pepper  

sauté for 8 minutes.  Add tarragon, oregano,  marjoram, and pistachios  and sauté for another  minute. Add bay leaves,  vegetable broth, and  cooked squash and bring  to a simmer, cooking for  about 5 minutes. Remove  

Place all ingredients in a large pot with 5 cups water.  Cover with a tight lid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat  to a simmer and cook for  

about 1 hour, until wild rice  

and vegetables are tender.  

If needed, add additional  

water to replace water lost  

in evaporation. The result  

should be a thick, hearty  


Nutrition information per  

serving: 92 calories, 4 g protein,  

1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 19 g  

carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 2 g sugar,  

379 mg sodium. 

bay leaves and turn off  

heat. Add milk. Use immersion blender to blend soup  until smooth and creamy, or place soup in a blender  container and puree. Add salt and pepper (if desired).  Reheat soup on medium heat just to a simmer. Remove  from heat. Serve in bowls and garnish with additional  pistachios if desired. 

Nutrition information per serving: 170 calories, 5 g protein, 10 g fat,  1 g saturated fat, 18 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 297 mg sodium. 

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Healthy recipes | SPECIAL SECTION 

Spicy Cauliflower Cilantro Salad 

➤ Makes 8 servings (¾ cup per serving) 

Active prep time: 15 minutes 

1 head (1½ pounds) cauliflower,  washed and broken into small florets  (about 5 cups) 

1 cup frozen peas (or fresh peas,  blanched) 

½ small red onion, halved and sliced Juice of ½ lemon 

1½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 1 clove garlic, minced 

1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded, finely  diced (for a milder dish, use only  half) 

½ teaspoon turmeric 

½ teaspoon cumin 

¼ teaspoon black pepper 

Kosher salt (optional) 

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro 

Fill a medium pot halfway with water. Cover and bring to a boil. Remove pot  

from heat, add cauliflower pieces, and allow to sit for 1 minute. Drain cauliflower  in a colander. Rinse with cold water just to cool. Place cauliflower, peas, and red  

onion in a large salad bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive  

oil, garlic, jalapeno, turmeric, cumin, black pepper, and salt (if using). Drizzle over  

cauliflower mixture and toss together. Stir in cilantro and serve immediately. 

Nutrition information per serving: 56 calories, 2 g protein, 3 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 7 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 34 mg sodium. 

Mandarin, Quinoa, and Kale Bowl ➤ Makes 6 servings  

Active prep time: 15 minutes  

Arugula Salad with Radishes and Avocado  and Truffle Lemon Vinaigrette 

➤ Makes 4 servings 

1 bunch kale, washed,  dried, and chopped 

3 tablespoons orange juice 

1 tablespoon extra-virgin  olive oil 

1 teaspoon cumin 

½ teaspoon turmeric 

¼ teaspoon red chili flakes 

¼ cup chopped fresh  cilantro 

1 cup cooked quinoa 

3 fresh mandarin oranges,  peeled, segmented 

3 tablespoons sunflower  seeds 

Active prep time: 10 minutes  4 cups torn arugula leaves 

6 radishes, assorted colors,  trimmed and thinly sliced 

1 avocado, sliced 

¼ cup pepitas (pumpkin  seeds), shelled 

1 tablespoon truffle 

Place kale in a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl, whisk  together orange juice, olive oil, cumin, turmeric, red chili  flakes, and cilantro to  

make dressing. Toss dress 

ing into kale using tongs,  

carefully distributing and  

coating leaves. Mix in  

cooked quinoa, mandarin  

oranges, and sunflower  


Nutrition information per  

serving: 119 calories,  

4 g protein, 5 g fat, 1 g saturated  

fat, 15 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber,  

3 g sugar, 29 mg sodium. 

flavored olive oil 

1 tablespoon lemon juice 

Pinch sea salt 

Freshly ground black  


Toss together arugula, radishes, avocados, and pepitas.  Drizzle with truffle-flavored olive oil and lemon juice.  Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  

Nutrition information per serving: 72 calories, 2 g protein, 6 g fat,  1 g saturated fat, 5 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 309 mg sodium. 

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SPECIAL SECTION | Healthy recipes Entrees and side dishes 

Easy Baja Fish Tacos with Salsa ➤ Makes 3 servings (2 tacos per serving) Active prep time: 30 minutes  

For the crispy fish: 

Asian Salmon with Kale and Tomatoes ➤ Makes 4 servings 

Active prep time: 20 minutes  

1 tablespoon sesame oil  

½ cup cornmeal 

½ teaspoon salt 

1 teaspoon chili powder ½ teaspoon garlic powder 

2 eggs, beaten 

12 ounces fish fillets, sliced  into 6 (2-inch) strips  

(about 2 ounces each) 2 tablespoons olive oil 

or olive oil 

½ cup thinly sliced red  onion 

3 cloves garlic, minced 1 teaspoon grated fresh  

For the tomato cabbage slaw: 

ginger plus 4 slices,  

1 cup shredded red  


½ cup canned fire-roasted  tomatoes, diced, drained For the avocado crema: ½ cup plain Greek yogurt  1 avocado, mashed 

¼ cup chopped fresh  cilantro  

For assembling the tacos: 

Juice of 1 lime 

Salt and pepper to taste 

1 large clove garlic, minced Juice of ½ lime 

divided (see note) 

4 cups torn or roughly  chopped kale, stems  cut into ¼-inch slices 

½ cup low-sodium veg etable or chicken broth 

2 tablespoons plus 4 tea spoons low-sodium soy  sauce, divided 

½ teaspoon red pepper  


1 pound salmon fillet, cut  into 4 portions 

4 thin slices lemon 

6 (6-inch) corn tortillas ¾ cup prepared salsa 

To prepare crispy fish: In a small, shallow bowl, mix  together the cornmeal, salt, chili powder, and garlic pow 


1 cup cherry tomatoes,  halved 

1 teaspoon toasted sesame  seeds or toasted slivered  almonds 

der. Place beaten eggs in a second small shallow bowl.  Dip fish strips into the beaten egg and then coat well  with cornmeal mixture. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan  or skillet over medium heat. Place coated fish fillet strips  in the pan and cook until they are golden brown and  flake easily with a fork (about 3 minutes on each side).  To prepare tomato cabbage slaw: Toss together shred ded cabbage, roasted tomatoes, and lime juice in a bowl.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  

To prepare avocado crema: Blend yogurt, avocado, cilan tro, garlic, and lime juice.  

To assemble tacos, briefly  

warm tortillas in a pan and  

then top each tortilla with ¼  

cup tomato-cabbage slaw, 1  

fish strip, 2 tablespoons salsa,  

and 2 tablespoons avocado  


Nutrition information per serving:  

541 calories, 35 g protein, 23 g fat,  

4 g saturated fat, 54 g carbohydrate,  

11 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 679 mg sodium. 

Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion and sauté until softened. Add garlic and 1  teaspoon grated ginger and sauté another minute. Add  kale, using tongs to quickly turn and coat the leaves with  oil. Add broth, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, and red pepper  flakes, continuing to turn the mixture. When kale is just  wilted, add tomatoes and salmon portions, placing the  fillets directly against the bottom of the skillet. Top each  fillet with 1 slice of ginger, 1 slice of lemon, and 1 tea spoon of soy sauce. Cover skillet and cook until salmon  is done, about 6 to 8 minutes depending on thickness.  Serve salmon on a bed of kale and tomatoes. Sprinkle  with sesame seeds or almonds and additional red pepper  flakes if desired. 

Note: Instead of fresh ginger, you can use ¼ teaspoon  ginger powder, plus a dash of powder on each fillet. 

Nutrition information per serving: 550 calories, 26 g protein,  12 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 13 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 2 g sugar,  562 mg sodium. 

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Chipotle Black Bean Quinoa Veggie Burgers ➤ Makes 10 servings 

Active prep time: 20 minutes  

Healthy recipes | SPECIAL SECTION 

Stir-Fried Thai Tofu Sorghum Bowl 

➤ Makes 4 servings 

Active prep time: 30 minutes  

2 cups cooked quinoa,  cooled 

1 (15-ounce) can vegetar ian refried black beans 

½ bell pepper, finely  chopped 

¼ red onion, finely diced 1 medium carrot, shredded 

2 tablespoons chopped  fresh cilantro 

¼ cup light mayonnaise 

½ cup whole-grain bread  crumbs 

1 teaspoon chipotle  seasoning 

Salt to taste (optional) 

For the sorghum bowl: 2 cups cooked sorghum  (prepared according to  package directions) 

4 teaspoons peanut oil,  divided 

2 cups chopped asparagus  spears 

2 carrots, peeled and sliced 

2 cloves garlic, minced 1 red bell pepper, cored and  sliced 

1½ cups sliced snow peas 1 tablespoon low-sodium,  gluten-free soy sauce 

1 (15-ounce) package  extra-firm tofu, cut into  

Preheat oven to 375° F. Combine all ingredients in a  mixing bowl and stir together until smooth. Spray a  baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Scoop up a  ½-cup portion of the mixture and form a patty about 3  inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Put on baking sheet  and repeat to make a total of 10 patties. Bake about 40  to 45 minutes until patties are crispy and firm. Remove  and serve as desired—for example, in a bun with  lettuce, tomatoes, and avocado and topped with chipotle  mayonnaise; over a bed of salad greens; as a patty with  mashed potatoes and mushroom sauce; in an open-face  

1 tablespoon grated ginger For the Thai sauce: 

1 cup canned light coconut  milk 

1 tablespoon Thai red curry  paste 

1/3 cup creamy peanut  butter 

1 tablespoon low-sodium,  gluten-free soy sauce 

1-inch cubes  

2½ tablespoons maple  syrup 

1 clove garlic, minced 2 teaspoons minced fresh  ginger 

1 teaspoon cornstarch 

toasted sandwich.  

Nutrition information per serving: 126 calories, 5 g protein, 3 g fat,  0 g saturated fat, 19 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 270 mg sodium. 


Divide the cooked sorghum among four bowls and set  aside. Heat 2 teaspoons of the peanut oil in a large  nonstick skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the  asparagus, carrots, ginger, and garlic and stir-fry for 1 min ute. Add 1 tablespoon water to the skillet and cover; let  the vegetables steam for about 2 minutes, until bright and  tender. Add the red bell pepper, snow peas, and soy sauce  to the skillet. Cook, stirring constantly, 3 to 4 minutes  more, or until all the vegetables are tender-crisp. Remove  the vegetables and wipe the skillet clean with a paper  towel. Return the skillet to medium-high heat. Add the  remaining 2 teaspoons peanut oil and swirl to coat, then  add the tofu. Cook, turning occasionally, until the tofu is  lightly browned and crisp on all sides, about 5 minutes.  

Meanwhile, whisk together all of the ingredients for the  Thai sauce, then pour the sauce over the browned tofu  in the skillet. Cook for 4 to 5  

minutes more until the sauce  

has thickened and the tofu is  

coated. Add the vegetables  

back to the skillet and toss once  

more to coat. Top the sorghum  

with the vegetables and tofu. 

Nutrition information per serving: 

416 calories, 20 g protein, 17 g fat, 5 g  

saturated fat, 54 g carbohydrate, 5 g fiber,  

7 g sugar, 610 mg sodium. 

www.health.harvard.edu A Guide to Healthy Eating 47 This Harvard Health Publication was prepared exclusively for LIUDMILA OLENEVA - Purchased at https://www.health.harvard.edu

SPECIAL SECTION | Healthy recipes 

Nourishing Lentil Bowl with Winter Vegetables ➤ Makes 6 servings 

Active prep time: 25 minutes  

Pasta with Marinara and Roasted Vegetables ➤ Makes 4 servings 

Active prep time: 25 minutes  

2-pound winter squash  (e.g., butternut, acorn),  peeled and chopped  (about 3 cups) 

1 red or white onion, sliced 2 cups sliced mushrooms 2 cloves garlic, minced 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoon balsamic  vinegar 

2 teaspoons Italian season ing (or 2 tablespoons  

Salt and pepper (optional) 7 cups cooked French green  lentils (see note) 

1 cup pomegranate  

seeds (from 1 large  


¾ cup pecans 

Greens, such as arugula,  basil, or spinach  


3 assorted small summer  squash (e.g., scallop,  yellow, zucchini), sliced 

1 small eggplant, sliced ½ red onion, sliced 

1 bell pepper (red, yellow,  or green), sliced 

2 tablespoons extra-virgin  olive oil 

1 tablespoon red wine  vinegar 

3 cloves garlic, finely diced 

2 teaspoons ground  


¼ teaspoon freshly ground  black pepper 

Sea salt to taste (optional) 2 tablespoons pine nuts 12 ounces fresh pasta (may  

substitute 8 ounces dried  pasta) 

2 cups marinara sauce ¼ cup chopped fresh basil 

minced fresh herbs, such  

as oregano, thyme, and  


Preheat oven to 375° F. On a large baking sheet, evenly  arrange chopped squash, onion, mushrooms, and garlic.  In a small bowl, mix olive oil, vinegar, seasoning, and salt  and pepper (if desired). Drizzle over vegetables and toss  to distribute evenly. Place on top rack in oven and roast  until vegetables are golden brown and tender (30 to  35 minutes). Divide lentils among six individual serving  bowls (1 heaping cup each). Divide roasted vegetables  among the bowls (about 1 cup each). Top each bowl  with about 3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds and 2  tablespoons pecans. If desired, garnish with greens. 

Note: You can use prepared, seasoned lentils  (refrigerated or canned) or make them from scratch as  follows: In a medium pot, combine 1 pound dried French  green lentils, 1 cup white wine, 4 cups water, 1 vegetable  bouillon cube, 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (or fresh  herbs such as rosemary, basil, thyme, and oregano), and  salt and pepper if desired. Cover and bring to a simmer.  Cook for 35 to 40 minutes, just until tender yet firm.  Makes 7 cups cooked lentils. 

Nutrition information per serving: 482 calories, 23 g protein,  15 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 66 g carbohydrate, 27 g fiber, 10 g sugar,  260 mg sodium. 

Preheat oven to 400° F. Arrange summer squash, egg plant, onion, and bell pepper on a baking sheet. Drizzle  with olive oil and vinegar. Sprinkle with garlic, oregano,  black pepper, and sea salt (if using). Toss together on pan  to distribute ingredients. Place on top rack in oven and  roast for about 30 minutes, until vegetables are golden  brown and tender. While vegetables are roasting, place  pine nuts in a small baking dish in the hot oven for about  5 minutes to toast; remove and set aside. Meanwhile,  bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add pasta and cook  to al dente stage (according to package directions). Place  in colander; rinse and drain. Add marinara sauce to pot  and heat until bubbling. Remove from heat and add  cooked pasta, stirring gently to distribute ingredients.  Divide pasta with marinara sauce among four pasta  bowls (or plates). Top with roasted vegetables, pine nuts,  and basil. 

Nutrition information per serving: 369 calories, 10 g protein,  14.5 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 54 g carbohydrate, 10 g fiber, 18 g sugar,  116 mg sodium. 


48 A Guide to Healthy Eating www.health.harvard.edu This Harvard Health Publication was prepared exclusively for LIUDMILA OLENEVA - Purchased at https://www.health.harvard.edu

Spaghetti Squash with Ratatouille ➤ Makes 4 servings 

Active prep time: 20 minutes  

Healthy recipes | SPECIAL SECTION 

Vegetable-Bean Fajitas 

➤ Makes 4 servings (2 tortillas per serving) Active prep time: 20 minutes  

1 small spaghetti squash,  quartered 

1 tablespoon extra-virgin  olive oil 

1 onion, diced 

1 small eggplant, chopped 1 medium zucchini,  


2 cloves garlic, minced 1 (14.5-ounce) can unsalted  diced tomatoes, with  liquid 

1 teaspoon basil 

1 teaspoon oregano 

1 teaspoon marjoram 

¼ teaspoon black pepper Salt (optional) 

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed,  drained 

½ cup whole  

Mediterranean olives,  rinsed, drained 

1 tablespoon balsamic  vinegar 

1 teaspoon honey 

2 teaspoons extra-virgin  olive oil 

1 large onion, sliced 

1 green bell pepper, sliced 1 red bell pepper, sliced 2 small zucchinis, sliced 4 ounces fresh mushrooms,  sliced 

2 cloves garlic, minced ¼ jalapeño pepper, finely  diced 

1 tablespoon fresh lemon  juice 

1 teaspoon cumin 

1 teaspoon chili powder ¼ cup chopped fresh  cilantro 

2 cups unsalted cooked  beans (e.g. pinto,  

cranberry, red) 

8 small corn tortillas 1 cup guacamole (make  your own with mashed  avocado, lemon juice,  and garlic) 

1 cup salsa (look for lower 

Scoop out the seeds from the spaghetti squash and  place the squash quarters in a medium pot with enough  water to cover them. Bring to a boil and cook for about  20 minutes, until tender. Remove from pot and place on  a cutting board to cool slightly. While squash is cooking,  heat olive oil in a large sauté pan or skillet. Sauté onions,  eggplant, zucchini, and garlic for 10 minutes. Add toma toes, ½ cup water, basil, oregano, marjoram, pepper, salt  (if using), capers, olives, vinegar, and honey. Cover and  cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegeta bles are tender and mixture is thick. With a fork, gently  loosen and separate strings of squash from the squash  peels. Place squash quarters on dinner plates or a platter.  Top with ratatouille and serve immediately. 

Nutrition information per serving: 100 calories, 1 g protein, 5 g fat,  0 g saturated fat, 15 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 371 mg sodium. 


sodium brands) 


Heat olive oil in a large skillet (cast iron works best).  Add onion, bell pepper, zucchini, mushrooms, garlic, and  jalapeño, and sauté for about 10 minutes, until just tender.  Add lemon juice, cumin, and chili powder, and stir well.  Sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Heat beans in a small pot  or microwave. To serve, fill tortilla shells with beans and  vegetable mixture, and garnish with guacamole and salsa. 

Nutritional information per serving: 385 calories, 14 g protein,  11 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 63 g carbohydrate, 14 g fiber, 6 g sugar,  235 mg sodium. 

www.health.harvard.edu A Guide to Healthy Eating 49 This Harvard Health Publication was prepared exclusively for LIUDMILA OLENEVA - Purchased at https://www.health.harvard.edu

SPECIAL SECTION | Healthy recipes 

Broccoli Walnut Au Gratin ➤ Makes 8 servings 

Active prep time: 15 minutes  

Healthy Buffalo Cauliflower with Ranch Dip ➤ Makes 8 servings 

Active prep time: 20 minutes  

1½ pounds fresh broccoli or  broccolini, chopped 

¼ cup whole-wheat bread  crumbs 

1 cup shredded, sharp  plant-based cheese  

(soy, almond) or low-fat  cheese, divided 

½ cup coarsely chopped  walnuts 

1 tablespoon fresh  

rosemary (or 1 teaspoon  dried) 

2 tablespoons extra-virgin  olive oil, divided 

½ onion, diced 

1 clove garlic, minced 2 tablespoons flour 

¾ cup vegetable broth 1 cup low-fat milk or plain  soy milk  

½ teaspoon black pepper Salt (optional, to taste) 

For the cauliflower: 

1 cup flour (use gluten-free  flour, such as sorghum  or rice flour, to make this  recipe gluten-free) 

¾ teaspoons garlic powder 1 teaspoon paprika 

½ teaspoon salt (optional) 2 teaspoons white vinegar 

For the ranch dip: 

½ cup light mayonnaise 1/3 cup low-fat milk or soy  

2 tablespoons extra-virgin  olive oil 

2 to 4 tablespoons hot  sauce (based on your  preference for spiciness) 

2 tablespoons sweet chili  sauce or ketchup 

2 medium heads cauli flower, split into florets 

3 tablespoons assorted  chopped fresh herbs  

Preheat oven to 375° F. Bring a medium pot of water  to boil. Place broccoli in pot, cover, and cook for about  8 minutes, until just tender but bright green. Drain, and  transfer cooked broccoli to a 9-inch casserole dish. Spray  a baking dish or baking sheet with nonstick cooking  spray. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, ¼ cup of  the shredded cheese, walnuts, rosemary, and 1 tablespoon  of the olive oil, mixing well. Transfer walnut crumb  mixture to the baking dish or sheet and place on top rack  in oven. Bake 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove  from oven and set aside. Meanwhile, heat the remaining  1 tablespoon olive oil in a saucepan and add onions and  garlic, sautéing for 5  

minutes. Add flour and  

cook an additional  

minute. Stir in broth  

and milk and cook for  

an additional minute.  

Stir in the remaining ¾  

cup shredded cheese  


1 teaspoon white vinegar 1 clove garlic, minced 

For garnish: 

Celery sticks 

Preheat oven to 450°  F. Spray a baking  

sheet with non 

stick cooking spray  and set aside. In a  

medium bowl, mix  

together flour, garlic  powder, paprika, and  salt (if using). Stir in  1 cup water, vinegar,  

olive oil, hot sauce,  and chili sauce or  

(e.g., dill, basil, oregano,  chives, parsley, cilantro,  tarragon) 

¼ teaspoon paprika 

Pinch salt (optional) 


and black pepper, and  

heat until thick and  

creamy. Season with  

salt if desired. Pour  

sauce evenly over  

broccoli in casserole  

dish. Sprinkle with  

crumb walnut mixture.  


Nutrition information per serving: 197 calories, 9 g protein,  13.5 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 13 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 3 g sugar,  208 mg sodium. 

ketchup until smooth to make a batter. Dip the cauli flower florets into the batter and arrange evenly on the  baking sheet. Drizzle any remaining batter over the cau liflower florets. Place on top rack in oven and roast for  25 to 30 minutes, until cauliflower is golden brown and  tender. Meanwhile, prepare the ranch dip by mixing all  ingredients together in a small bowl until smooth. Place  the ranch dip in a serving bowl, arrange hot cauliflower  on a platter, and serve with celery sticks on the side. 

Nutrition information per serving (cauliflower only): 129 calories,  4 g protein, 4 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 21 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber,  5 g sugar, 254 mg sodium. 

Nutrition information per serving (ranch dip only): 41 calories,  0 g protein, 4 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 2 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber,  0 g sugar, 115 mg sodium. 

50 A Guide to Healthy Eating www.health.harvard.edu This Harvard Health Publication was prepared exclusively for LIUDMILA OLENEVA - Purchased at https://www.health.harvard.edu

Chana (Chickpea) Masala with Brown Rice ➤ Makes 8 servings 

Active prep time: 15 minutes  

Healthy recipes | SPECIAL SECTION 

Greek Gigantes Beans 

➤ Makes 8 servings 

Active prep time: 15 minutes  

2 cups dried gigantes beans  (large lima beans) 

1 onion, diced 

3 cloves garlic, minced 3 carrots, diced 

½ cup tomato paste 

1 teaspoon oregano 

1 teaspoon rosemary 1 teaspoon marjoram ½ teaspoon thyme 

¼ teaspoon black pepper Salt to taste 

1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 

1½ tablespoons vegetable  oil 

1 onion, diced 

1 small (or ½ large) green  chili, finely diced 

1 tablespoon grated fresh  ginger 

4 cloves garlic, minced  1 tablespoon ground cumin 2 teaspoons ground  coriander 

½ teaspoon ground  


1 teaspoon ground turmeric ½ teaspoon sea salt  (optional) 

½ teaspoon black pepper 1 (14-ounce) can diced  tomatoes (unsalted),  

with liquid 

1 (14-ounce) can tomato  sauce 

½ cup finely chopped fresh  cilantro (reserve some for  garnish) 

2 (15-ounce) cans chick peas (unsalted), rinsed,  drained (about 3½ cups) 

2 teaspoons garam masala Juice of ½ lemon 

4 cups cooked brown rice  (prepared according to  package directions) 

Place beans in a pot, cover with water, and soak over night. Drain water, add 4 cups fresh water, onion, garlic,  carrots, tomato paste, oregano, rosemary, marjoram,  thyme, and black pepper. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce  heat to medium-low, and simmer for about 1½ hours,  stirring occasionally. Add water to replace that lost to  evaporation. The result should be a thick stew. Season  with salt, as desired. Drizzle with olive oil. 

Nutrition information per serving: 204 calories, 11 g protein,  3 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 35 g carbohydrate, 10 g fiber, 7.5 g sugar,  40 mg sodium. 


Heat oil in a large sauté pan, skillet, or pot and add  

onion, chili, ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, mustard,  

turmeric, salt (if using), and black pepper and sauté for  

9 minutes, stirring frequently. Add canned tomatoes  

(including the liquid) and tomato sauce. Add cilantro  

(reserving some for garnish) and chickpeas, stirring  

well to combine. Cover with a lid and cook for 20 to 25  

minutes, until thickened. Add garam masala and lemon  

juice and mix well. Serve over brown rice. Garnish with  

remaining cilantro. 

Nutrition information per serving: 362 calories, 14 g protein,  

7 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 64 g carbohydrate, 12.5 g fiber, 9 g sugar,  

86 mg sodium. 

www.health.harvard.edu A Guide to Healthy Eating 51 This Harvard Health Publication was prepared exclusively for LIUDMILA OLENEVA - Purchased at https://www.health.harvard.edu

SPECIAL SECTION | Healthy recipes Fruit and desserts 

Oats and Spiced Nut Butter with Apples ➤ Makes 1 serving 

Active prep time: 8 minutes  

Banana Coconut Brown Rice Pudding ➤ Makes 8 servings 

Active prep time: 15 minutes  

½ cup low-fat milk or plain  unsweetened soy milk  ½ cup uncooked old fashioned rolled oats 1½ tablespoons almond  butter 

½ teaspoon pure maple  

¼ teaspoon ground  


¼ teaspoon ground ginger ½ apple with peel, chopped 1 teaspoon chopped  almonds 

1 cup uncooked brown  basmati rice 

21/3 cups unsweetened  vanilla-flavored coconut  milk 

1 tablespoon cornstarch 1 teaspoon cinnamon 

½ teaspoon cardamom 2 tablespoons agave nectar 4 small (5 ounces each)  

ripe bananas, divided ¼ cup unsweetened  shredded coconut or  coconut flakes 

syrup (optional) 

In a medium saucepan, bring ½ cup water and milk to  a boil. Stir in oats. Cook uncovered over medium heat  for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. In a small bowl, stir  

together almond butter, pure maple syrup (if using), cin namon, and ginger, adding water 1 tablespoon at a time  if mixture seems too thick. Stir into hot oatmeal. Top with  chopped apple and almonds. 

Nutrition information per serving: 420 calories, 13 g protein, 21 g fat,  2.5 g saturated fat, 51 g carbohydrate, 8.5 g fiber, 14 g sugar, 63 mg sodium. 

Cinnamon Apple Crumble 

➤ Makes 8 servings 

Active prep time: 25 minutes  

Place the rice and 2 cups water in a pot, cover, and cook  for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain off any extra  water. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together  the coconut milk and cornstarch with a wire whisk until  smooth. When the rice has cooked for 30 minutes, add  the coconut milk mixture, cinnamon, cardamom, and  agave nectar, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally,  for 15 minutes, until the mixture has thickened into the  consistency of porridge and the rice is tender. Mash 2 of  the bananas and stir into rice pudding. Slice the remain ing 2 bananas. To serve, place rice pudding in a serving  bowl or individual serving dishes (2/3 cup each). Top with  sliced bananas and shredded coconut (for individual  servings, ¼ sliced banana and ½ tablespoon shredded  coconut per serving). Serve immediately. 

Nutrition information per serving: 113 calories, 3 g protein, 2 g fat,  

5 medium apples (5 ounces  each), peeled, cored, sliced ½ cup orange juice 

½ teaspoon cinnamon 2/3 cup uncooked old fashioned rolled oats 1/3 cup quinoa flour (see  note) 

¼ cup coarsely chopped  walnuts 

1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 tablespoon brown sugar 3 tablespoons soft  

margarine spread 

1 g saturated fat, 23 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 10 g sugar, 35 mg sodium. 

Green Pistachio Smoothie 

➤ Makes 1 serving 

Active prep time: 5 minutes  

1 cup chopped kale  

Preheat oven to 375° F. Toss apple slices, orange juice,  and cinnamon together and arrange in a 10-inch pie dish.  Stir together oats, flour, walnuts, cinnamon, and brown  sugar. Mix in margarine spread with a fork to make a  crumbly dough. Sprinkle crumb topping over apple filling.  Bake for about 1 hour, until topping is golden brown and  apples are tender yet firm. Serve while warm. 

Note: You may substitute a different type of whole-grain  flour, such as whole-wheat (contains gluten), sorghum,  or millet flour. 

Nutrition information per serving: 137 calories, 2 g protein, 4 g fat,  1 g saturated fat, 26 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 13 g sugar, 35 mg sodium. 

¾ cup orange juice 

½ banana, peeled 

¼ cup pistachios 

¼ avocado, peeled 

Place all ingredients into the  

container of a blender and  

process. Enjoy your fresh and  

healthy smoothie! 

Nutrition information per serving: 410 calories, 11.5 g protein,  20 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 53 g carbohydrate, 9 g fiber, 25 g sugar,  37 mg sodium.  

52 A Guide to Healthy Eating www.health.harvard.edu This Harvard Health Publication was prepared exclusively for LIUDMILA OLENEVA - Purchased at https://www.health.harvard.edu



Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 

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Chicago, IL 60606 

800-877-1600 (toll-free) 


This large organization of food and nutrition professionals  provides information and advice to the general public through its  website, outreach efforts, and publications. 

The Nutrition Source—Knowledge for Healthy Eating Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health 

Department of Nutrition 


This website gives free public access to the latest information on  nutrition and health. 


The Art of Fermentation 

Sandor Ellix Katz 

(Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012) 

A comprehensive guide to do-it-yourself fermentation, this book  will help those who want to pack more healthful probiotics into  their meals. It won the 2013 James Beard Foundation Book Award  for Reference and Scholarship. 


body mass index (BMI): An estimate of the body’s fat content,  calculated from measurements of height and weight. 

dietary fiber: The edible, nondigestible component of carbohy drates naturally found in plant food. 

dietary reference intakes (DRIs): A comprehensive set of  standards for daily intake of essential vitamins and minerals, based  on evidence from scores of observational and clinical studies. 

essential amino acids: The nine amino acids (building blocks of  protein) that the body cannot synthesize for itself. 

essential fats: Beneficial polyunsaturated fats, including both  omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, that come exclusively from  foods and supplements; they are not manufactured by the body. 

macronutrients: The basic categories of nutrients that humans  need for energy and metabolism: fat, carbohydrate, and protein. 

micronutrients: The vitamins and minerals that humans need to  maintain normal body functions and prevent certain illnesses. 

monounsaturated fats: Beneficial fats found in foods like olive  oil, avocados, and nut oils. They decrease the risk of cardiovascular  disease and type 2 diabetes because they help improve blood  cholesterol levels and your body’s responsiveness to insulin. 

omega-3 fatty acids: Beneficial fats found in fatty fish like  salmon, mackerel, and sardines, plus some plant foods, such as  

Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School  Guide to Healthy Eating 

Walter C. Willett, M.D., with P.J. Skerrett 

(Simon & Schuster, 2017) 

This book, written by a noted nutrition expert at Harvard, provides  research-based information about the links between diet and  health. An extensive selection of recipes helps readers put the  latest nutrition findings into practice. 

Eat, Drink, and Weigh Less: A Flexible and Delicious Way to  Shrink Your Waist Without Going Hungry 

Mollie Katzen and Walter C. Willett, M.D. 

(Hyperion, 2007) 

This book teams Mollie Katzen, author of the landmark  Moosewood Cookbook, with Dr. Walter Willett, former head of  the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Department of  Nutrition. Together they’ve created a weight-loss plan that’s easy  to implement. The book includes more than 100 delicious recipes. 

The Plant-Powered Diet 

Sharon Palmer, R.D., L.D.N. 

(The Experiment, 2012) 

This book, by one of the authors of this report, lays out the  arguments for an eating pattern that is based on whole foods  from plants. It includes a 14-day meal plan and 75 original  recipes. 

walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia. They help reduce blood pressure,  lower triglycerides, and prevent heart rhythm disorders.  

omega-6 fatty acids: Polyunsaturated fats found in many veg etable oils. They are beneficial, provided you don’t eat too many.  

phytochemicals: Substances made by plants that have biological  effects in the human body. Some are phytoestrogens, chemicals  that behave like (or sometimes block the action of) the hormone  estrogen. 

polyunsaturated fats: Beneficial fats including both omega-3  and omega-6 fatty acids. 

processed foods: Foods that are refined, stripped of many  nutrients, and mixed with other ingredients to form new products. 

saturated fats: Unhealthy fats found mainly in animal products,  such as meat and full-fat milk, cheese, and butter. People who  replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats reduce their risk  for heart disease.  

trans fats: Unhealthy fats in the food supply that used to come  mainly from processed foods made with hydrogenated oils. Trans  fats have recently been banned from processed foods, but they do  occur naturally in small amounts in beef, lamb, and milk.  

whole foods: Foods consumed in their most natural forms, with  no processing or only minimal processing. 

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