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  » Men's health  »  Basic Steps to a Healthy Diet

Basic Steps to a Healthy Diet

There are some basic steps to good nutrition that you can easily build into your lifestyle. It doesn't hurt that these steps also help you reduce your risk for heart disease - the #1 killer of men. You can do this by having a diet that:

  • helps you either lose weight or keeps your body mass index (BMI) in the "healthy" range
  • is balanced overall, with foods from all groups, with lots of delicious fruits, vegetables, and grains
  • is low in saturated fat and trans fat, and moderate in total fat intake (less than 10 percent of your daily calories should come from saturated fat, and less than 30 percent of your daily calories should come from total fat). Foods low in saturated fat include fruits, vegetables, whole grain foods, and low-fat or nonfat dairy products. Try to avoid commercially fried and baked goods such as crackers and cookies. A moderate total fat intake means that you don't have to eliminate all fat from your diet! A diet moderate in total fat will give you enough calories to satisfy your hunger, which can help you to eat fewer calories, stay at a healthy weight, and lower your blood cholesterol level. To keep your total fat intake moderate, try to substitute unsaturated fat for saturated fat.
  • is low in cholesterol. Try to eat fruit, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or nonfat dairy products, and moderate amounts of lean meats, skinless poultry, and fish. Eat plenty of soluble fiber, which may help lower your LDL ("bad") blood cholesterol. Good sources are oat bran, oatmeal, beans, peas, rice bran, barley, citrus fruits, and strawberries. Insoluble fiber will not help your blood cholesterol level but is still good for healthy bowel function. Good sources of insoluble fiber are whole wheat breads, kidney beans, almonds, beets, carrots, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, and apple skin.
  • includes a variety of grains daily, especially whole grains, a good source of fiber.
  • includes enough fruits and vegetables (a variety of each, five to nine servings each day).
  • has a small number of calories from added sugars (like in candy, cookies, and cakes).
  • has foods prepared with less sodium or salt (aim for no more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day, or about one teaspoon of salt per day for a healthy heart). You can choose low-sodium foods, which will also help lower your cholesterol, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or nonfat dairy products, and moderate amounts of lean meat. To flavor your food, reach for herbs and spices rather than high-sodium table salt. Be sure to read the labels of seasoning mixes because some contain salt.
  • if you drink alcoholic beverages, does not include more than two drinks per day (one drink per day for women).
  • if you want to improve your heart health, includes at least two servings of fish per week (especially fatty fish like salmon and lake trout) because they are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which may help lower blood cholesterol. You also can eat omega-3 fatty acids from plant sources, such as from tofu, soybeans, canola, walnuts, and flaxseed (these contain alpha-linolenic acid, a less potent form of omega-3 fatty acid).