Proper nutrition is the gateway to a healthy body and life, which is why making sure you are getting the most out of your dietary choices is important. Based off of this fact, it has become a common interest of many to eat a healthier diet and live a better lifestyle. So what can you look for when shopping to make changes like this easy?
The first thing to look at is how processed a product is from its natural state, such as the difference between apple juice and a regular apple. A whole red apple has vitamin A (beta-carotene) in the skin as well as vitamin C. There is also fiber in the whole apple versus the juice, which often times have added sugars. Fruit juices are not necessarily bad for you but they should be enjoyed in moderation just like any other sugary beverage. Added sugars are some of the sneakiest things hiding in our food, and consuming too much can increase the risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes. Look out for added or artificial sugars when grocery shopping, and try to use them sparingly when preparing foods.
Another thing to consider is the difference between refined carbohydrates verses complex carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates are more processed and typically have less nutritional value. Some examples of refined carbohydrates are white bread, candies, chips, popcorn, French fries and white rice. Complex carbohydrates typically have less sugar, more fiber and are less processed, examples including black beans, brown rice, whole grain products, and multigrain bread. Because of the added nutrients, complex carbohydrates help to sustain the body longer than refined.
Unhealthy fat content should be monitored in the diet. Animal products and dairy products are known saturated fats, and unfortunately the typical American diet has over the recommended amount of saturated fats and too little of the unsaturated fats. Unsaturated or healthy fats are present in fish, avocados, olive oil, vegetable oil, flax seed, chia seeds and many other sources. These healthy fats aid the body in control cholesterol levels in the blood, brain function and many other things in the body.
Sodium content is also something to look out for, especially in prepackaged or processed foods. Most processed foods have high saturated fat and high sodium content. In moderation both are needed in the body, but the overindulgence is unnecessary and can be harmful. Sodium is a mineral that works as an electrolyte in the body, helping to regulate fluid balance in the cells, and is also important for helping the muscles and nervous system function correctly. Having too much sodium in the body can cause the body to retain more water, increasing blood pressure and other stress on the body.
When grocery shopping it’s important to look out for different colored skins on vegetables and fruits as good indicators of what nutrients are present in those foods. Red or orange coloration indicates that vitamin A (beta-carotene) and vitamin C are present. Red colored fruits and vegetables are also good sources for manganese and fiber. Yellow colored fruits and vegetables are good sources of potassium, manganese, magnesium, fiber and vitamin A. Green coloration indicates the presence of chlorophyll which aids the body in oxygenating the blood and provides a building block for iron. The dark green vegetables are also good sources for calcium, vitamin K, and vitamin C. With all the different colorful options, it’s pretty easy to “taste the rainbow” naturally.
Things to Remember:
- The less processed, the better
- Watch the saturated fat content on products
- Watch out for added sugar
- Strive for more complex carbohydrates
- Watch the sodium content on products
- Strive for more colorful foods (vegetables and fruits)
- Strive for a more balanced diet with complex carbohydrates, protein and fats.