The type of food you eat also matters

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Everyone needs a mix of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, plus enough vitamins and minerals for optimal health. But some of the food choices within these categories are better than others.

  1. Added sugar: Whether it’s white granulated sugar, brown sugar, high– fructose corn syrup, corn sugar, or honey, sugar contains almost no nutrients and is pure carbohydrate and full of empty calories, causing blood sugar to rise and fall like a roller coaster. Soft drinks and other sugar–sweetened beverages are the primary source of added sugar in the diet and a major contributor to weight gain. One extra 12–ounce can of a typical sweetened beverage a day can add on 15 pounds in a year. Those liquid calories aren’t as satisfying as solid food.
  2. Dairy fat. Ice cream, whole milk, and cheese are full of saturated fat and some naturally occurring trans fat both bad for the heart. The healthiest milk and milk products are low–fat versions, such as skim milk, milk with 1% fat and reduced–fat cheeses.
  3. Baked sweets. Cookies, snack cakes, doughnuts, pastries etc are packed with processed carbohydrates, added sugar, unhealthy fats, and often salt.
  4. White carbohydrates. Bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, cookies, cake, or pancakes are bad. One should opt for whole–grain versions. One can choose homemade cookies or bars using grains such as oatmeal, and less sugar and unhealthy fats.
  5. Processed and high–fat meats. Meats like bacon, ham, pepperoni, hot dogs, and many lunch meats are less healthy than protein from fish, skinless chicken, nuts, beans, soy, and whole grains. Fresh red meat should be eaten sparingly and the leanest cuts selected.
  6. Salt. Current dietary guidelines recommend reducing sodium to 1,500 mg per day and not exceeding 2,300 mg per day. But most of us get 1½ teaspoons (or 8,500 mg) of salt daily; this translates to about 3,400 mg of daily sodium.