Health Department

National Nutrition Month

National Nutrition Month

Health Article by Larry D. Jones, MPH, Health Director

March 30, 2013

March marks National Nutrition Month and these days it seems like no matter where you are, who you talk to or what you do…nutrition is everywhere. Whether it be in your latest fitness magazine, a column in the newspaper or on the 6 o’clock news; everyone seems to have an opinion.

We all know maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is essential to our health, but with the wealth of information available, it can often be difficult to sort through what is a good diet for you. The easiest way to tackle the abundance of information is to know the basics.

There are five food groups consisting of vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy and a protein group which includes meat, poultry, fish and nuts. Each of these groups plays a vital role in maintaining your health.

· Vegetables- the key when choosing vegetables is COLOR. The compounds that give vegetables their bright color are also responsible for giving them their unique health promoting properties. They are bio-active compounds occurring naturally in foods that provide more than just nutrition. Vegetables can be fresh, frozen, canned or dried and may be eaten whole, cut-up, or mashed. For most adults, 2-3 cups per day is recommended.

· Fruits- as with vegetables, color is a key component in choosing fruits. Deep-colored fruits such as berries and grapes are rich in flavonoids, which protect against cardiovascular disease. Fruits are also sources of many essential nutrients that are under consumed, including potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C, and folic acid. For most adults, 2 cups per day is recommended.

· Grains- this group is made up of two types of grains: whole grains and refined grains. Any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or another cereal grain is a grain product. This includes our breads and pastas. How the grain is processed determines whether it is a whole grain or refined. A whole grain contains the entire grain kernel; this includes whole wheat flour, oatmeal and brown rice. A refined grain is milled, which means parts of the grain kernel are removed. This improves shelf-life, but also removes dietary fiber, iron and many B vitamins. White flour, white rice and white bread are examples of refined grains. For most adults, 3-4 ounces per day is recommended and half of these should be a whole grain.

· Dairy- milk, cheese, yogurt and milk-based desserts are included in this category. It is important to choose fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese. Non low-fat choices count against your maximum limit for empty calories, which are calories from solid fats and added sugars. Dairy products are needed to improved bone health, and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis. For most adults, 3 cups per day is recommended.

· Protein- meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, and seeds are included in this group. These foods are rich in protein, B vitamins, vitamin E, zinc, iron and magnesium. Proteins help support bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. For most adults, 4-6 ounces per day are recommended.

Recommendations are based on an “average” adult, and these can vary from person to person. To determine your own daily intake, you may visit . Recommendations can also vary on an individual’s diet, if you are vegetarian, lactose-intolerant or gluten-free you can find alternative meal plans at

For more information on nutrition or healthy eating tips, please contact the Independence Health Department at 816-325-7185.

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