March is National Nutrition Month.
Like physical exercise, sound nutrition can optimize cardiovascular and metabolic health while curtailing disease risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States, having claimed 360,900 lives in 2019. Commonly, risk factors associated with heart disease are comorbidities related to lifestyle and nutrition, such as hypertension (high blood pressure), hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol), diabetes, and obesity. Want more…
Obesity has been implicated as a driver of numerous conditions and diseases and has been established to accelerate morbidity. Its prevalence has grown immensely throughout the United States across ethnicities, socioeconomic status, education attainment, and geographic locations. As of 2016, 37.9% of men and 41.1% of women are considered to be obese, which is characterized by having a body mass index (BMI) of 30.0 or higher.
While obesity’s roots are multifactorial, much of its proliferation across the country stems from suboptimal nutrition comprising inappropriately large portion sizes, disproportionate amounts of macronutrients consumed daily, and reduced physical activity, which is facilitated by sound nutrition.
Macronutrients are comprised of carbohydrates, protein, and fat that which confer energetic and digestive functions, enzymatic activity, and serve as constituents of hormones, respectively.
Carbohydrates hail from plant sources, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds, and nuts and stored as muscle glycogen which is mobilized for energy production to facilitate intense physical activity and neurocognitive tasks. Leafy, fibrous carbohydrate sources support digestion. One gram of carbohydrate yields 4 calories.
Protein is composed of a chain of amino acids which facilitate enzymatic and digestive functions, enable muscle contraction, and serve as connective tissue. Additionally, they act as messengers for hormones. Sources of protein include animals and vegetables, such as grains, seeds, and nuts. One gram of protein yields 4 calories.
Fat is derived from animals, their byproducts, such as milk, and oils and is responsible for thermoregulation, absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, supports energy production to facilitate low to moderate intensity physical activity, and serves as key constituent in the formation of cell membranes and hormones. One gram of fat yields 4 calories.
According to myplate.gov, the following food sources and their daily consumption amounts are recommended to meet activity needs and attain and maintain healthy body mass and composition.
Vegetables: 2 to 3 cups
Fruits: 1½ to 2 cups
Grains: 5 to 8 ounces
Dairy: 3 cups (fat-free or low-fat)
Protein foods: 5 to 6½ ounces
Oils: 5 to 7 teaspoons