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Take a Bite out of Nutrition

photo of bread, apple, salad, pepper and oranges

Contributed by by Nancy Burke, R.D.; Danielle Karsies, M.S., R.D. and Melissa Shannon-Hagen, R.D., C.S.O.
University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center Symptom Management and Supportive Care Program

Usually articles about improving what you eat focus on diet, which many people think of as one of those four letter words. So, instead of focusing on what NOT to do, the focus of this article is on what TO eat -- in other words, this article is focusing on what foods are "good for you."

Foods to increase

Whole grains: Whole grains are full of fiber, B-vitamins, prebiotics and phytochemicals that can decrease risk of cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Choose whole grain breads and cereals, brown rice and whole grain pasta and include more ancient grains such as quinoa, bulgur, barley and whole grain couscous. Make at least half your grain servings whole grains.

Beans and legumes: These include black, great northern, pinto, garbanzo, and split peas to name a few. These foods are also high in fiber as well as protein. And their low fat composition makes them a great meat substitute.

Vegetables: While all vegetables are nutrient dense, some are especially so. Focus on dark-green, red and orange vegetables and strive to eat 2 ½ cups per day. In addition, vegetables (and fruit) are good sources of potassium which can lower blood pressure and possibly reduce the risk of kidney stones and bone loss.

Fruits: Fruits are nutrient dense and have many anti-cancer antioxidants, phytochemicals and fiber. Add a variety of fruit to meals and snacks for a goal of two cups per day.

Low-fat or fat-free dairy: These foods are calcium rich and many are fortified with vitamin D, which are two nutrients that are important for the significant number of Americans that have low bone mass. These include milk, yogurt and cheese.

Healthy oils: Use in cooking and in place of butter or margarine as they are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These include canola, olive, almond, hazelnut and peanut oils. Keep in mind these are high in calories, so use them in moderation.

Seafood: These foods are low in saturated fats and high in omega-3 fatty acids which have anti-inflammatory properties. Include a variety of seafood in place of meat and poultry. Strive for up to three servings per week. Check out the Michigan Department of Community Health website for safe fish guidelines.

So choose your favorites and focus on eating more or try adding some of these foods to your daily diet that you don’t already eat and reap the health benefits.

Get more tips and advice on healthy eating:

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