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Dietary Guidelines Recommend Smart Food Choices in Your Diet

Some foods provide lots of nutrients per calorie. Some don’t. The former are called “nutrient-dense foods.” As you may expect, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend choosing foods from the high-nutrient foods to meet your calorie needs each day, while limiting the amount of

  • Foods high in saturated fat

  • Foods high in trans fats

  • Foods high in cholesterol

  • Foods with added sugar

  • Foods with added salt

  • Alcohol beverages

In other words, stick to a balanced diet. No surprise there.

Okay. So you have your weight goals firmly in mind and three, or four, or even seven times a week, you manage to Hup! Two, three, four at home, or in the gym, or on a walk around the block. The next task set forth by the Guidelines is to put together a diet that supports your new healthy lifestyle.

From the beginning, way back in 1980, the various editions of the Guidelines have recommended that you build your diet on a base of plant foods. Why? Because plant foods

  • Add plenty of bulk but few calories to your diet, so you feel full without adding weight

  • Are usually low in fat and have no cholesterol, which means they reduce your risk of heart disease

  • Are high in fiber, which reduces the risk of heart disease; prevents constipation; reduces the risk of developing hemorrhoids (or at least makes existing ones less painful); moves food quickly through your digestive tract, thus reducing the risk of diverticular disease (inflammation caused by food getting caught in the folds of your intestines and causing tiny out-pouchings of the weakened gut wall); and may lower your risk of some gastrointestinal cancers.

  • Are rich in beneficial substances called phytochemicals, which may reduce your risk of heart disease and some forms of cancer.

For all these reasons, the Guidelines recommend that a basic 2,000-calorie daily diet includes

  • 2 cups of fruit

  • 2.5 cups of vegetables (include dark green, orange, and starchy veggies, plus beans)

  • 3 or more 1-ounce servings of whole grain products

To protect your bones, the Guidelines advise washing down your plants with 3 daily cups of low-fat milk (349 milligrams calcium) or fat-free milk (306 milligrams calcium) or the equivalent amount of milk products such as cheddar cheese, which has 204 milligrams calcium per ounce.