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Proper nutrition through a healthy diet gives your body a good foundation that can help prevent illness and disease. Exercise and activity keep your body strong and functional.

Healthy Food Choices

What We're Made Of

The body is an amazing and complex structure that is composed of atoms, molecules (such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins), and cells containing DNA. These combine to form tissues (such as muscle, nervous, epithelial, and the connective tissues cartilage, bone, and blood). The tissues then form organs, such as the heart, kidneys, brain, liver, stomach, and glands. These are organized into the body systems of integumentary, musculoskeletal, nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular, lymphatic, immune, respiratory, digestive, urinary, and reproductive. Bodily functions are regulated by chemical reactions, salts, acids, bases, water, electrolytes, enzymes, and hormones. The body makes constant adjustments to achieve balance, also called homeostasis, to prevent excesses or deficiencies in each body system. When homeostasis isn't maintained, illness and disease can result. This is just an overview, since our bodies are so intricate and fascinating. If you would like more detailed information, the Human Anatomy & Physiology textbook by Elaine N. Marieb and Katja Hoehn gives a very thorough explanation of how our bodies work.


The Vitamin and Mineral Alphabet


When we're not able to get the proper amount of vitamins and minerals, supplements can help. Always check with your doctor prior to adding extra supplements to your diet. They may interact with your prescribed medications.


This is an abbreviated explanation of vitamins and minerals. Further information can be found at From A to K: Your Complete Vitamin Guide and Your Guide to Essential Minerals.


A:  Antioxidant that's needed for cell growth, immunity, and eye health. (eggs, shrimp, dairy, and carrots)

B1 (Thiamine):  Converts food into energy. (brown rice, pork, and squash)

B2 (Riboflavin):  Converts food into energy. (dairy, spinach, almonds, and broccoli)

B3 (Niacin):  Converts food into energy. (chicken, green leafy vegetables, corn, wheat, and fish)

B5 (Pantothenic Acid):  For energy production and formation of fats, hormones, and blood components. (milk, avocados, seeds, and broccoli) 

B6:  Numerous functions including immune support, fat metabolism, and cardiovascular health. (beans, bananas, potatoes, meat, and nuts)

B7 (Biotin):  Supports hair and bone growth. (fish, whole grains, liver, and avocados)

B9 (Folate):  Regulates cellular division and is important during pregnancy. (legumes, enriched grains, asparagus, broccoli, and spinach)

B12:  Supports cardiovascular and nerve health and helps form DNA and red blood cells. (seafood, beef, fish, and eggs)

C:  Antioxidant that supports immunity, collagen production, and skin health. (citrus fruits, kiwi, berries, tomatoes, and broccoli)

D:  Supports bone and cardiovascular health, immunity, and mood.

(sunshine, fatty fish, fortified grains, and dairy)

E:  Antioxidant for cell, immune, and cardiovascular health. (nuts, green vegetables, blackberries, and broccoli)

K:  Needed for blood clotting and bone health. (green leafy vegetables, broccoli, blueberries, olive oil, eggs, and grapes)


Calcium:  Needed for bone and cardiovascular health and for muscle and nerve function. (dairy, tofu, beans, broccoli, and kale)

Chloride:  Maintains fluid balance and makes stomach acid. (table salt, tomatoes, olives, celery, and lettuce)

Chromium:  Regulates blood sugar. (broccoli, whole wheat, garlic, basil, turkey, seeds, legumes, red wine, and dark chocolate)

Copper:  Helps build body structures and red blood cells. (oysters, shellfish, nuts, lentils, mushrooms, whole grains, and organ meats)

Iodine:  Helps produce thyroid hormones. (iodized salt, seafood, milk, and beans)

Iron:  Needed for oxygen transport by red blood cells. (meat, seafood, poultry, beans, raisins, and nuts)

Magnesium:  Needed for bone health and energy production. (green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, meats, and milk)

Molybdenum:  Supports detoxification. (milk, dried legumes, cereals, and baked goods)

Phosphorus:  Supports bone health and energy production. (dairy, nuts, beans, cereal grains, salmon, and halibut)

Potassium:  Needed to build proteins and muscle and for conducting electrical impulses in the body. (bananas, spinach, meats, fish, tomatoes, and squash)

Selenium:  Needed to build glutathione, an antioxidant. (grains, seeds, seafood, and meat)

Sodium:  Helps maintain fluid balance and for supporting muscle and nerve function. (dairy, meats, shellfish, and vegetables)

Zinc:  Supports immune function and needed for healthy eyes, kidneys, muscles, skin, and bones. (meat, liver, eggs, and seafood)

Balancing Our Diet

Eating a healthy diet can be difficult and confusing. We're balancing work, school, kids, and an endless number of other responsibilities in a fast-food world. We were taught the Food Pyramid, eggs are "bad", diet sodas and margarine are "better" alternatives, and trying to read a nutrition label is like trying to learn a new language. I completely understand how hard it is to eat well. I've found that following a super restrictive diet can backfire. When I've restricted certain foods, I tend to overindulge when I allow myself to have it again. I'm not saying we have to only choose things like celery over chocolate. (Definitely not happening here!) Instead, we just need to change the way we look at foods, adjust our portion sizes, and include a variety of vegetables and fruits in our meals. Take soda, for example. A 12 ounce can of cola that contains 39 grams of sugar would be equivalent to eating almost 10 teaspoons of sugar! That's because 4 grams of sugar is equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar. Choosing a flavored, sparkling water or 1 can of soda instead of a 2-liter bottle is much better for our bodies. The same goes for fast-food. Eating a single burger is better than a triple decker, super-sized burger meal. There are 9 calories for each gram of fat, while there are only 4 calories for each gram of protein and carbohydrate.


Let's Get Moving


Always check with your doctor prior to starting any exercise program. Warm up and cool down exercises are important to prevent injuries.

Our bodies need exercise to stay strong and healthy. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), real-life benefits of exercise include increased strength, energy, and balance, better sleep, weight reduction, lower blood pressure, improved cognitive function, reduced stress and anxiety, and management or prevention of diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. There are many different exercise programs available that are designed for specific ages, abilities, and endurance levels.


Low Impact Exercises

Low impact exercises are easy on the joints They can be used to get your heart rate up, burn calories, strengthen your muscles, improve flexibility, and boost your mood. Examples include swimming, walking, Pilates, Barre, dancing, cycling, Tai Chi, weightlifting, and elliptical and rowing machines. They can be done by anyone from beginner to athlete and are less likely to cause injuries than high impact activities.

High Impact Exercises

High impact exercises involve periods of time when both feet are off the ground, such as with running and jumping. They can be used to increase the heart rate, burn calories, and strengthen muscles. Examples include jumping rope, burpees, jogging, and squat jumps. Care must be taken to do the exercises properly to prevent injury to joints and muscles.

High-Intensity Interval Training

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) combines short intervals of intense exercise with brief recovery periods. The goal of this workout is for your heart rate to reach 80-95% of its maximum rate. Anyone with heart or blood pressure problems should definitely consult with their doctor prior to starting a HIIT program.


Strength Training

Strength training can be done at home or at a gym using a variety of equipment. Resistance bands, weight machines, and free weights, such as dumbbells, kettlebells, and medicine balls, can be used to strengthen muscles and prevent the muscle loss that occurs with aging.

Daily Exercise

According to the CDC, adults need 30 minutes of exercise each day 5 days per week. Exercising doesn't always mean you have to go to the gym or a class. You can get exercise by taking the dog for a walk, cleaning the house, and doing yard work. If you sit at a desk for work, stretching periodically can help prevent chronic neck and back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and blood clots that can develop in the legs from sitting too long. Taking the stairs can also incorporate exercise into the workday.  For parents with children, have them join in the exercises. You'll have a workout buddy, and they'll have fun participating. Even enjoying a hobby can count towards exercise. Hiking, fishing, golfing, gardening, and yoga all include physical activity. People with injuries, illness, or disabilities can still exercise. How to Exercise with Limited Mobility has many helpful suggestions on how to overcome these challenges and incorporate exercise into a daily routine.  A little bit of exercise is better than none. It's never too late to start improving your health.

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