When you go to the grocery store and look in your shopping cart, is it full of fresh colorful healthy foods or is it packed full of pre-packaged dead food loaded down with salt, sugar and preservatives? It is a good question to ask yourself and one that is worthwhile having a closer look at.

More and more studies are proving the association between eating a healthy diet to promote good health and eating an unhealthy diet and bad health. For instance, high intakes of sodium, sugary foods and refined grain products are associated with hypertension (high blood pressure). Low intake of calcium, poor vitamin D status and low intakes of vegetables and fruit is associated with the development of osteoporosis and bone fractures. A diet high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol intake with a low intake of vegetables and fruit is associated with heart disease. Cirrhosis of the liver is associated to poor overall diet and excessive alcohol consumption, and cancer is being associated with low vegetable and fruit intakes. It appears that to be healthy we need a diet that is low in sodium, sugar and refined grain products, contains lean sources of protein, and is high in fiber, complex carbohydrates and vegetables and fruits.

As consumers, there are many factors which can determine what types of foods we eat. Food costs, convenience, availability, health concerns, education, culture and religious beliefs can all contribute to our diet. Labeling can also have a huge impact on what we purchase for food. Some labels can be very misleading making the food sound healthy when in fact it really is not.

There are steps we can take to help us make informed decisions about the food we are buying and consuming. Making healthy food choices is essential for maintaining good health and can help in the prevention of many of today’s health disorders. An easy way to start is with the Canada Food Guide or the USDA MyPyramid program in the USA. These food guides are a good tool to use to see if we are getting the right types and amounts of the foods we need. You can visit the Canada Food Guide website at: http://hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/index-eng.php or the MyPyramid website at: http://www.mypyramid.gov/.

Another thing we can do to determine whether the food we are buying is good for us or not is to read the label. Look at what is listed in the ingredient list and if it is something you do not know or cannot pronounce it is generally a good rule of thumb to avoid it. If you would like to know what a lot of the chemicals and additives are, there is a multitude of websites and books available that explain what you are eating. Google food additives for a huge directory on the essential information about what is really in the food we eat, which additives we should avoid, and which are downright unsafe. There are a lot of books on the subject as well. Check with your local library or bookstore.

We can also make an informed choice by reading the Nutrition Facts panel on the label. The Nutrition Facts panel can help us make healthy choices for our family and ourselves. The information is based on a specific amount of food, which we can compare to the amount we eat. It also shows the percent Daily Value to see if a food has a little or alot of a specific nutrient. The table also shows how much fat, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and sodium the product contains. Please keep in mind when reading these panels that the serving size may be significantly low. In other words, 50 ml or 1 teaspoon is not a lot of food but may contain high amounts of fats, sodium and/or sugar. (I will discuss food labeling in an upcoming issue of the newsletter.)

Choosing foods that are high in fibre and low in fat can help to keep us healthy and fit. Lots of fresh veggies and fruit are a must in today’s diet and the fresher and organic we can get is best. The local farmers markets are starting up at this time of year so it is a great way to shop for our fresh food needs.

Eating lots of fresh colorful vegetables and fruits, rich whole grains, raw nuts and seeds, unprocessed oils and fats, drug-free and free-range eggs and lean meats, and organic dairy products while reducing the amount of packaged and processed foods we consume can have a very beneficial effect on our health.

Having a healthy diet is also important in reducing our risk of many of today’s chronic ailments. Not only does eating a healthy diet prevent us from health issues, it also makes us perform better, provides us with more energy, gives us a healthy glow and makes us feel great. What’s in your shopping cart?

Author's Bio: 

A Product Consultant and Member of The AIM Companies for over twenty years, Joanne Jackson takes pride in sharing her knowledge of nutrition and the AIM products with others. As an advocate of healthy eating and proper nutrition, Joanne understands that the choices we make, and choosing them wisely, is the key to wellness. Sign up for her informative free newsletter by visiting
http://awealthofhealth.myaimstore.com or