We are surrounded by a vast array of foods to eat and activities to pursue. Every day we make choices among those foods and activities based on our cultural background, knowledge, experiences, and goals. Each choice may have an impact on our overall health and quality of life. Our ancestors’ food choices were limited by […]

America’s Health Goals

According to recent statistics, our eating habits—the foods we eat and drink and those we avoid—play a major role in preventing 4 of the 10 leading causes of death in the United States. These include heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes (see sidebar: Top 10 Causes of Death, this page). In addition, one in four […]

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Aim for Fitness Aim for a healthful weight Research clearly shows that being overweight greatly increases your risk for many diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. If you are overweight, combining a healthful eating plan with regular physical activity is the most effective way to lose weight and to sustain the loss (see sidebar: […]

The Power of the Food Guide Pyramid

The Food Guide Pyramid, the triangular symbol you see on many food packages, was developed by nutrition experts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) (see below). The Pyramid is an educational tool that translates nutrient requirements into the foods you need to eat and helps you put into action the advice offered by the […]

Other Voices: Guidelines of Health Organizations

In addition to the Food Guide Pyramid and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, several private health organizations (the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, and the American Institute for Cancer Research) have issued their own nutritional guidelines. When the guidelines of all the major health organizations are compared, they are similar. Recognizing this, experts […]

The Bottom Line: Optimizing Health

The message is clear. Nutrition experts agree that when you lower the total fat, saturated fat, and added sugar in your diet and increase the vitamins, minerals, and fiber by eating more fruits, vegetables, and grains, you can improve your quality of life and help prevent many of the diseases that are the leading causes […]

The Macronutrients: Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Fats

There is no one perfect food. We need an assortment of nutrients that can be obtained only by eating a wide variety of foods. What is it that our bodies need? Scientists have identified more than 40 different nutrients in food. These substances are essential for growth and for the chemical reactions and processes that […]


The carbohydrates are a vast and diverse group of nutrients found in most foods. This group includes simple sugars (like the sugar you add to your morning coffee) and complex forms such as starches (contained in pasta, bread, cereal, and in some fruits and vegetables), which are broken down during digestion to produce simple sugars. […]


Protein is an essential part of our diets. Proteins are large, complex molecules resembling tangled strings of beads. Each of the "beads" on the string is one of a group of smaller molecules called amino acids. Amino acids are composed of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen, and some contain sulfur. Using the amino acids from […]


It’s difficult to read a newspaper or listen to the evening news without hearing something new about fat and its connection with disease. Diets that are high in fat are strongly associated with an increased prevalence of obesity and an increased risk of developing coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, and certain types […]