Eat for Life is the Food and Nutrition Board's guide to achieving a healthy lifestyle and reducing the risk of common disease. The book's purpose is to present the principles of eating for life. With the confusion that can come from perusing the plethora of diet plans and nutrition guidelines available online, at the library, at the bookstore, and in any number of popular magazines, the Eat for Life guide is refreshing in its simplicity and in the consensus that it has documented among the many nutritionists who collaborated on it.
Not a "Diet"
Most people consider a "diet" to be something that they go on and off of as they become uncomfortable with their weight. In reality, a "diet" is whatever eating habits a person follows. If you live on fast food and convenience-store snacks, that is your diet. It's not a very healthful diet, but it's still a "diet." Thus, Eat for Life is a diet only in the sense that it is a plan of eating one may follow. It is intended to be a plan for life, not a short-term remedy for otherwise poor eating habits.
The Nine Guidelines of Eat for Life
Eat for Life is based on nine dietary guidelines:
- Reduce your total fat intake to 30 percent or less of total calories. Saturated fats should make up less than 10 percent of calories.
- Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and at least six servings of whole grains and legumes.
- Eat a reasonable, moderate amount of protein.
- Balance your food intake with exercise to maintain a healthy body weight.
- Avoid alcohol, or drink no more than two small alcoholic beverages daily.
- Limit salt to less than 6g per day.
- Get enough calcium.
- Avoid taking daily supplements in amounts greater than the US RDA.
- Make sure that you get enough fluoride to prevent dental problems.
- Fat Reduction: The standard American diet derives as much as 40 percent of calories from fat, and nearly 15 percent of calories from saturated fats. Studies indicate that high consumption of fats, especially saturated and trans fats, can lead to heart disease when the fats cause cholesterol to form plaque in the arteries, reducing blood flow and causing the heart to work harder. However, it is not desirable to eliminate all fat from the diet. Some essential fatty acids are crucial to the body's processes.
- Eat Your Fruits, Vegetables and Grains: Studies indicate that diets high in plant-derived foods do not lead to cardiovascular disease, and also seem to protect against many forms of cancer.
- Go Easy on the Protein: While protein-rich foods are an important component of any diet, it is important to seek out high-quality sources of protein, and to avoid eating too much meat. The bulk of medical journalism reports that excessive meat consumption has been linked to cardiovascular problems.
- Exercise: Merely reducing calories and improving eating habits is not enough. Regular exercise is necessary to a healthful lifestyle, as it reduces weight and helps to maintain that loss over time.
- Avoid Alcohol: While some studies have indicated that moderate alcohol consumption can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, the dangers of alcohol far outweigh the benefits. Alcohol is addictive and can affect your mental processes and coordination.
- Limit Salt: Excessive salt consumption (more than 6g of salt or 2400mg of sodium) has been linked to hypertension and stomach cancer.
- Get Your Calcium: Including dark green leafy vegetables, milk, and dairy products in the diet will ensure that sufficient calcium is available for the building and maintaining of healthy bones and teeth, and may help prevent osteoporosis later in life.
- Don't Overdo Supplements: While most people think that dietary supplements like vitamin pills are harmless, the fact is that some of them may be toxic in large amounts. Following the USRDA is the best way to ensure adequate nutrition without endangering health.
- Get Your Fluoride: Fluoride is essential to preventing cavities in people of all ages. If you live in an area where the tap water is fluoridated, you are probably getting adequate amounts of fluoride, unless you drink primarily bottled water.
Why Eat for Life?
The title Eat for Life truly indicates that this is a dietary program to be executed for optimal life, for a lifetime. Whereas many diets focus on the goal of weight loss, programs that support the body and promote overall wellness are by far the healthier option. Eat for Life works to educate individuals regarding everyday life choices in the areas of nutrition and potential toxins. When a body is nutritionally supported, its metabolic processes often regulate and may solve underlying weight issues. Moreover, the disease-prevention principles outlined by Eat for Life can benefit any individual, regardless of age or body type.