By Kelsey Macaluso, RD, Mather Hospital
During the month of March dietitians across the United States focus on a range of nutrition topics, from the ketogenic diet and fasting, to how to live a healthy lifestyle as a diabetic. This month at Mather Hospital we are highlighting several nutrition topics in celebration of national nutrition month:
- Pears: the superfood of the month
Pears are among the most popular fruits in the world with dense nutritional value. They are fat free, cholesterol free, sodium free, and a medium size pear contains only about 100 calories. The 3,000 different varieties of pears pack a real punch as far as health benefits go with their high fiber, vitamin C, potassium and antioxidant contents.Pears are the leading fruit source of fiber. Fiber helps keep us feeling fuller for longer periods of time. Pears contain six grams of fiber, the majority of which is in the skin of the fruit. That high fiber content accounts for approximately 24 percent of your daily recommend fiber intake of 21 – 38 grams per day (depending on your age and gender). Getting enough fiber in your diet is important for your overall health as it encourages bowel movements, reduces cholesterol and may help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.
- Eating right for colon and digestive health
A healthy diet is important for colon health and the prevention of colon cancer. If you’re looking to improve your colon and digestive health start by maintaining a healthy weight with diet and exercise. Taking simple steps like walking more, sitting less, limiting consumption of fast foods and other processed foods are a good place to start.Another important aspect to colon health is ensuring you get enough fiber in your diet. So what is fiber? Fiber exists in whole grains, seeds, nuts, whole fruit, vegetables and pulses (legumes: beans, lentils). Fiber comes in two forms: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is good for slowing the digestion rate of carbohydrates and other various nutrients into the bloodstream. It can also disrupt the absorption of dietary fat and cholesterol which can help lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol. Insoluble fiber is good for providing bulk to one’s stool and will help decrease the transit time through the digestive system. Insoluble fiber is great for preventing constipation and keeping the bacteria in the intestines healthy and in control.
- Healthy hydration
The body is made up of 70 percent water. Our bodies use water for joint lubrication, regulation of body temperature, skin maintenance, blood volume, blood pressure, kidney functions and gastrointestinal function. It also helps with cushioning the spinal cord and tissues, improves physical performance, concentration and maintains bacterial levels in the mouth. If you are experiencing dehydration you could begin to feel fatigued, develop a headache, experience dizziness and muscle cramping, or in severe cases, you could faint. The amount of water that you need will depend on many different factors including age, gender, body composition, activity level and your overall health. If you’re asking, “how do I know if I am drinking enough water?” the answer is simple. The next time you go to the bathroom look at the color of your urine. If it is anywhere between dark yellow and cloudy odds are you are not adequately hydrated. Your skin may be dry or cracked and you may experience constipation and/or less frequent bowel movements. It is also important to keep in mind that you need to hydrate yourself before, during and after any form of physical activity.
- Healthy eating
It wouldn’t be nutrition month if we didn’t discuss healthy eating in general. There are a lot of misconceptions about what we should and should not eat. A fad diet comes out and tells us to eat all fat and no carbs or to not eat all day but instead eat one giant meal at the end of it. The amount of conflicting information that is readily availability to us can become so confusing and overwhelming that our sense of what is good or bad for us becomes warped. That is why it is always good to go back to the basics. An important guideline to follow is “eat the rainbow,” meaning, eat an abundance of fruits and vegetables. The more colors, the better. A general rule to follow is, have two and a half cups of vegetables, two cups of fruit, six ounces of grains with at least half of those grains being whole grains, three cups of dairy, and five and a half ounces of protein each day.There is a lot of false information out there and it can be masked in versions of the truth. The next time you read or hear about the newest fad or diet ask yourself “does this seem too good to be true?” the odds are it is. Remember, if you have questions about your health and nutrition, ask. Visit your health care provider or contact a registered dietitian and get the answers you need to maintain your optimal health.