Eating for Good Health
Maintaining good health
and modeling healthy behavior is an important part of planning and growing
a family. Dietary guidelines are an important part of the big 'good health'
picture. The objective of Dietary Guidelines is to help people maintain
health through wise, safe food selections, good weight management practices
and a physically active lifestyle. Recommendations are developed and updated
by national governments, including the United States and Canada, based
on current knowledge of chronic diseases associated with excesses, deficiencies,
and imbalances. In the US, revised Dietary Guidelines for Americans
were released by the US Dairy Association and Department of Health and
Human Services in May, 2000. These are a combination of US and Canadian
guidelines. Following them to the greatest extent possible can protect
you from many diseases and support optimal well-being.
a Variety of Foods
eating a variety of foods you increase your chances of getting the
maximum nutritional benefit from your diet. There are two dimensions
to the concept of variety in your diet. One, you want to get variety
from among all of the major food groups. Two, you want to eat a
variety of foods from within each of the groups.
Guide Pyramid is a tool designed to help you achieve the proper
balance among the groups. Following its advice will provide you
with the required balance of protein foods, fruits, vegetables,
grains and calcium rich dairy products. Give yourself the benefit
of obtaining the maximum range of nutrients, photochemicals, fibers
and antioxidants. Eat the recommended number of servings and enjoy
a wide variety of foods within each group.
Weight Maintenance and Exercise
and a number of diseases are associated with weights outside the
recommended range for height, achieving and maintaining a healthy
weight is important for the good health of everyone. This is true
for people of all ages, especially women of childbearing years that
are planning families. Both excessive thinness and obesity can jeopardize
the chances of a healthy and successful pregnancy.
It's important to
understand, however, that a healthy weight is not an 'ideal' standard
that is applied to everyone. There is a range of healthy weights. If you
are overweight, even a relatively small weight loss can improve your health.
The same is true for underweight women who gain some weight. It's best
to consult with your health care provider to determine an achievable and
healthy weight for you.
To achieve and
maintain a healthy weight range, it is usually suggested that you
exercise (not excessively) and follow a balanced diet with appropriate
calories. Weight change should be gradual. If you have a health
concern or are having difficulty with starting a family, it is especially
important to talk to your physician before starting an exercise
Plenty of Grains, Fruit, and Vegetables
The foods found in
the grain, fruit, and vegetable groups are the foundation of a healthy
diet. They are rich in fiber and the essential vitamins and minerals that
have been shown to promote health. They also contain compounds called
phytochemicals and antioxidants, two main components that have recently
been recognized for their abilities to prevent disease. The best ways
to get your antioxidants and phytochemicals is to eat a diet rich in fruits
This is an especially
good place to practice the recommendation for variety within a food
group. Different nutrients are found in different foods within the
groups. Folic acid, very important during early weeks of pregnancy,
is found in legumes, green leafy vegetables, asparagus, broccoli,
whole-grain cereals, and other enriched grains. Vitamin C is found
in fruits (especially citrus fruits), tomatoes, peppers, and greens.
Vitamin B6 can be found in potatoes, bananas and whole grain cereals.
Beta carotene is plentiful in the dark green and deep yellow vegetables.
Foods Low in Fat, Saturated Fat, and Cholesterol
is an important nutrient in the diet used in the construction of
every one of the body's cells and indispensible in the absorption
of some vitamins. However, in excess fat, as well as saturated fat
and cholesterol, is associated with many chronic diseases such as
obesity and those caused by atherosclerosis. Obesity, atherosclerosis
and chronic health conditions all impact one's fertility and increase
risks associated with pregnancy.
The general recommendation
is to eat no more than 30% of calories from fat. There
are three types of fat in the diet, saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated.
Limiting saturated fat (fat of dairy, meats, poultry, and tropical oils)
to 10% or less of calories is also important since this fat is a culprit
in development of atherosclerosis. Excessive intake of cholesterol
found in animal products may also increase your blood cholesterol levels.
While all animal products contain cholesterol, egg yolks, liver, and organ
meats have an especially high cholesterol content. The general advice
is to keep cholesterol intake to 300 mg or less per day.
As far as healthy
fats go, those highest in monounsaturated oils (canola, olive and avocado
oils) are favored. Sources of omega-3 polyunsaturated fats (fish, canola,
soy) are also encouraged to support good health of the immune system and
of nerve cells.
a Diet Moderate in Sugar
health problem associated with excess sugar is dental caries (cavities).
A secondary problem, however, is its potential for contributing to unwanted
weight gain. Foods that contain added sweeteners such as sodas, pies,
cookies, cakes, and candies can be quite high in calories and too many
calories will cause weight gain. Since keeping weight within acceptable
levels is very important for people planning a family, especially for
women. It's best to enjoy 'sweets' on an occasion rather than regular
basis, and in moderate portions.
Salt and Sodium in Moderation
many people excess sodium or salt can lead to high blood pressure.
High blood pressure increases risk of a heart attack or stroke.
It is also a concern for women who wish to become pregnant, since
pre-existing high blood pressure increases risks of pregnancy. Generally,
the recommendation for sodium intake is approximately 2400mg per
day. Did you know that just 1/4 teaspoon of salt contains
Sodium is found in
salt and in many foods that we eat. Processed, canned, and fast foods
can contain very large amounts of sodium. So read labels and ask questions
to find foods low in sodium. Your first step is to put your salt shaker
away, or get a shaker with smaller holes. Try combinations of fresh herbs
and spices to lower the sodium level in a few of your favorite recipes.
a Diet High in Fiber
fiber is important to good health. It helps the digestive tract function
well, may help prevent some types of cancer, helps control blood glucose
levels (important for those with diabetes) and helps reduce cholesterol
levels. The usual recommendation is to get 20-35 grams of fiber in
your diet every day, depending on your age. If you are just beginning
to increase your intake to this level, do so gradually and be sure
to drink at least 8 cups of fluid.
There are two
types of fiber - insoluble and soluble and both are important for
good health. Insoluble fiber is found mostly in whole grains and fresh
fruits and vegetables. Soluble fiber is plentiful in dried beans and
peas (legumes), oats, barley, and fruits such as apples and pears,
and in vegetables such as potatoes. Foods containing fiber usually
contain both types, but in different amounts.
you Drink Alcoholic Beverages, Do So in Moderation
When planning a pregnancy,
it is recommended that alcohol be strictly limited by both the man and
women as alcohol may cause birth defects. Even though there may be some
evidence that people who drink moderate amounts of alcohol have less heart
disease than nondrinkers, this should not be a reason to start drinking
if you don't already do so. Alcohol
is not a nutrient; it is a drug. It contributes empty calories which can
lead to weight gain and nutrient deficiencies. Excess alcohol consumption
is associated with hypertension, obesity, stroke, and many other health
You Consume Caffeine, Do So in Moderation
no direct link between caffeine and chronic disease development
has been clearly established, caffeine does have the potential to
cause some negative health effects, including miscarriage. These
negative effects are not usually caused by moderate consumption
of caffeine. While individual tolerances to caffeine vary, most
people are advised to consume no more than 500 mg of caffeine daily.
This would be the equivalent of 3-4 small cups (not mugs) of coffee.
Women who have a history of miscarriage should try to avoid or strictly
limit caffeine to even lower daily consumption.
the central nervous system. In excess it can impair the body's ability
to deal with stress effectively. Stress is certainly a factor in
fertility, and less stress for both men and women can improve the
odds of successful and healthy pregnancy. If you need to cut down
on caffeine, you should know that withdrawal symptoms of headache
and fatigue can occur. Cutting back gradually over 2 to 4 weeks
can help to minimize this problem.