Eat your way to health: Basic tips on how to improve your health through good eating

Holistic Health
A healthy diet and lifestyle can not only help you feel better but may also boost the immune system and contribute to long term prevention of serious illness. From heart disease to diabetes, many conditions can be influenced by what you eat. Rising levels of obesity, heart attacks and strokes mean that it is now more important than ever to look after your body. Regular exercise and a balanced diet can help you achieve a healthy body and sense of well-being.

Salt Assault
Eating too much salt is linked to raised blood pressure, which may lead to an increased risk of heart disease or stroke. The Food Standards Agency recommends a target of 6g of salt per day yet many people are unaware of how much salt they are consuming and do not realise the 'hidden' salt content in many food products.

Checking nutrition labels can help you manage your daily salt intake. Why not try choosing reduced salt alternatives? Look out for foods containing 1.25g salt or more per 100g (0.5g sodium or more per 100g) as an indication of products containing a lot of salt. Try to get into the habit of tasting your food before adding salt and you may find that you do not really need to add any, or try seasoning food with herbs and spices instead for added flavour.

Fat Attack
Too much fat is linked to increasing blood cholesterol levels and increased risk of coronary heart disease, as well as leading to obesity. Most of us eat too much of the wrong types of fat. This is saturated fat - found in foods such as pies, pastries and biscuits - and can lead to raised blood cholesterol levels whilst unsaturated fats such as oily fish, avocados, nuts and seeds can help to lower cholesterol.

For good health, it's a good idea to cut down on the total amount of fat you eat and to choose lower fat options - foods that have 3g fat or less per 100g are considered low in fat.

Eat your way to health!
Fruit and vegetables should make up about a third of the food you eat each day - it is important that you eat a variety in order to benefit from different nutrients. Five portions of about 80grams a day is a good, attainable target - this could be a handful of grapes, half a pepper or 2 medium plums for example.

Try counting your portions of fruit and vegetables every day and find ways to add fruit and vegetables to every meal. Try some of the tips below to increase your portion consumption.

Mashed carrot, swede and sweet potato are full of nutrients and make a tasty alternative to traditional mashed potato - steam first and season with black pepper and a little butter. You could even serve with vegetarian sausages for a meat free twist to bangers and mash!

Avocados contain more fat than most fruit and veg but can be eaten in moderation as they contain monounsaturated fatty acids which may help to lower cholesterol levels in the blood. Avocados also contain lots of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E and vitamin B6. Add sliced avocado to salads and mix with reduced fat mozzarella, toasted pine nuts, tomato and basil.

Spinach is another great source of vitamin C and also contains iron and folic acid - good for healthy blood and circulation - fill tortilla wraps with spinach, peppers and a little ricotta cheese for a delicious snack.

Chopped vegetables add extra flavour and nutrients to any meal. Try adding vegetables to pasta sauces and to hot dishes, such as stews, casseroles or curries. Add peas, sweetcorn or carrots to cottage pie, put pineapple and peppers on pizza and add sliced courgette and mushrooms to lasagne and cannelloni.

About the author
Lisa Levy works and campaigns to promote healthy food options and warn people of the dangers of excessive salt, hydrogenated fats and calories in their diet. She is Development Manager for the Co-op supermarket's Healthy Options range, and has worked in association with CASH (Consensus Action on Salt and Health) to change British Government food policy.

Originally published at: Eat Your Way To Health

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