The latest research shows that the foods we choose to eat—or not to eat—may increase our life span or the quality of our lives. Not a day goes by, it seems, without feature news stories about food and its impact on health. The message that we can reduce our chances of developing cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other diseases by maintaining a healthy weight, decreasing the fat and calories in our diets, eating more vitamin- and mineral-rich fruits and vegetables, and getting fit is becoming a familiar one.
As more research is done, the link between diet and the risk of developing common diseases such as heart disease or cancer is becoming clearer and clearer. Thanks to this research, we are beginning to understand the dietary and lifestyle factors that are most likely to ensure a long, healthy life. And the good news is that we can incorporate these factors into our own lives without sacrificing taste or giving up the foods we enjoy, by discovering and eating tastier, nutritious fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Despite the well-publicized connections among diet, weight, and health, statistics show that the prevalence of overweight and obesity is increasing at an alarming rate, particularly in children and teens. So why do we cling to our unhealthful habits? For many, the nutrition and fitness guidelines published by the government and by health organizations may seem overwhelming. We may have questions about why we should eat what the experts recommend, what foods are or are not nutritious, and whether it is better to obtain some nutrients from food or from a multivitamin or nutritional supplement.
Finally, for most of us, eating is pleasurable, and familiar foods are comforting. The idea of making a major change in the kinds and amounts of food that we eat is daunting. Part I of this book provides you with an overview of the principles of good nutrition, provides you with insight as to why the experts recommend what they recommend, and then gives you some practical tips on how to change the way you eat while still enjoying good food.