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National Nutrition Month Advice: Eat More Fresh, Fewer Processed Foods

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Nutrients from fresh foods give you “more bang for your nutritional buck,” says a registered dietitian with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“For every calorie, there’s also going to be a lot of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in that food that contribute to our health,” said Laura Acosta, also a lecturer in the UF/IFAS food science and human nutrition department. She suggests eating proper portions from each food group – protein, dairy, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats.

March marks National Nutrition Month, a time to recognize the value of developing healthful eating patterns. Looking for motivation to heed Acosta’s advice? How about obesity. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevent reports that nearly 40 percent of American adults are considered obese.

When it comes to practicing a healthy, nutritious lifestyle, Acosta repeatedly stresses consuming fresh food – as opposed to processed food. The farther removed a food is from its original source, the more likely it is that it’s not as good for you, Acosta said.

“I’ve never heard of anyone gaining excess weight because they overconsumed broccoli or apples,” she said.

Nutrition plays a critical role in weight. Although it may seem intuitive, most fundamentally, food provides calories and energy, and when people consume more energy than they need, they store excess energy as fat.

“It’s not that processed foods are absolutely evil or can never be eaten,” she said. “Obviously, there’s room for everything in moderation. But if we’re mostly choosing foods that are heavily processed, the balance of nutrients is very skewed. We’re getting a lot of saturated fat, a lot of sugar, a lot of salt (and) not as many of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that we need. So trying to eat food in its most original form is good advice for everybody.”

Eating foods with lots of salt or sugar or both can send you into a troublesome cycle, Acosta said. That’s because the brain gives a dopamine response that triggers us to crave these foods even more, she said.

“So the foods that we choose are vitally important to being able to regulate our appetite,” she said.

For more information on setting up your own healthy meal plan, click here.

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By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.

 

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