Introduction

We don’t always get a chance for a “do over” in life, but when it comes to nutrition we can rebuild a better, stronger foundation for good health. If you’re ready to take a proactive approach to your nutrition through practical, doable steps, this book can be your guide to optimum nutrition. It will broaden your understanding of the important roles of nutrients in the foods you eat and their impact on your health. We also provide food and lifestyle strategies to begin on your path toward better health.

Food is the key to good nutrition, but where do you begin? We’re going to embark on this journey toward good nutrition one step at a time with very easy-to-understand segments. We provide you with the inner workings of nutrition—why nutrients are essential to good health, how your body uses them, and in what foods you’ll find them. We give you tips for preparing nutritious meals regardless your lifestyle, and even include a few recipes to whet your appetite.

Sometimes simple dietary changes can help you feel better; other times more help is needed. We’ll help you identify when it’s time to seek professional help to get your body running smoothly and live a healthier, more active life.

This book was written to provide you with a thorough, easy-to-read, science-based background in nutrition and to serve as a reference for making positive nutrition changes in your life. We hope you enjoy it and start making strides toward better nutrition and health.

How This Book Is Organized

The chapters in this book are divided into five parts. Each part focuses on a certain aspect of nutrition and health.

Part 1, Nutrition and Wellness: An Overview, helps you understand your current state of nutrition and how to become healthier. We show you how to know if you’re at risk and provide simple ways for improvement. We’ll also explore the connection between food and mood.

Part 2, The Basics of Nutrition, provides you with the fascinating way nutrients are absorbed and digested. We examine the role of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, along with vitamins, minerals, and plant-based nutrients, and how they work in your body to support vital functions and help ward off disease. We look at how much of these nutrients you need and the best sources to obtain them.

Part 3, Making Your Best Food Choices, explores all the major foods you need for good health, as well as how to avoid certain categories. We take an in-depth look at the best cooking oils for better health. We cover how food gets from farm to table and explain the differences between organic and conventionally grown produce. Finally, we teach you how to decipher food labels and understand health claims.

Part 4, Your Healthy Diet, shows you how to create a better way to cook and eat healthier. We also teach you how to listen to your body’s food cues and deal with cravings. We give you the best ways to navigate through a restaurant menu to make healthy choices. And we explore the differences between food allergies, food sensitivities, and food intolerances and how to live with them.

In Part 5, What Science Says About Special Foods, we explore the top diets and their impact on your health. We also look at how certain foods are “super” in regards to health. We investigate how farms and ranches raise animals and what terms like cage-free and grain-fed really mean to the consumer.

Extras

Scattered throughout the book you’ll notice sidebars that contain information to aid in your understanding of the subject matter.

DEFINITION

These sidebars provide you with definitions of terms that are relevant to the topic.

FOODIE FACTOID

These sidebars present interesting food-related facts.

NOTABLE INSIGHT

These sidebars contain tips or direct you to more in-depth information you can find elsewhere.

WAKE-UP CALL

These sidebars contain health warnings or alerts you should be watchful for.

Acknowledgments

Thank you to my wonderful research assistant, Nona Bennett, RDN, who worked so diligently with me to pull this book together. Thanks for all of your long, hard work and your fantastic attitude. It was a pleasure working with you.

Thank you to my literary agent, Beth Campbell at BookEnds, LLC, for bringing this delightful project to me, and a very big thanks to editors Jan Lynn and John Etchison.

Many thanks to the nutrition professionals and dietetic interns from ASU and Maricopa County, who provided assistance on this project, and a big shout out to Chef Teresa Hansen for always lending a helping hand.

A special thank you to my husband, Duane, for all of his incredible support during the writing of this book. He took care of all of life’s little details so that I could maintain my focus on this project. You’re the best!

Trademarks

All terms mentioned in this book that are known to be or are suspected of being trademarks or service marks have been appropriately capitalized. Alpha Books and Penguin Random House LLC cannot attest to the accuracy of this information. Use of a term in this book should not be regarded as affecting the validity of any trademark or service mark.

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