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National Nutrition Month is here so eat healthy

March is National Nutrition Month. "Step Up to Nutrition and Health" with the meat and beans food group.

Foods in the meat and beans group provide nutrients that are vital for health and maintenance of your body. However, choosing foods from this group that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol may have health implications.

Meat, poultry, fish, dry beans and peas, eggs, nuts, and seeds supply many nutrients. These include protein, B vitamins - niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, and B6 - vitamin E, iron, zinc, and magnesium.

Proteins function as building blocks for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. They are also building blocks for enzymes, hormones, and vitamins. Proteins are one of three nutrients that provide calories. Fat and carbohydrates also provide calories.

Vitamin E is an anti-oxidant that helps protect vitamin A and essential fatty acids from cell oxidation.

Iron is used to carry oxygen in the blood. Many teenage girls and women in their child-bearing years have iron-deficiency anemia. Include more lean red meats in the diet along with vitamin C to improve this condition.

Magnesium is used in building bones and in releasing energy from muscles.

Zinc is necessary for biochemical reactions and helps the immune system function properly.

Diets that are high in saturated fats raise LDL cholesterol levels in the blood. LDL or low-density lipoprotein is called the "bad" cholesterol. High LDL cholesterol increases the risk of coronary heart disease. Fatty cuts of beef, pork, and lamb; regular ground beef; sausages, hot dogs, and bacon; bologna and salami; and some poultry such as duck are foods high in saturated fat. To help keep blood cholesterol levels healthy, limit the amount of these foods you eat.

Diets that are high in cholesterol can raise LDL cholesterol levels in the blood. Cholesterol is only found in foods from animal sources. Egg yolk, liver, giblets and other organ meats are high sources of cholesterol. To help keep blood cholesterol levels healthy, limit the amount of these foods you eat.

Varying choices and including fish, nuts, and seeds in meals can boost intake of monounsaturated fatty acids, and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Most fat in the diet should come from these two fatty acids.

Some fish, such as salmon, trout, and herring are high in omega-3 fatty acids. There is some limited evidence that suggests eating fish rich in omega-3 may reduce the risk for mortality from cardiovascular disease.

Flax and walnuts are excellent sources of essential fatty acids. Sunflower seeds, almonds and hazelnuts are good sources of vitamin E.

Web posted on Thursday, March 23, 2006

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