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01.05 Key Nutrients in the Prevention of Chronic Disease

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  1. Chronic diseases
    1. Type 2 diabetes
    2. Hypertension/cardiovascular disease
    3. Some cancers
    4. Osteoporosis
  2. Macronutrients and micronutrients defined
    1. Macro – req inrelatively large amounts, protein, CHO, fat
    2. Micro – req in relatively small amounts, vitamins and minerals.
  3. MyPlate
  4. Role of food in prevention of chronic diseases
    1. Healthy weight – Many chronic diseases can be improved or reduced when a healthy weight is maintained or even a modest weight loss occurs.
    2. Nutrient density – a lot of nutrition with out a lot of calories
    3. Added sugars
    4. Colorful fruits and vegetables
    5. Cruciferous vegetables
    6. Dairy foods
    7. Protein foods
    8. Healthy fats
    9. Whole grains
    10. Fermented foods

Video Transcript

This lesson is going to cover key nutrients in the prevention of chronic disease.

First off, what are the chronic diseases we are talking about? Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates around six in ten Americans live with at least one chronic disease.  Many of which are related to poor quality eating patterns and physical inactivity.  So, when we talk about prevention of these lifestyle related chronic diseases, we want to think about the big picture and collective intake over time, not just a day or two.  These are not the result of a few bad choices, but it is the collective result (often over years or decades) of food/lifestyle choices.  The current Dietary Guidelines refer to it as a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan. 

Both macro and micronutrients play a role in the prevention of chronic diseases.  Macronutrients are elements needed in relatively larger amounts that include pro, CHO, fat.   Micronutrients, are also important but are needed in relatively smaller amounts and include vitamins and minerals.

My Plate is a visual representation that suggests what the breakdown of the food on a plate should look like.  Let’s talk about some great choices in each group.

Obesity increases the risk of many chronic diseases.  And many of the chronic diseases can be either be prevented, improved or reduced when a healthy weight is maintained or, if overweight if even a modest weight loss occurs. 

Nutrient density is the amount of nutrients you get for the number of calories.  Kind of the bang for the buck.  High nutrient dense foods have a high nutrient amount and relatively low number of calories.  Examples include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seafood, lean meats, eggs, legumes, and nuts.  When a diet has an emphasis on nutrient-dense foods, it’s going to be a lot higher in nutrients and will probably be a larger amount of food for the same amount of calories. 

Added sugars are the exact opposite of being nutrient dense.  Naturally occurring sugars, such as those in fruit or milk, are not added sugars.  When sugars are added to foods and beverages to sweeten them, they bump up the calories without contributing any essential nutrients.  The more added sugars that people consume, the more difficult it can be for them to get all the nutrients they need without busting the calorie bank. Food labels now list added sugars to make them easier to spot.

Fruits and vegetables are some of the rock stars in the nutrition world which is why they make up half the plate!  While meeting the recommended amount, variety is key.  The more colorful, especially dark colors, the more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants/phytochemicals that are in there. So think purple/blue blueberries, blackberries, cabbage, eggplant.  Those dark green spinach, kale, collard greens, broccoli, and Bok choy.  Red, you can see that deep red in beets, raspberries, strawberries, cherries and of course orange sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, pumpkin, and butternut squash 

Some other great choices in the vegetable family are cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and Brussels sprouts.  They are rich in folate, and vitamins C, E, and K, and powerful phytochemicals.  Garlic cloves and onions are rich in important sulfur compounds.

Dairy foods, in addition to protein, provide calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A, vitamin D (if a fortified), B vitamins and some minerals as well.  Low fat and fat free versions are the ones currently recommended.

Protein foods such as seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes, and nuts, seeds, are packed with B vitamins such as niacin, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and riboflavin), and minerals such as zinc, copper and iron, vitamin D, and vitamin E.    Different protein sources provide different nutrients.  That’s why a variety of protein sources are recommended.  The meats to reduce intake on is processed meat. It is suggested the higher intake of processed meat, the higher the risk of chronic diseases.  Processed meat is any meat that has been transformed through processed such as salting, curing, or smoking, to enhance flavor or improve preservation.  Examples: hot dogs, bacon, ham, sausages, deli meat.

Fat sources in the diet are mixes of polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and saturated fatty acids in different proportions. So, say with butter, even though most of the fatty acids in it are saturated, there are also some monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Same with oils, that contain high amounts of poly and monounsaturated fatty acids, they still have some saturated fatty acids too. Although oils are not a food group, they are emphasized as part of healthy eating patterns because they are the major source of vitamin E and help with the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K.  

A bottle might come to mind when thinking of oil but there are some excellent naturally occurring food sources of these healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.  A few examples are nuts, seeds, avocadoes, fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, and also flaxseed.    

Now the fats to avoid are trans fats.  They are found in food products with partially hydrogenated oils.  And manufacturers do this to make liquid oils more solid at room temperature.  The process makes the products more shelf stable (not going bad as soon).  Although manufacturers have reduced the amounts of trans fats in many foods, it is still good to keep an eye out for them on food labels.   

When it comes to grains, whole grains are the ones to choose, for at least half of the servings.  They have the hearty bran and germ intact.  In contrast, refined grains have these removed during milling (processing) of the grain.  Their removal gives the refined flour a finer and lighter texture.  Compared to refined grains, whole grains can be a great source of fiber, and loads of vitamins and minerals.  Iron, zinc, manganese, folate, phosphorus, selenium.  The list goes on and on.  These nutrients are found in the bran and germ.   

Now, the gut microbiome is getting a lot more attention recently.  And for good reason.  Among other things, the gut microbiome plays a big role with the immune system.  Fermented foods, with their probiotic content, help to establish a healthy gut microbiome environment.  Consuming a variety of them is recommended.  A few examples include kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, and yogurt.

So, let’s sum it up.  The healthy weight prevents chronic disease.  Nutrient dense foods are the ones to be emphasized.  Dairy and protein foods provide not only protein but important vitamins and minerals, whole grains are better choices over refined ones.  Added sugars should be limited.  And, lastly, fermented foods are beneficial for important microbiome.     

We love you guys.  Go out and be your best self today.  And as always, Happy Nursing!