Filed under: Nutrition
Since the number one killer of men and women in the U.S. is heart disease, it’s important to know your cholesterol numbers. Cholesterol, an important substance made by your liver, forms cell structures, produces hormones, and helps with digestion. Here are the cholesterol numbers to know:
- Good, or high-density lipoprotein (HDL), cholesterol helps prevent fat and cholesterol from clogging your arteries. Know your HDL: Think H for healthy! A healthy number is greater than 60 mg/dL.
- Bad, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL), cholesterol can cause cholesterol buildup and block your arteries. Know your LDL: Think L for lousy! A healthy number is less than 100 mg/dL.
- Your total cholesterol score should be less than 200 mg/dL.
Starting at age 20, get your cholesterol checked every 5 years. Doctors use these numbers along with your age, blood pressure, and weight to help you manage your cardiac health. Smoking, diabetes, and heredity play important roles too.
There are ways to manage your cholesterol and heart health! Regular physical activity can lower LDL and raise HDL. A diet low in saturated fats can help as well, so make sure to check out the New Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The Performance Triad is an Army program that focuses on 3 key areas to enhance the health and performance of Soldiers and their families: sleep, activity, and nutrition. HPRC has featured articles about the Performance Triad since it was launched in 2013, but the program has been growing steadily. That means it’s time for a visit to explore the wealth of materials now available, including information and graphic products about:
- personal health assessment
- back-to-school tips
- nutrition and oral health
- fitness activities for families
- sleep, travel, and time zones
- goal setting
- advice for leaders
- Army-specific resources
Whether you’ve been there before, or you’re just finding out, take time now to visit HPRC’s introduction to the Performance Triad to get started. Look for links on the Performance Triad home page to their Facebook and Twitter feeds too. Learn how these 3 performance areas can contribute to your total fitness.
March is National Nutrition Month® and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is encouraging everyone to enjoy different food traditions and celebrate the role that food brings to their lives. This year’s theme, “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right,” points out that the how, where, when, and why are just as important as what you eat. Making sure to enjoy the sights, sounds, memories, and interactions associated with eating are essential. Slowing down and taking time to appreciate the positive emotions that accompany mealtime are also important steps to developing a sustainable healthy-eating plan. Developing an eating pattern that includes nutritious and flavorful foods is the best way to savor the flavor of eating!
Every March, the Academy sponsors its month-long nutrition education campaign to share its message that improving overall well-being requires a lifelong commitment to healthful lifestyle behaviors, including nutritious eating practices and regular physical activity. Be sure to visit the Academy's website and check out its resources on food, health, fitness, and more.
March is National Nutrition Month, a good reminder to eat healthfully and choose the best foods to fuel our bodies. This year’s theme is “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right,” which isn’t something we can often say about dietary supplements that come in the forms of pills and powders. If you’re looking for a supplement to lose weight, build muscle, or enhance your performance, HPRC always recommends choosing nutrient-rich foods first. They taste better and are better for you. Use the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) “Real Food” poster to see what foods can help you meet your goals.
If you’re still considering dietary supplements, be sure to visit OPSS where you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions, infosheets, videos, and other educational materials to help you make an informed decision. And remember to always talk to your doctor before taking any supplement.
HPRC’s foundation is Total Force Fitness—“The state in which the individual, family, and organization can sustain optimal well-being and performance under all conditions.” The American Heart Association recommends 7 simple steps that demonstrate how HPRC’s domains can combine for your health and performance:
- Don’t smoke. Visit HPRC’s Tobacco resources for help quitting.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Explore HPRC’s Fighting Weight Strategies for ideas on maintaining a healthy body weight and condition. Don’t rely on dietary supplements as a short cut; visit Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) Weight Loss FAQs to learn why.
- Move more. Visit HPRC’s Physical Fitness Exercise pages for enough fitness programs to keep your workouts going. Information from HPRC’s Environment domain can keep you going any time, any place.
- Eat a nourishing diet. Start with HPRC’s ABCs of Nutrition and move on to Performance Nutrition to achieve your best performance.
- Manage your blood pressure. In addition to diet, keep your stress levels down. Visit HPRC’s Mind-Body Stress Management pages to learn how.
- Take charge of your cholesterol. That means staying away from saturated fats. To learn more, read HPRC’s Nutrition FAQ about fats, and while you’re there explore other Nutrition FAQs.
- Keep your blood glucose at healthy levels. Watch your carbs and sugar. Use HPRC’s carbohydrate needs calculator to make sure you don’t get more than you need. As for sugar, save it for special occasions. Learn how to read Nutrition Facts labels and spot hidden sources.
If you follow these steps, get your own personal health plan from My Life Check® – Life's Simple 7, and combine information from HPRC’s domains, you’ll be well on your way to total fitness. Pass it on. Practiced by all service members and their families, it’s a huge step toward Total Force Fitness.
Want to eat healthy and perform as well as the rich and famous? Often an elite athlete or entertainer has a dietitian or chef to plan meals and even do their grocery shopping. But is following someone else’s eating plan a wise idea?
- Some superstars eat mostly organic vegetables and less fruit. A diet rich in vegetables is healthy, but can be taken to extremes. Eating entirely organic foods isn’t essential. Fruit contains numerous vitamins and minerals plus fiber. The current daily recommendation is 2–3 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit. It’s also unnecessary to avoid nightshades (tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and mushrooms), as it’s not proven that they cause inflammation.
- A lot of performers pick proteins. Their pattern might include only specialty proteins such as grass-fed beef, wild-caught salmon, free-range chicken, and duck. These are good sources of protein but duck and beef should be eaten a few times per week, as they can be very fatty. Other good protein sources include eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds. Nuts and seeds are higher in fat but contain healthy oils and other key nutrients.
- Many icons avoid sugar and white flour. U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting sugar and refined grains but it’s unnecessary to completely avoid these foods. It’s best to eat at least 3 whole grains each day: whole-wheat products, brown rice, oatmeal, or popcorn are good choices.
- Some celebrities only eat foods cooked with coconut oil. It’s better to include a variety of unsaturated fats in your nutrition plan.
- Several VIPs dodge dairy. This isn’t recommended unless you have an allergy or intolerance. Dairy contains valuable nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, protein, and potassium.
Want to be ready for the locker room or the red carpet? Follow a balanced plan and eat what works best for you.
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for brain development and function, but they also may help protect against damage from concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Several animal studies have shown that omega-3 supplements given before or after a traumatic event not only reduce the severity of damage in certain parts of the brain but also improve mental performance during recovery. Similar studies haven’t been completed with humans yet, and although the results of these animal studies are promising, there isn’t enough current evidence to recommend taking omega-3 or fish oil supplements to reduce the risk of or assist in the recovery from concussions or TBIs. In addition, FDA has warned consumers to avoid using products marketed for these purposes. For more information, please read FDA’s Consumer Update.
Although omega-3 supplements haven’t been proven to help with TBIs, omega-3s are still important for your brain, heart, and overall health. It’s best to get your omega-3s from food, but if you choose to take supplements, do so under the supervision of your doctor. For more information on omega-3 supplements, please visit “Omega-3 Supplements: In Depth” from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
The U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) just released the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines help shape policies for school lunch and breakfast programs, Woman, Infants, and Children (WIC), and nourishment programs for the elderly and military. The skinny is that they’re based on evolving nutrition science. They offer practical guidance on how to develop a nutrition plan too. Remember you can also seek a dietitian’s help to meet your goals towards healthy eating and performing well. Read more here.
Chia (Salvia hispanica) seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. As such, they have become a popular food item, and you can also find chia (seeds and oil) in many dietary supplements marketed to support heart and digestive health. On its own, chia will not produce a positive drug test. However, when you look at ingredient lists on product labels, don’t confuse Salvia hispanica (chia) with Salvia divinorum (Diviner’s sage), which is banned by some services. There are many types of salvia, so please read the OPSS FAQ about salvia for more information. If you’re interested in learning more about chia seeds, visit this webpage from MedlinePlus.
Daily exposure to cold weather increases your nutritional needs. But if you only PT outside for an hour or so a day, workout in a gym, and spend the rest of your time indoors, your daily food and fluid needs don’t change much—even when it’s cold outside. If you’re training in the cold for long periods of time, such as during field deployment or cold weather operations, here are a few ways to help maintain peak performance:
- Calories. Moving through snow and icy terrain while wearing heavy gear causes your body to use more energy. Consume three to four standard MREs or three MCW/LRP rations per day to meet your energy needs. (At times you may have to force yourself to eat.)
- Carbohydrates. Carbs are your body’s first choice for energy. When your caloric needs increase, you’ll need to eat more carbs. Be sure to eat high-carb foods such as rice, noodles, bread, First Strike Bar, fruit or sports bars, crackers, granola, pretzels, and carb-fortified drink mixes from your MRE or MCW/LRP rations. Store snacks in your pockets so you can fuel on the go, between meals, and before bed.
- Hydration. Yes, you can still get dehydrated in the cold. Cold temperatures increase your fluid loss through increased urine output, breathing, and sweating (due to insulated clothing and intensity and duration of exercise). Fuel with fluids (excluding alcohol) even when you’re not thirsty. Make sure to monitor your hydration status by checking your urine color.
Remember, this isn’t the time to start a new diet (such as a low-carb diet) or lose weight, so fuel up to perform well.