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A Practical Guide to Eating and Staying Healthy - Brandview - 03/24/2016

Amid the fad diets and infomercial exercise equipment, sometimes it's difficult to know what's really healthy. But with the help of Dr. Christopher Davis of Ogden Clinic, you can learn the basics of regular exercise and healthy eating.

Below are some common questions and answers about health and nutrition:

1. How critical is physical activity to maintaining a healthy diet?

According to Davis, exercise is often one of the best motivators for eating healthy. When people use food as a way to relieve stress or sadness, exercise provides a valuable alternative.

“Exercise releases endorphins that make us feel good and can relieve stress,” Davis explains. Using this logic, you can increase your body's endorphins (and decrease stress) to further establish patterns of healthy eating.

2. Is it possible to burn fat and gain muscle simultaneously?

“Cardiovascular exercise coupled with strength training can help you do both,” says Davis. The National Institutes of Health recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise with two or more days of weekly strength training.

But if this exercise plan is to produce results, you need to maintain healthy eating. As Davis says, “you can out-eat any exercise program.”

3. Which is more important, counting calories or carefully choosing what one consumes?

The type of food you consume is more important than the amount. Eating the right kinds of foods in regular proportions satisfies your hunger while keeping sensible calorie counts. Davis states, “Be mindful of how you eat — don’t just eat because you’re bored or stressed.”

If you’re making wise food choices and still not reaching a healthy weight, Davis suggests portion control and ensuring that you’re eating nutrient-rich foods to fill your calorie count.

4. What is the recommended daily amount for fruits and vegetables? What about water? Sodium?

Any type of food intake varies based on gender and age, but current guidelines recommend 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit, and 2.5 to 3 cups of vegetables per day.

When it comes to water, the NIH recommends 91 to 125 fluid ounces (or 2.7 to 3.7 liters) of water intake each day. Water is a great way to cut unnecessary sugars and wasted calories out of your diet. Patients can sometimes lose weight by simply replacing soda with water.

As for sodium, Davis cites current guidelines at no more than 2.4 grams per day. “We need some salt, but too much can lead to high blood pressure, which in turn can lead to other chronic diseases.”

5. Can bad nutrition lead to more serious problems like chronic disease?

Multiple studies have proved that diet and lifestyle directly contribute to chronic diseases and premature death. Low-carbohydrate, low-fat and low-glycemic diets tend to promote longevity while preventing disease.

6. What are nutrients, and why are they beneficial?

“Nutrients are parts of food that our bodies use to function,” says Davis. He divides nutrients into two categories: macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates and protein), and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Both types benefit health in the right amounts and proportions. According to Davis, “any one nutrient consumed in excess could be harmful. The key is finding a good balance.”

On the topic of herbal supplements, Davis emphasizes that “some supplements are not well-researched, so the best way to get what you need is by eating a well-rounded diet. Consult your doctor if you would like to use a certain supplement.”

7. How can one make healthy choices when shopping for food?

“If the first ingredient is high-fructose corn syrup, put it back on the shelf,” Davis says. He also suggests using the new USDA guidelines found at, which help you focus on proportioning different foods.

When shopping, Dr. Davis emphasizes reading the label. “If your food is 90 percent processed carbohydrates and 10 percent everything else, then it’s not healthy.” Look for whole foods with limited added sugars, solid fats and salt. It’s also a good idea to make sure your cart has a balance of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy.

8. What are good and bad fats?

Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as fish and other seafood) are good fats. Nuts and seeds also have plenty of unsaturated fats, which are healthier for your heart. Bad fats include the synthetic man-made fat called trans fats.

Processed saturated fats like those in butter and some meats can definitely increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. On the other hand, saturated fats in dairy products seem to have the opposite effect. Davis gives the general rule, “try to consume low-fat dairy products like yogurt, cheese and low-fat milk.”

9. What are good and bad carbs?

Davis brings up the glycemic index, or a way to measure food’s effects on blood glucose. Foods that cause a spike in blood glucose (or blood sugar) have a high glycemic index, while the opposites are also true.

“Try to eat more whole fruits, vegetables and whole grains while consuming carbohydrates. Also, focus on lowering the overall quantity of carbohydrates when controlling your weight.”

10. Out of breakfast, lunch and dinner, at which meal should people consume the most food or the least amount of food?

“Skipping any meal routinely is not healthy,” Davis says. He further states that each meal is important, and the ideal diet consists of three meals a day with healthy snacks in between. Davis sums up by saying, “If you feel hungry, you should reach for something healthy until you’re satisfied, then stop until you’re hungry again.” Listen to what your body needs, and respond in kind.

Better nutrition = better life

In conclusion, Davis emphasizes that healthy eating doesn’t have to be disagreeable or even a chore, and countless benefits exist. Increased health, mental ability and overall happiness are just a few outcomes of good nutrition. Davis explains that many people struggle with nutrition, but countless resources exist to help anyone succeed.

If you feel frustrated or need more guidance, consult a nutritionist, physical trainer or doctor at Ogden Clinic. After all, the sooner you decide to be healthier, the sooner you’ll reap the benefits, so why wait?