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Its Role in General & Oral Health

By Dr. Carole A. Palmer


Exercise: A Key Component to Good Health

A healthy diet contains the proper nutrients in the right amounts that your body needs. But that's not the end of it — the next step involves balancing the distribution and use of those nutrients within the body. A good exercise plan is crucial to that balance.

Nutrition and oral health.

First, the body needs calories for daily functions such as digestion, breathing and daily activities. You are constantly burning calories, even when sleeping. You have energy balance when the calories consumed are equal to the calories used by the body. Energy imbalance occurs when more (or fewer) calories are consumed than used up. The excess calories are then stored and weight gain occurs. Too few calories results in weight loss.

Millions of Americans suffer from illnesses that can be prevented or improved through regular physical activity.

Regular physical exercise plays an important role in offsetting energy imbalance by using up extra calories consumed. Exercise is important for cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) health. It can also help reduce high blood pressure, regulate diabetes (adult onset type 2), contribute to weight loss in overweight individuals, reduce triglycerides, lower LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) and raise HDL (the “good” cholesterol).

Millions of Americans suffer from illnesses that can be prevented or improved through regular physical activity. They're also missing out on other benefits: the development of healthy bones, muscles and joints; reduction in feelings of depression and anxiety; and improvement in mood and a sense of well-being. And, active people have a reduced risk for stroke and colon cancer.

Making the Right Nutritional Choices for Better Oral and General Health

When it comes to diet and nutrition, it's all about the right choices. Remember these simple guidelines in your pursuit of good nutrition:

  • Follow a guide, such as MyPyramid, for your age, gender, exercise, and calorie needs;
  • Eat sufficient amounts of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, protein foods and calcium/phosphorous sources every day;
  • Maintain variety, balance, and moderation in your food choices;
  • Drink plenty of water;
  • Restrict sweets to meals and dessert – avoid sugary snacks between meals;
  • Limit your total sugar intake to no more than 10 teaspoon equivalents per day;
  • Snack on fresh fruits and vegetables, low fat cheeses, whole wheat crackers or low-fat dairy products;
  • Exercise regularly and moderately.

Good nutrition goes hand in hand with good general and oral health. In fact, taking care of your whole body through good diet and nutrition practices will help ensure a healthy, radiant smile. Bon Appetit!

Some Misconceptions about Nutrition

Here are a few popular “myths” about good nutrition and dietary practices, along with the facts:

Myth: Children have “baby fat” but they'll lose the fat as they get older.

Fact: Currently, an estimated 65.2 percent of U.S. adults, age 20 years and older, and 15 percent of children and adolescents are overweight — and 30.5 percent are obese.

Myth: Genetics cause obesity.

Fact: Although 25-70 percent of the difference in weight between individuals may be related to genetics, genetic factors only predispose an individual to obesity — they do not cause obesity.

Myth: Americans don't get enough protein.

Fact: Most people get more protein than they actually need. Too much protein can actually be harmful by putting stress on the kidneys.

Myth: Being fat won't kill you.

Fact: Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. As many as 47 million Americans may exhibit a cluster of medical conditions (a “metabolic syndrome” or “Syndrome X”) characterized by insulin resistance and obesity, excessive abdominal fat, high blood sugar and triglycerides, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Myth: Fat is bad and should be eliminated from the diet.

Fact: The body needs some fat. However, it's the total amount of fat and the type of fat that's important. There's a strong relationship between dietary “saturated fats” (largely animal fats) and trans fats (found in many processed foods) in coronary heart disease. The most effective replacement for saturated fatty acids (and trans-fats) is with poly-unsaturated vegetable oils (like olive oil) and Omega 3 fats found in fatty fish like salmon and sardines. Omega 6 fats are also important and are found in nuts, naturally grown eggs and poultry. These lower coronary heart disease risk and increase high density lipoprotein (HDL), the good cholesterol.

Myth: Sweets can't make you fat.

Fact: Any foods that provide calories can be stored as body fat and contribute to weight gain if consumed in quantities greater than the body can use up.

Myth: Sugars are bad for your teeth, not your health.

Fact: Americans consumed more than 142 pounds of sugar per capita in 2003 (equivalent to 37 teaspoons a day). The maximum recommended a day is 10 teaspoons (one can of soda contain 6). Any excess sugar consumed is converted to fat.

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