For individuals looking to improve their quality of life, can substituting healthy meal ingredients be a simple step toward better health?
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Eating well does not mean having to give up favorite foods. Part of the enjoyment of home cooking is putting one’s own style on each dish. Individuals soon discover they prefer healthy food substitutions to the original high-fat, high-sugar, or high-sodium ingredients. Healthy swaps can be introduced gradually to allow the taste buds to adapt. It is possible to reduce:
Simply making smart swaps that replace some ingredients with more beneficial ones.
Recipes are the sum of their parts. A dish made with multiple ingredients adds its own nutrition for healthy or unhealthy. Ingredients high in calories, saturated fat, added sugars, and/or sodium can make a dish less nutritious. By making strategic food substitutions, individuals can transform a high-calorie, high-fat, sugary dish into something more nutritious. When done regularly this adjustment leads to long-term healthy behavior changes. Making small adjustments leads to improvements in weight management, heart health, and risk of chronic diseases.
Enjoying sweets can be healthy, but the objective is to be mindful of how much-refined sugar is consumed. Sweet flavors send signals to the reward centers in the brain, increasing positive associations with sugar. However, eating high amounts of sugar can lead to:
Try to control how much sugar goes in.
Salt is another common excess in an individual diet. Sodium contributes to high rates of elevated blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.
Individuals don’t have to choose brown rice or whole wheat pasta for every meal but try to select whole grains half of the time. Food substitutions that can help achieve the halfway point include:
More whole grains equals more fiber and B vitamins to help sustain energy, prevent blood sugar spikes, and promote digestive health. Eating more whole grains has been linked with a reduced risk of heart disease (Caleigh M Sawicki, et al. 2021) and a lower risk of colon cancer. (Glenn A. Gaesser. 2020)
Finding the right combination of each of these substitutions takes time. Go slow and taste often to see how each substitution affects a recipe’s taste and texture.
Zong, G., Li, Y., Wanders, A. J., Alssema, M., Zock, P. L., Willett, W. C., Hu, F. B., & Sun, Q. (2016). Intake of individual saturated fatty acids and risk of coronary heart disease in US men and women: two prospective longitudinal cohort studies. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 355, i5796. doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i5796
American Heart Association. Saturated fat.
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Different dietary fat, different risk of mortality.
Faruque, S., Tong, J., Lacmanovic, V., Agbonghae, C., Minaya, D. M., & Czaja, K. (2019). The Dose Makes the Poison: Sugar and Obesity in the United States – a Review. Polish journal of food and nutrition sciences, 69(3), 219–233. doi.org/10.31883/pjfns/110735
Harvard Health Publishing. The sweet danger of sugar.
American Heart Association. How much sugar is too much?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How to Reduce Sodium Intake.
Sunkist Growers. Sunkist Growers and Chefs from Johnson & Wales University Release New S’alternative® Research.
Sawicki, C. M., Jacques, P. F., Lichtenstein, A. H., Rogers, G. T., Ma, J., Saltzman, E., & McKeown, N. M. (2021). Whole- and Refined-Grain Consumption and Longitudinal Changes in Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in the Framingham Offspring Cohort. The Journal of nutrition, 151(9), 2790–2799. doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxab177
Gaesser G. A. (2020). Whole Grains, Refined Grains, and Cancer Risk: A Systematic Review of Meta-Analyses of Observational Studies. Nutrients, 12(12), 3756. doi.org/10.3390/nu12123756
The information herein on "Food Substitutions: A Simple Guide to Eating Well" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
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