The Nutrition Prescription

A well-balanced diet may be your best protection against chronic conditions.

You know that eating a nutritious diet can help you maintain a healthy weight and high energy levels, but recent studies suggest that proper nutrition can even prevent chronic illness. According to a 2018 report from the World Cancer Research Fund International and the American Institute for Cancer Research, up to 5.2 percent of preventable invasive cancers in the U.S., including breast and colorectal cancer, can be tied to diet-related causes. To help break this connection, doctors are “prescribing” patients a diet rich in nutrients along with regular exercise, especially for those already at risk due to poor nutrition, excess weight or family history.

“Convenient” Foods Not So Convenient for Health

Ultra-processed foods—like potato chips and fast-food meals—are linked to rapid weight gain and chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Food manufacturers actually engineer their foods to be addictive—and consumed in large quantities. This also means that key nutrients which satisfy hunger are often lacking. While high-fat fried foods and those containing excess salt and high-fructose corn syrup can have serious effects on your health, even so-called “healthier” processed foods like canned soups or energy bars contain preservatives and added ingredients that typically mean extra calories with little nutritional benefit. So, what can you do?

Top Diseases Caused by Improper Nutrition

  • Obesity
  •  Cardiovascular disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Breast and colorectal cancer
  • Osteoporosis and low bone mass

Read the Label

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) established daily nutritional guidelines known as recommended dietary allowances (RDAs), which outline how many calories, micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and macronutrients (proteins, fats and carbohydrates) you should include in your daily diet. Based on a diet containing 2,000 calories a day, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires food labels to list total fat, carbohydrates, sugars, protein, cholesterol and more. When reading labels, compare the nutrients to the RDAs in the box below.

USDA Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs)

Macronutrients Micronutrients
Total Fat: 25 g to 35 g Calcium: 1,200 mg to 1,300 mg (minimum)
Carbohydrates: 45 g to 65 g, with no more than 10 percent of daily intake coming from added sugars Iron: 8 mg to 18 mg (minimum)
Protein: 10 g to 30 g Vitamins A & C: 600 mcg to 700 mcg; or 45 mg to 75 mg (minimum)
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