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Source: Illya_Vinogradov/istock

Why Keeping Your Family Healthy Is About More Than Just Food

By Maria Cook

What does "health" mean to you and your family? For many people, it simply means a need to "eat healthy." But food isn't all there is to health, or even to nutrition. Keeping your family healthy is about more than just food. In fact, it is impossible to do with food alone! 

Nutrition means nutrients

It's a common complaint with the modern Western diet: foods simply aren't nutritious enough. Even a generation ago, Western diets contained more fruits, vegetables, and naturally-raised meat. But today, carbs, sugar, and high sodium reign supreme in processed foods. 

This means that, even though food is at the heart of what we think of as nutrition, food alone might not be enough to give us the truly balanced nutrition we're looking for. This is especially true if you seek out only low-calorie foods assuming that they are healthy. Many frozen dinners and other processed foods have been formulated to be low-calorie as a selling point. But low-calorie doesn't necessarily mean nutritious! 

In fact, according to Dr. Mark Hyman of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, many people have a misunderstanding about which foods they should be eating, and how nutritious they are:

"Paradoxical though it might seem obesity and malnutrition often go hand in hand. Processed, high-sugar, high-calorie foods contain almost no nutrients, yet require even more vitamins and minerals to metabolize them.” 

According to Dr. Hyman, vitamin and mineral supplements may be the piece of the puzzle that many people are missing. Supplements can not only help keep our bodies healthy on their own, but can also aid us in breaking down the nutrients found in the food we eat--thus making our food healthier, too. 

So what is the most common nutrient that people lack, and may need to take supplements to obtain? Omega-3! Many Westerners do not eat enough fish, so omega-3 supplements can be very useful in aiding their nutritional health, along with vitamin A. These nutrients are especially important for young children, as they aid in brain development.

Exercise does more than keep you trim

We all know that staying active is important for our overall health, and encouraging kids to be active is essential, starting from a young age. But many families focus on exercise only as a way to keep trim. Many people don't realize that exercise is actually a crucial part of nutrition itself. 

When we exercise regularly, we can increase our metabolism. A healthy metabolism means that, in addition to being able to lose weight and build muscle, our bodies are better able to use nutrients found in food and supplements. Thus, without regular exercise, it isn't possible to reach our optimal health, even if we are eating all the right things. 

What kinds of exercise is the most helpful? According to the CDC, kids and adolescents need at least 60 minutes of exercise per day, and these exercises should include aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening activities. For adults, at least two hours and 30 minutes of exercise is needed per week. Stretches are especially important for adults, as they help improve posture and joint health.