Informed Choices About Eating

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The first and most important aspect in eating a healthy diet is learning about food. Reading the nutritional information on foods is an important way to learn how many calories the food contains and the distribution of fats, carbohydrates, and other substances. The federal government has set strict definitions for 12 terms that are used frequently on food labels, including free, reduced, lean, less, light, extra lean, low, fewer, high, more, good source, and healthy. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also defined several health claims that can be used to describe food. "High protein" must have at least 10 g of protein per serving. Food described as being "a good source of calcium" must have at least 100 mg of calcium per serving. Food with "more iron" means that it has at least 10% more than the minimum daily requirement. "Low fat food" means it contains 3 g or less per serving. "Reduced" or "fewer calorie" foods must have at least 25% fewer calories per serving than a reference food. "Sugar free" foods cannot have more than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving. "Light" may mean one-third fewer calories or half the fat of a reference food, or a 50% reduction in sodium.

For a person to be diagnosed with this condition, the person must be below 85% of his or her ideal weight, have an intense fear of weight gain (even when underweight), have a distorted view of his or her body weight or shape, and, if female, have missed three successive menstrual periods.

People who suffer from anorexia nervosa will be malnourished, which will affect most of their body functions, including their ability to grow, heal cuts or bruises, and fight infections. They may have trouble sleeping, be chronically fatigued, and moody. Eventually, they will lose bone mass to the extent that they will have osteoporosis. If they survive and the condition continues, patients will exhibit early aging. About 6% of anorexia patients die, mostly from heart problems caused by low potassium levels.

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