The month of March is celebrated by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) as National Nutrition Month. It is a time to reflect on our eating and exercise habits as well as acknowledge areas where we can improve and make more informed health decisions. The highlights for 2021, put forward by the Academy, include planning meals ahead of time for adequate preparation, incorporating a variety of foods in our everyday diet, improving our skills in the kitchen, and getting help from professional dietitians, if needed, to make sure we are meeting our nutrient goals. Through promoting the importance of nutrition, we learn about changes we can make to elevate our own personal nutrition. For more information on National Nutrition Month, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website at https://www.eatright.org/food/resources/national-nutrition-month/about-national-nutrition-month
Another great resource for improving our nutrition and health is the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These are government created recommendations that are updated every five years to provide guidance for Americans to improve eating habits and ensure we are eating to fulfill our nutrient needs. It’s important to note that these are providing nutritional guidance, not nutrient requirements for individuals. The guidelines established in 2020 focus on choosing nutritious food options, creating a consistent and healthy dietary pattern, limiting foods high in saturated fat, added sugar, and sodium, as well as paying attention to our portion sizes. It is important to reflect on areas of our own health that we can adjust to ensure we feel our absolute best.
In addition to National Nutrition Month, March is also known as National Caffeine Awareness Month, drawing attention to caffeine intake and its effects on the body. Plants that naturally contain caffeine include coffee and cocoa beans, kola nuts, tea leaves, mate, and guarana berries. Caffeine is not only found naturally in these sources, but it can also be synthetically made and added to food and beverage products such as energy drinks, supplements, and medications. Synthetically made caffeine is identical in structure to naturally occurring caffeine, meaning they affect our bodies in the same way.
It is estimated that 85% of Americans consume caffeine in some capacity each day. Safe consumption levels of caffeine are up to 400mg per day according to the FDA. This may seem like a large number, but it’s important to remember that there are many sources that we might get caffeine from throughout the day. These can include coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, or protein bars. When we consume caffeine, it’s common to notice different parts of our bodies that may react. From our brain we may experience a higher level of alertness or focus, temporary relief of drowsiness, headache, increased anxiety, or change of mood. We may also experience an increased heat rhythm or disruption in our digestive system causing heartburn, nausea, or diarrhea. It’s important for individuals to evaluate how caffeine may alter the way they feel, and to adjust the amount of caffeine consumed each day accordingly.