A visit to the health food store can be an overwhelming experience. It's tough to figure out what to choose from among the dizzying assortment of dietary and nutritional supplements on the shelf. From vitamins to minerals to weight loss pills, there are thousands of options to choose from. But do you really need any of them? Do they really work, and if so, which ones are best?
We've heard a lot of encouraging news about supplements. A series of studies hailed vitamin D as a possible defense against a long list of diseases, including cancer, diabetes, depression, and even the common cold. Omega-3 fatty acids have been touted for warding off strokes and other cardiovascular events. And antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and beta carotene were seen as promising silver bullets against heart disease, cancer, and even Alzheimer's disease.
The transition from an existence as hunter and gatherers to urban agriculture around 10,000 years ago began an epoch when foods were mass-produced but had lower nutritional density, compared with the previous food eaten by our ancestors. The nutritional density in many foods has fallen significantly since human societies transformed from hunter-gatherers into resident farmers. This is especially true in the last 60-70 years after agriculture was changed from small, versatile ecologically driven family farms to large, chemical-based, industrial agriculture.  The reduction of nutritional content in modern crops, compared with older varieties, is well documented.  It is a consequence of soil erosion, loss of essential minerals from continual heavy use, combined with breeding of new varieties, which has increased the size and growth rate of plants by increasing the content of sugar and water and decreasing their mineral content compared to ancient species. At the same time, the relative content of other macronutrients (fat, protein/amino acids) and antioxidants may have been reduced.
When you sit down to a meal, try to savor every bite. Especially the first few, because those are the bites you're going to enjoy most. "There is a toning down of taste buds after the first few bites," says Linda Bacon, Ph.D., professor of nutrition at City College of San Francisco. That's not the only reason to take it slow while eating. It takes your brain about 20 minutes to realize your stomach is full. If you're throwing back food like there's no tomorrow, odds are you're going to accidentally eat past the full and wind up totally stuffed.
The daily calcium recommendations are 1,000 milligrams a day for women under 50, and 1,500 milligrams a day for women 51 and older. Oddly enough, these are the same requirements for men, who are much less prone to osteoporosis than women. But the recommendation takes into account the fact that women are smaller than men. Thus the amount of daily calcium is greater for women on a proportional basis.
Reduced nutritional density in many foods, combined with the use of refined "foods" like sugar, white flour and refined oils, places a greater priority on eating the most nutritious foods. Farm produce grown organically generally has higher levels of essential nutrients such as trace minerals because the soil contains higher levels of trace minerals and the produce grows slower and thus has more time to absorb nutrients from the soil. Examples of nutrient dense foods are sardines, wild salmon, shellfish, eggs, liver, kale, collards and spinach, sea plants (seaweed), garlic, blueberries, and dark chocolate. 
Calcium may even be harmful for men, at least in large amounts. The worry is prostate cancer, and two Harvard studies have raised the alarm. In 1998, the Health Professionals Follow-up Study found that a high consumption of calcium from food or supplements was linked to an increased risk of advanced prostate cancer. The risk was greatest in men who got more than 2,000 mg a day. More recently, the U.S. Physicians' Health Study reported that a high consumption of calcium from dairy products appeared to increase a man's risk of prostate cancer by up to 37%. A study from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle also found a link between calcium and advanced prostate cancer.
Good sources of iron include liver, kidneys, red meat, poultry, eggs, peas, legumes, dried fruits and dark, green leafy vegetables. Three ounces of cooked chicken liver contains 7.2 mg of iron; a cup of cooked spinach contains 6.4 mg. Your health care professional will probably recommend iron supplements during pregnancy (probably starting at 30 mg per day).
Mental stress increases the excretion and hence the need for many nutrients. Among the most important are magnesium and vitamin C, both of which are used by the body in larger quantities during periods of physical and mental stress. [24,25] Compared with our past as hunters and gatherers, today´s stress is often of a more permanent nature. Instead of experiencing occasional situations where we had to fight or flee, many of us live with recurring stress day in and out.
And, once I have my burger or pizza or margarita or whatever, I go back to my normal healthy eating. And this works well for me. The funny thing is I usually don’t even enjoy the cheat days as much as I think I will because I find the foods too salty or too sweet or too greasy. I actually can’t wait to get back onto my normal, healthy foods as soon as possible.
You don't have to hunt and skin your supper, but if your chicken has been molded into a nugget, who knows what you're really chewing. And when you choose meat that's been processed into sausage, strips or slices, you're downing sodium and preservatives instead of healthy nutrients, says Adam Drewnowski, Ph.D., director of the nutritional sciences program at the University of Washington at Seattle. Stick to unfussed-with cuts straight from the butcher.
Greens, oranges, reds, purples, yellows...you get the picture. Eating the rainbow will supply your body with a range of disease-fighting phytonutrients, and will naturally fill you up to help you cut back on unhealthy foods, says Dr. Lipman. Plus, most adults struggle with getting the recommended five servings a day (though some say seven servings). A worldwide study in 2014 found 58 to 88% of adults don't hit that mark. Aiming for a diverse intake of produce from all colors of the rainbow will help you boost your intake. In another study, adults who were offered a variety of vegetables ate more of them without increasing the calories at the meal, found a 2012 study.
Nutritionists are always saying to eat more vegetables, so cook them in a way that takes them from ho-hum to yum. "I even think that steamed veggies can be very boring!" says Ilyse Schapiro, a greater New York City-area registered dietitian. Always incorporate high-flavor add-ons to jazz up veggies, like sautéing with olive oil and garlic, or spraying them with olive oil before throwing them in an oven with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. That way, you don't equate "healthy" with "tasteless," a mindset that will knock you off the veggie bandwagon fast. Another tip: buy a spiralizer and make zucchini noodles. Topped off with a rich tomato sauce, you'll feel like you're eating pasta.
Low-fat dairy products are excellent sources of calcium. Other good sources of calcium include salmon, tofu (soybean curd), certain vegetables (broccoli), legumes (peas and beans), calcium-enriched grain products, lime-processed tortillas, seeds and nuts. If you do not regularly consume adequate food sources of calcium, a calcium supplement can be considered to reach the recommended amount. The current recommendations for women for calcium are for a minimum of 1,200 mg per day.
Studies link high sodium intake to higher blood pressure, and evidence suggests that many people at risk for high blood pressure can reduce their risk by consuming less salt or sodium, as well as following a healthy diet. Most Americans consume more sodium than they need. The recommended amount is less than 2,300 mg per day for children and adults to age 50. The limit drops to 1,500 mg per day for those 51 and older or those of any age who are African American or have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease. You get 2,300 mg in just one teaspoon of salt. One good way to reduce your sodium intake is to eat fewer prepared and packaged foods.
If you do decide to diet, you still need to maintain good nutrition. You want to cut back on calories, not nutrients. And while you want to reduce fat, don't eliminate it entirely. Some studies suggest that older women who maintain a higher body-fat percentage are less likely to suffer from osteoporosis and other conditions associated with menopause. Fat cells also retain estrogen, which helps maintain the calcium in your bones. Younger women should be careful, too: a low body fat percentage can lead to infertility; below 17 percent may lead to missed periods, also known as amenorrhea.
Fiber is an important part of an overall healthy eating plan. Good sources of fiber include fortified cereal, many whole-grain breads, beans, fruits (especially berries), dark green leafy vegetables, all types of squash, and nuts. Look on the Nutrition Facts label for fiber content in processed foods like cereals and breads. Use the search tool on this USDA page to find the amount of fiber in whole foods like fruits and vegetables.
In addition to diet, exercise and other lifestyle factors can also play an important role in bone health. Smoking and drinking too much alcohol can increase your chances of developing osteoporosis, while weight-bearing exercise (such as walking, dancing, yoga, or lifting weights) can lower your risk. Strength or resistance training—using machines, free weights, elastic bands, or your own body weight—can be especially effective in helping to prevent loss of bone mass as you age.