Good nutrition is vital to overall health, and poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle are major causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Nutritional factors are implicated in many oral and systemic diseases and conditions, including obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia, type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, dental caries and some cancers including oral cancers. This review focuses on the evidence for the relations between key nutritional factors and health. Energy intake is related to body weight and obesity, highlighting the importance of lower-energy diets and regular physical activity for body weight maintenance and for preventing obesity. Evidence is presented for the health benefits of high quality carbohydrates, such as whole grain products, and fruits and vegetables, in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. The adverse effects of sugar, sweetened beverages, and trans and saturated fats on several diseases including caries, diabetes and cardiovascular disease are described. The health benefits of unsaturated fats, antioxidants, B vitamins and vitamin D in cardiovascular disease, periodontitis, cancer, and other conditions are documented. Both benefits and harmful effects of dairy product intake on health are discussed. Based on the evidence, nutritional guidelines are provided, as well as key recommendations for preventing obesity. Dentists can play a critical role in motivating and enabling healthy food choices.