Many scientists are aware that there is a definite connection between nutrition and disease. They perceive that a healthy lifestyle including a mostly plant-based diet, weight control and regular exercise could prevent many of today’s cancers as well as some diseases of the heart and blood vessels.
Not too many years ago we would by no means have considered chocolate and nuts to have health benefits. But studies have found that although these foods are high in fat, they contain abundant amounts of antioxidants, the protectors of our body cells, and when eaten in moderation, can be beneficial.
We all need some fat in our diet. Nutrients like vitamins E and A (includes beta-carotene) need dietary fat to be absorbed. Fat is also involved in blood pressure regulation, nervous system function, and possible reproductive capacity. People who push fat in their diets too low discover another problem–low fat food may have a high percentage of carbohydrates that can raise blood levels of triglycerides, one of the blood fats that has been associated with increased risk of stroke and heart disease. Since fat is the slowest component of food to leave the stomach, some people find when they keep fat consumption extremely low, they are hungry again soon after a meal. This can end up raising, not lowering, calorie consumption. The bottom line is: try to consume low fat or non-fat foods as part of a normal diet, but don’t go overboard with it.
Studies have linked diets high in meat, especially well-browned or charred meat, with increased risk of several cancers. Researchers have established that intense cooking creates chemicals in meat (red or white) that can increase cancer risk. Precooking in the microwave, using low temperature methods (roasting, stewing and baking) and marinating can greatly reduce this risk. But even with safer ways to cook meat, fish and poultry, studies clearly show a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains as a key to cancer prevention.
Although oxygen is vital to life, byproducts of oxidation called free radicals may damage body cells and promote cancer development. Antioxidants are substances that protect body cells by blocking the action of free radicals. Research in recent years has also found a link between antioxidants and heart disease. The clogging of blood vessels by fatty deposits is not just related to the amount of fatty substances in the blood, but also to how much those fats have been changed into a more dangerous form by oxidation.
We may think of antioxidants as certain vitamins in supplements, but it is vital to get these vitamins by eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, because plant substances contain not only antioxidant activity but also other natural chemicals that play an important role in prevention of disease. Combining this strategy with eating a healthfully low level of fat reduces oxidation damage even further. This can be quite easily accomplished. A half cup of cooked or chopped raw fruit or vegetables, a cup of raw leafy greens, a quarter cup of dried fruit, or a six ounce glass of juice all count as one serving. Almost all vegetables, especially the intensely colored ones, have high antioxidant activity, with cooked tomatoes leading (as in sauces, soups, salsas, and ketchup). Fruits high in antioxidants are also the vibrantly colored ones, with blueberries leading.
Numerous laboratory studies have shown that certain compounds in tea, especially green tea, are powerful antioxidants. We’ve heard that tea may protect against cancer and heart disease, but the results of a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology have indicated that green tea may have protective effects against Parkinson’s disease as well. It has not yet been shown in humans, and you would have to drink four or more cups of tea daily to get the benefit, but it’s something to think about.
Here is a tip sheet from the National Institutes of Health:
Egg whites/egg substitutes
Whole-wheat sandwich breads, bagels, pita bread, English muffins
Low Fat corn or flour tortillas
Emphasize vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products
Include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
Limit saturated fats, sodium, and added sugars
Control portion sizes. (key to losing weight)
I am a registered pharmacist who has always been highly interested in good health, and who utilizes current knowledge and experience to achieve that objective. I believe this includes exercise, sensible eating, social interaction, and striving to keep your mental capacity. I’m not a specialist in any of these fields, but in my pharmacy career I have learned a lot. I worked in my family-owned drugstore for many years, and interacted with a variety of people and many different maladies, picking up invaluable hints and easy treatments of everyday medical issues. I want to share some of these with you, to perhaps make a difference in solving and preventing health problems. If I learned anything along the way, it’s that I can advise you when and if you should seek medical help. I also plan to share some recipes of mine that contribute to healthy eating. I am convinced that the old adage “you are what you eat” still reigns true. I’ve enjoyed my work all these years, especially counseling patients and hope that you derive some knowledge and comfort from what I have learned.
Have questions? email Lee at: firstname.lastname@example.org