We've all heard the old adage "You are what you eat." Now, more than ever, experts are concluding that eating fresh foods and avoiding sodium and preservatives will not only make you feel better, but will help to prevent diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other illnesses.
For example, apples may be renowned for "keeping the doctor away," but other fruits are now being shown to have added health benefits.
Blueberries have long been counted among foods that have prevented cancer, but researchers at Texas A&M University have recently found that peaches and plums contain a phenol that prohibits growth of non-estrogen receptive breast cancer cells. The phenols kept the breast cancer cells from growing but didn't damage the non-cancerous cells.
Kathy Levin, a registered dietician and diabetes educator with Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, is a great promoter of eating fresh fruits and vegetables. During her 20 years as a dietician, she has noted a great rise in Americans who are not only overweight but are obese. Overweight people have a body mass index greater than 25.0 up to 29.9. Any BMI over 30.0 is considered obese.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity is tied to coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, liver and gallbladder disease, sleep apnea, respiratory problems, arthritis and infertility, as well as endometrial, breast and colon cancers.
Levin sees a lot of patients who are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes - which is often the result of being overweight and not exercising enough. More and more, her patients are children. "Ten or 15 years ago, you never saw a child with Type 2 diabetes. Now I see it all the time. It's the same thing with high cholesterol."
Eating healthy simply means paying better attention to what you eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, says Christina Rollins, another registered dietician with Memorial. "For breakfast, eating a whole-grain hot cereal like oatmeal is good, because it provides fiber and helps keep cholesterol at a healthy level," she says. "Try a half cup of unflavored oatmeal mixed with a half cup fresh or frozen fruit - I like blueberries - and add a little hot water. That makes a good portion and it is filling."
If you choose to eat dry cereal, be sure to pay attention to labels. "A lot of dry cereals are marketed as grains, but some are better - for example, Raisin Bran or Kashi," she says.
Mixing fresh or frozen fruit with cereal, oatmeal or yogurt is a good option because those kinds of fruits contain vitamins, minerals, fiber and natural sugars, she adds.
Eggs are also a good source of protein. "The American Heart Association doesn't totally limit eating eggs," says Rollins. "If you are eating to lower cholesterol levels, try eating one egg with a yolk and a couple of egg whites - or you can use Eggbeaters."
On weekends, Rollins makes about a quarter cup of Eggbeaters fried in a pan with non-stick spray, a little low-fat shredded cheese and a tablespoon of salsa on a whole wheat tortilla. "You can add a little turkey sausage if you want," she adds.
When it comes to eating lunch and dinner, Rollins says to always include one portion of fruit and one portion of vegetables with both meals. A portion is about the amount a woman could hold in her hand.
"There is a new slogan that refers to fruits and vegetables. It is 'More a day for better health,' " Rollins says. "It isn't really hard to do. For example, if you are eating a sandwich, put lettuce and tomato on it. For a snack, eat some carrot sticks."
People of all ages lead busy lives and are hard-pressed to eat healthy, sit-down meals, but even so, everyone should do their best to eat well. Brown-baggers who are looking for a healthier food choice should avoid processed foods that are full of sodium and nitrates.
"Nitrates are only in processed meats," Levin says. "You might do better to eat tuna or a chicken breast you cook yourself. Or try using nut butter or peanut butter."
Avoiding sodium is really an important issue, Levin says. The CDC recommends that people take in no more than 2,300 mg. of sodium each day and 1,500 mg. or less if you are 40 years old or older, are African-American or have high blood pressure.
"I really think the biggest issue now is that we (Americans) eat too much and we're not burning those calories off," Levin says. "Our portions are way off. We call it 'portion distortion.' "
Not only are more fast-food meals "super-sized," but restaurants serve too much food. "Think about it. Restaurants foods are served on a platter, not a plate," she says.
Levin believes that most people can stay fit by eating a healthy diet of fresh fruits and vegetables and unprocessed meats and getting plenty of exercise.
"For some people, the only exercise they get is walking to the mailbox to get their mail," she says.
The CDC recommends that people exercise at least 30 minutes a day at least five days a week.
"I know that everyone can't afford to buy a treadmill or join a gym, but they can walk. I tell them to start with 10 minutes a day and work up from there," Levin says. "Now that cold weather is coming I recommend they walk around the mall or walk the perimeter of Wal-Mart. And if they can't walk, there are chair exercises they can do. They just need to start exercising."
Top 10 'super foods'
Top 10 foods to prevent cancer
Top 10 foods to lower cholesterol
Top 10 antioxidant foods
Source: Lisa Turner, Better Nutrition
Story published Friday, November 5, 2010 ( Volume 5, Number 6 )