Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

Foods, Know the Good Guys from the Bad Guys

What Your Body Needs   Many people think nothing of eating a double cheeseburger, medium fries and a

medium cola. If you dissect this “meal,” you’ll find that on average, it contains an unbelievable 68 grams of fat (17 teaspoons), almost half of which are saturated; 15 grams of trans fatty acids; 150 mg of cholesterol; 1,200 mg of salt; and 20 teaspoons of sugar (all from the cola)! If you factor in that the fries were probably cooked in hydrogenated cottonseed oil, one of the most heavily pesticide-laden crops in the world, and that the meat, if overcooked, could contain carcinogens, or if undercooked, could result in food poisoning from E. coli, you may agree it’s time to find a new all-American meal.

 The Bad Guys: High levels of saturated fat are consistently linked with elevated blood cholesterol levels, heart disease, insulin resistance and several forms of cancer. Most Americans eat about 40 grams of saturated fat every day, which is twice as much as is considered healthy. Animal products are the greatest source of saturated fats in the Western diet.

For many years, trans fatty acids were considered a relatively minor player in health and disease. Although their impact on total cholesterol is not quite as profound as it is with saturated fats, the overall damage to heart health is worse. Trans fatty acids not only raise total cholesterol, but also lower LDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) and potentially increase triglycerides. Gram for gram, the adverse effect of trans fatty acids is estimated to be two to four times greater than that of saturated fatty acids. The most common sources arecrackers, cookies, granola bars, chips and other snack foods, baked goods, margarine, shortening and deep-fried fast foods.

 Cholesterol is made by animals, not plants; all animal foods contain cholesterol, while plant foods are all cholesterol-free. The next time you buy any plant-based food like peanut butter that says “no cholesterol” on the label, realize that is just a sales gimmick. There are several concerns about eating too much cholesterol because it can cause blood cholesterol levels to rise, increasing the risk of blood clots, heart attack and stroke. The recommended daily intake of cholesterol is less than 200 mg, which is a little less than the amount of cholesterol in one egg yolk.

 The Good Guys: Science has known for a very long time that vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds are healthful foods. Researchers assumed that the substances that made these foods so good for us were the vitamins, minerals and fiber. They were right, but only partly. In the past 20 years, scientists have discovered a whole new set of protective compounds packed within every whole-plant food: phytochemicals and antioxidants. Phytochemicals are natural substances that protect plants against attacks from insects. When we eat plants, these same powerful little protectors go to work on our behalf, with remarkable human health benefits.

  Many phytochemicals are strong antioxidants, neutralizing destructive free radicals. Some phytochemicals provide anticancer support, helping the body rid itself of potent carcinogens. Others protect against cardiovascular disease by helping to reduce the formation of cholesterol, lower blood pressure, decrease blood cholesterol levels, reduce blood clot formation, open blood vessels and decrease damage to blood vessel walls. The list of significant beneficial activities of phytochemicals includes anti-inflammatory, anti-yeast, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and immune-enhancing benefits. Which foods are the most efficient phytochemical factories? Vegetables and fruits stand out as being particularly important, although legumes (beans), grains, nuts and seeds are also excellent sources. Choosing a wide variety of colorful, whole-plant foods is the key to a phytochemical-rich diet.

December 6, 2011 Posted by | Health and Fitness | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Variety in Foods is the Key to a Healthy Lifestyle

 

Nutritionally, there is no perfect food, although a few come pretty close. And even if there were, who’d want to eat the same thing every meal, every day? Fortunately, variety and healthy eating can go hand in hand, particularly if you know where to look. Take a look at these foods that pack a nutritional punch and can be incorporated into a wide variety of meal plans.

Beets: Beets were one of the most successful crops in the Biosphere project.  Basically, it simulated living on the moon. And if you had to pick one vegetable to take with you to the moon, you’d do well to pick beets. The roots and leaves are packed with antioxidant phytochemicals, provide much-needed minerals and vitamins, and are a good source of fiber.

Rye: Obesity statistics suggest a good portion of us could use some help battling the scale, and rye is on your side. Rye has an excellent reputation for helping us feel full, produces a low insulin response, and is typically a good source of fiber. It is a rich source of minerals, too.

Organic Berries: This isn’t a hard sell, right? Juicy, bright, and tasty, berries add fiber, vitamins and antioxidants to your diet. These little gems appear to support healthy arteries, cognition, inflammation and eyesight. Many studies have found a benefit in drinking cranberry or blueberry juice for prevention of urinary tract infections.

Fermented foods: Face it Mr. Clean, the human body needs bacteria, and fermented foods provide good bacteria (probiotics) to give our native colonies a helping hand. Clinical trials continue to examine the benefits of probiotics on gastrointestinal complaints like diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome, as well as for conditions such as colic and eczema in infants.

Legumes:  Don’t fear the beans! Yes, some legumes have “explosive” potential, but adding beans, lentils, or peas to our diet may be one way to keep us merrily dancing along.

This low-fat, no-cholesterol source of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals is among the best foods we can eat. As a substitute for meat-based protein, beans can help support our drive for heart health. And the fiber and protein in legumes are excellent tools in our weight-management toolbox.

Cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, radishes, the dreaded Brussels sprouts and cabbage are all members of this illustrious family of veggies. Associations between low incidence of some cancers and high intake of cruciferous veggies have led to more in-depth research on how these unassuming vegetables contribute to a healthy diet. Crucifers are especially rich in phytochemicals (including isothiocyanates such as sulforaphane), both of which are responsible for these vegetables’ pungent or spicy flavor and appear to help the body’s detoxification processes. The phytonutrients in these vegetables also seem to affect the body’s ability to respond to free radicals. Steamed or raw, they retain the majority of their nutrients.

Organic Figs: Fresh or dried, these teardrops of deliciousness are a wonderful addition to any diet. High in fiber, potassium and manganese, figs can support heart health and weight management as part of a healthy diet and exercise program. They’re great on their own as dessert or a snack, and they make a wonderful addition to salad, too. Choose the organic ones, though, especially if you are sensitive to sulfites.

Fatty Fish:  In this case, fat is good. Cold-water fish (like salmon and sardines) contain a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids (specifically EPA and DHA) that appear to have a host of health benefits. Large, rigorous trials from around the globe have found evidence that diets with the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids are also the most heart healthy. The American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults should eat two, 3-ounce servings a week, which is in line with the American Diabetes Association and the World Health Organization.

Whatever You Don’t Eat Now:  Variety is important. It’s so easy to get stuck in a food rut, especially if you’re counting calories. So instead of eating yogurt and cherries as a snack every day, why not try oatmeal and blueberries? Or string cheese and an apple? Buying a farm share or visiting a farmer’s market can be a good way to try new vegetables. And if something looks unusual – pick it up! You can put the power of the Internet to good use and find a recipe for anything in seconds flat. So try a purple pepper or a golden beet. A vibrant rainbow on the plate means more and varied nutrients for the body.

November 24, 2010 Posted by | Health and Fitness | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment