On Food and Health
Archives: July 2003
Cholesterol Lowering Foods
Cholesterol is essential to the body. Ideally, the “bad” LDL cholesterol is at lower levels than the “good” HDL cholesterol. Problems with high LDL cholesterol levels arise over time and although some are inherited, most can be attributed to diet. A cholesterol healthy diet is low in saturated fats and cholesterol rich food, but higher in fiber: fruits, vegetables and legumes and monounsaturated fats.
Eating cholesterol healthy diet does not mean excluding traditional foods altogether, but rather reducing the serving size or combining those foods with others that help dilute the saturated fat and cholesterol. The following list outlines foods conducive to lowering cholesterol and foods rich in saturated fat and high in cholesterol. A good approach combines more foods from the first list with smaller amounts of foods from the second list.
CHOLESTEROL LOWERING FOODS steel cut oats, oatmeal, oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, tomatoes, strawberries, peaches, raisins, pears, oranges, peas, raspberries, kiwi, squash, mango, blueberries, blackberries, apples, apricots, bananas, pineapple, cabbage, broccoli, okra, spinach, guavas, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, soy milk, tofu, green soy beans, tuna, salmon, olive oil, flax seed oil, canola oil
HIGH/FAT CHOLESTEROL FOODS butter, whole milk, cheeses, egg yolks, fried foods, highly marbled meats, chicken skin, cream, organ meats, hamburger, sausage, salami, bologna, bacon, liverwursts, pates, etc.
Clearly there are many foods to choose from that promote health. The high fat/cholesterol foods are flavorful and satisfying, with good protein and other nutrients; they should not be excluded from the diet unless the state of health has deteriorated to the point where even small amounts of these foods can pose hazards. As mentioned above, a good approach will include a wide variety of selections where the bulk of the meals consist of natural, higher fiber foods and the meats and fats serve to enhance the meal, providing comfort and satiety.
For people looking to loose weight, foods from the plant kingdom have an added benefit. Those listed above provide fiber to help displace some of the richer foods (and thus calories) and also clean out the digestive tract. They also provide phytonutrients and other compounds that help the body regulate functions to keep it healthy and disease-free.
Many diseases arising from poor nutritional choices are associated in one way or another. It is always harder to cure when the symptoms have become evident. Grandmother was right when she said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Remember to include and ounce or two of fruits or vegetables with that hamburger next time. Oh, and try not to “super size” it!
Carbohydrates or Protein, what’s in it for you?
The human body prefers to burn a fuel blend of about 50% carbohydrates and 50% fat. Protein is used for tissue repair and muscle growth and for sustenance when carbohydrates and fat become less available in the diet.
Human nutritional history has primarily consisted of complex carbohydrates, punctuated by modest amounts of protein. Complex carbohydrates provide a slow and steady source of energy to the body and have the added benefit of fiber that helps keeps the digestive tract free of undigested food. A diet higher in complex carbohydrates will promote a healthy digestion and with regular exercise, a proper body muscle-fat composition.
A word of caution, however, overindulgence in carbohydrates will lead to weight gain. The goal should be to balance the carbohydrates in the meal throughout the day, eating most of the carbohydrate load earlier in the day and less in the evening. Moderate and comfortable exercise will help any body make the best use of carbohydrates.
Protein is a very necessary component in nutrition and people who need to build muscle mass or who exercise heavily do best with a high protein diet. Sustaining a high protein diet can have deleterious health consequences. It has been known for decades that a high animal protein diet can raise a person’s uric acid level to a gout condition. More recently, research seems to indicate that a high protein diet also leads to acidification of the blood, which may lead to some cancers. Yet other research shows that the brainstem, which regulates functions like breathing and body temperature, may harden, leading to other health conditions.
The take-home message is that one should strive for a comfortable and sustainable blend of carbohydrates and protein, keeping in minds one’s level of physical activity.
The American Weight Loss registry follows the nutritional history of individuals who have lost 50 pounds or more and have been able to keep the weight off longer than two years. The data shows that most people have been successful at keeping healthy by eating moderate amounts of meat and healthy portions of fresh vegetables accompanied by whole grain and legumes.
Easy to Follow Healthy Nutrition Basics
The human body needs chemical energy to live. Carbohydrates, proteins, fats and minerals provide the energy and building materials to grow and repair bone and tissue. The energy resides in the chemical bonds within each of the foods we eat.
·Carbohydrates are the fuel of choice. They are easy to digest and breakdown into energy. The energy these provide lasts a short while and consumption should be limited to smaller portions to be eaten throughout the day, with the bulk of the “carbs” eaten earlier in the day when physical activity is highest. Refined products should be eaten very little as possible or avoided. Examples of refined products are: instant rice, sweetened drinks, granulated sugar, white-fluffy bread, pastries and all sweets. Better sources are brown rice, whole wheat pasta, dense multigrain breads, honey, wild rice and any grain product that is closest to its natural state. Whatever carbohydrate you eat, leave for the middle to last part of the meal – never begin with carbohydrates.
·Proteins are used for building and repairing muscle and connective tissue. These are easier to manage than carbohydrates. Meat, chicken, eggs, fish, legumes and soy are good sources of protein. Your body will discard whatever protein it does not use. The best kind of protein is that which has a minimal amount of saturated fat accompanying it. One pound of animal protein per week is the standard recommendation for the average American.
·Fats are essential for life and well-being. The ideal fats for our consumption are mono-unsaturated fats. The best examples include: olive oil and canola oil. Very green olive oil is best eaten uncooked to keep the integrity of its nutrients. The green coloration is rich in phytonutrients which aid in the prevention of cancers and lowering blood pressure to normal levels. Canola oil strikes a good balance between Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids. With neutral flavor, this oil provides your body with the essential precursors it needs to make the Omega-3 fatty acids that help keep arteries clean. Fats are essential for skin and hair beauty, as well as a properly functioning nervous system, overall health and a good sex life.
Eat fats regularly. The healthiest diets in the world contain 40 – 50 % of their calories from fat. However, keep in mind that the best fats to eat are monounsaturated fats, such as those mentioned above, and the fat found in marine oily fishes.
Healthy eating means combining the above with plenty of vegetables, eating three meals a day with healthy snacking in between. Always include plenty of water, before and after a meal, when waking and before going to sleep.
Live long and prosper!