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Diet Wisdom

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Diet Wisdom

As people learn more about the value of proper nutrition, they can become confused by the conflicting opinions they encounter. But giving your body its best chance of achieving good health is really a matter of following seven pillars of health wisdom.

As people learn more about the value of proper nutrition, they can become confused by the conflicting opinions they encounter. But giving your body its best chance of achieving good health is really a matter of following seven pillars of health wisdom.

1. Eat a rainbow assortment of fruits and vegetables

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables helps prevent many chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, strokes, and conditions such as macular degeneration and cataracts. Select fruits and vegetables in a variety of colours, including red, orange, yellow, green, and purple to give your body the full spectrum of plant pigments with powerful antioxidant effects as well as the nutrients it needs for optimal function and protection against disease.

Vegetables and fruits provide a wide range of compounds known as phytochemicals, an umbrella term that includes pigments such as carotenes, chlorophyll, and flavonoids, as well as dietary fibre, enzymes, vitamin-like compounds, and other minor dietary constituents. Phytochemicals work in harmony with nutritional antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium in fighting disease and slowing down the aging process.

2. Avoid refined carbohydrates (sugars)

Refined sugars, white flour products, and other sources of simple sugars are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, causing a rapid rise in blood sugar. In response, the body boosts secretion of insulin by the pancreas. High sugar, junk food diets lead to poor blood sugar regulation, obesity, and possibly type 2 diabetes.

3. Choose organic foods

It is important to buy organic produce, but it is even more important to buy organic meat, eggs, cheese, and milk as these foods have a tendency to concentrate pesticides.

In the United States and Canada, more than 1.5 billion pounds of pesticides and herbicides are sprayed or added to food crops each year. That’s roughly five pounds of pesticides for each man, woman, and child. There is a growing concern that in addition to pesticides directly causing a significant number of cancers, exposure to these chemicals through food consumption damages our bodies’ detoxification mechanisms, thereby increasing our risk of getting cancer and other diseases.

4. Go easy on meat and dairy products

Many studies have confirmed that the higher your intake of meat and other animal products, the higher your risk of heart disease and cancer, especially for the major cancers like colon, breast, prostate, and lung cancer.

Meat does not contain antioxidants and phytochemicals that protect us from cancer. But it does contain lots of saturated fat and other potentially carcinogenic (cancer-causing) compounds, including pesticide residues, heterocyclic amines, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which may form when meat is grilled, fried, or broiled.

5. Eat the right fats

Most North Americans get too much of the bad fats, such as trans fatty acids and long-chain saturated fats. We also consume too much of the omega-6 oils, which are found in meats and most vegetable oils, including soy, sunflower, safflower, and corn. This dietary fatty acid pattern is associated with an increased risk for cancer and about 60 other conditions, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, skin diseases, and diabetes.

Over-consumption of these oils is most often coupled with a relative deficiency of the monounsaturated fats from nuts, seeds, olive oil, and canola oil, as well as a deficiency of the omega-3 fats found in fish and flaxseed oil. The optimal level of monounsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids can be achieved by consuming one-quarter to one-third cup of dried, roasted nuts and supplementing the diet with 600 to 1,000 mg of EPA and DHA fish oils.

6. Down with the sodium–up with the potassium

A high-sodium, low-potassium diet can cause high blood pressure and increase the risk of cancer.

Only 5 percent of sodium intake comes from the natural ingredients in food. Forty-five percent comes from prepared foods, another 45 percent is added in cooking, and 5 percent is added as a condiment.

Keep your daily sodium intake below 1,500 mg and boost your potassium levels by focusing on a natural diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

7. Drink plenty of water

The average amount of water in your body is about 10 gallons. To avoid dehydration, drink at least six glasses of water per day to replace the water that is lost through urination, sweat, and breathing. Even mild dehydration results in impaired physiological and performance responses. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty–schedule regular water breaks throughout the day. Try to drink at least one glass of water every two waking hours.

Combining the Wisdom

One diet that appears to be representative of a way of eating that provides an optimal intake of the right fats is the traditional Mediterranean diet. This diet reflects food patterns typical of some Mediterranean regions such as Crete, parts of the rest of Greece, and southern Italy. It has shown benefits in fighting heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

By following these pillars of wisdom, we can all achieve good health without getting confused.

The Rainbow Assortment

RedDark greenYellow and light greenOrangePurple
apples
bell peppers
cherries
cranberries
grapes
grapefruit
radishes
raspberries
plums
strawberries
tomatoes
watermelon
artichokes
asparagus
bell peppers
broccoli
Brussels sprouts
collard greens
cucumbers
green beans
kale
leeks
peas
spinach
Swiss chard
turnip greens
avocados
bananas
bell peppers
bok choy
cabbage
celery
fennel
kiwi
lemons & limes
lettuce
onions
pears
pineapple
zucchini
apricots
bell peppers
butternut squash
cantaloupe
carrots
mangoes
oranges
papaya
pumpkin
sweet potatoes
yams
blackberries
cabbage
cherries
currants
eggplant
onions
grapes
pears
plums
radishes

Characteristics of the Traditional Mediterranean Diet

  • Olive oil is the principal source of fat.
  • It centres on an abundance of plant food, fruit, vegetables, breads, pasta, potatoes, beans, nuts, and seeds.
  • Foods are minimally processed and there is a focus on seasonally fresh and locally grown foods.
  • Fresh fruit is the typical daily dessert, with sweets containing concentrated sugars or honey consumed two to three times per week.
  • Dairy products, principally cheese and yogourt, are consumed daily in low to moderate amounts and in low-fat varieties.
  • Fish is consumed on a regular basis.
  • Poultry and eggs are consumed in moderate amounts, about one to four times weekly, or not at all.
  • Red meat is consumed in small, infrequent amounts.
  • Wine is consumed in low to moderate amounts, normally with meals.
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