Here are 7 tips for smarter snacking from Harvard Medical School newsletter
1. Go for the grain. Whole-grain snacks — such as whole-grain low-salt pretzels or tortilla chips and high-fiber, whole-grain cereals — can give you some energy with staying power.
2. Bring back breakfast. Many breakfast foods can be repurposed as a nutritious snack later in the day. How about a slice of whole-grain toast topped with low-sugar jam? Low-sugar granola also makes a quick snack.
3. Try a “hi-low” combination. Combine a small amount of something with healthy fat, like peanut butter, with a larger amount of something very light, like apple slices or celery sticks.
4. Go nuts. Unsalted nuts and seeds make great snacks. Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, roasted pumpkin seeds, cashews, hazelnuts, filberts, and other nuts and seeds contain many beneficial nutrients and are more likely to leave you feeling full (unlike chips or pretzels). Nuts have lots of calories, though, so keep portion sizes small.
5. The combo snack. Try to eat more than one macronutrient (protein, fat, carbohydrate) at each snacking session. For example, have a few nuts (protein and fat) and some grapes (carbohydrates). Try some whole-grain crackers (carbohydrates) with some low-fat cheese (protein and fat). These balanced snacks tend to keep you feeling satisfied.
6. Snack mindfully. Don’t eat your snack while doing something else like surfing the Web, watching TV, or working at your desk. Instead, stop what you’re doing for a few minutes and eat your snack like you would a small meal.
7. You can take it with you. Think ahead and carry a small bag of healthful snacks in your pocket or purse so you won’t turn in desperation to the cookies at the coffee counter or the candy bars in the office vending machine.
I read this article last Friday, “Caloric restriction reduces age-related and all-cause mortality in rhesus monkeys” by many people published in nature site.
The article is rather long. Here’s part of it.
“Caloric restriction (CR) without malnutrition increases longevity and delays the onset of age-associated disorders in short-lived species, from unicellular organisms to laboratory mice and rats. The value of CR as a tool to understand human ageing relies on translatability of CR’s effects in primates. Here we show that CR significantly improves age-related and all-cause survival in monkeys on a long-term ~30% restricted diet since young adulthood. These data contrast with observations in the 2012 NIA intramural study report, where a difference in survival was not detected between control-fed and CR monkeys. A comparison of body weight of control animals from both studies with each other, and against data collected in a multi-centred relational database of primate ageing, suggests that the NIA control monkeys were effectively undergoing CR. Our data indicate that the benefits of CR on ageing are conserved in primates.”
Harvard Medical School newsletter lists these factors that you should consider when you take vitamin D.
1. Where you live.
The further away from the Equator you live, the less vitamin D–producing UVB light reaches the earth’s surface during the winter. Residents of Boston, for example, make little if any of the vitamin from November through February. Short days and clothing that covers legs and arms also limit UVB exposure.
2. Air quality.
Carbon particles in the air from the burning of fossil fuels, wood, and other materials scatter and absorb UVB rays, diminishing vitamin D production. In contrast, ozone absorbs UVB radiation, so pollution-caused holes in the ozone layer could end up enhancing vitamin D levels.
3. Use of sunscreen.
Sunscreen prevents sunburn by blocking UVB light. Theoretically, that means sunscreen use lowers vitamin D levels. But as a practical matter, very few people put on enough sunscreen to block all UVB light, or they use sunscreen irregularly, so sunscreen’s effects on vitamin D might not be that important. An Australian study that’s often cited showed no difference in vitamin D between adults randomly assigned to use sunscreen one summer and those assigned a placebo cream.
4. Skin color.
Melanin is the substance in skin that makes it dark. It “competes” for UVB with the substance in the skin that kick-starts the body’s vitamin D production. As a result, dark-skinned people tend to require more UVB exposure than light-skinned people to generate the same amount of vitamin D.
Body fat sops up vitamin D, so it’s been proposed that it might provide a vitamin D rainy-day fund: a source of the vitamin when intake is low or production is reduced. But studies have also shown that being obese is correlated with low vitamin D levels and that being overweight may affect the bioavailability of vitamin D.
Compared with younger people, older people have lower levels of the substance in the skin that UVB light converts into the vitamin D precursor. There’s also experimental evidence that older people are less efficient vitamin D producers than younger people.
According to a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School, it is better to keep to a minimum these foods because “Research suggests that eating these foods regularly (and to the exclusion of healthier choices) can set the stage for life-threatening illnesses such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and even some cancers.”
Whether it’s white granulated sugar, brown sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, corn sugar, or honey, sugar contains almost no nutrients and is pure carbohydrate. When you eat a lot of sugar you are filling up on empty calories, causing your blood sugar to rise and fall like a roller coaster, and can keep you from eating foods that with important nutrients and fiber.
Eat real food
That’s the essence of today’s nutrition message. Our knowledge of nutrition has come full circle, back to eating food that is as close as possible to the way nature made it.
Ice cream, whole milk, and cheese are full of saturated fat and some naturally occurring trans fat and therefore can increase the risk of the health problems, notably heart disease. The healthiest milk and milk products are low-fat versions, such as skim milk, milk with 1% fat, and reduced-fat cheeses.
Cookies, snack cakes, doughnuts, pastries, and many other treats are hard to pass up, but these commercially prepared versions are packed with processed carbohydrates, added sugar, unhealthy fats, and often salt.
Bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, cookies, cake, or pancakes — if you enjoy these foods, opt for whole-grain versions. Yes, you can find or make whole-grain pancake mix. Whole-wheat pastas and breads are luckily easy to find. And you can always make your own homemade cookies or bars using grains such as oatmeal, and less sugar and unhealthy fats.
Processed and high-fat meats
Shun the cold cuts and “pigs in a blanket.” Despite some conflicting reports, the balance of the evidence confirms that processed meats like bacon, ham, pepperoni, hot dogs, and many lunch meats are less healthy than protein from fish, skinless chicken, nuts, beans, soy, and whole grains. Fresh red meat should be eaten sparingly and the leanest cuts selected.
Current dietary guide lines and the American Heart Association recommend reducing sodium to 1,500 mg per day and not exceeding 2,300 mg per day. But most of us get 1 ½ teaspoons (or 8,500 mg) of salt daily. That translates to about 3,400 mg of daily sodium. Your body needs a certain amount of sodium, but too much can increase blood pressure and the risk of heart disease and stroke.
This is what we are told via Harvard Medical School newsletter. Magnesium is “involved in more than 300 chemical reactions in the body. Muscles need this mineral to contract, nerves need it to send and receive messages. It keeps your heart beating steadily and your immune system strong. Most people get enough magnesium from foods such as green leafy vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and fish.
“Magnesium supplements are sometimes marketed as super pills that can fix a long list of ailments such as muscle tension, low energy, and trouble sleeping. But think twice before you reach for a magnesium supplement.
“According to the National Institutes of Health, most older adults in the United States don’t get the proper amount of magnesium in their diets. But Dr. Bruce Bistrian, chief of clinical nutrition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, says magnesium deficiency is very rare. ‘The kidney has an extraordinary ability to reduce magnesium loss in urine, and thus achieve magnesium balance on a wide variety of intakes,’ he explains.”
1 ounce of dry roasted almonds –80 milligrams
½ cup frozen spinach (cooked) — 78 milligrams
¾ cup bran flakes — 64 milligrams
1 medium baked potato with skin — 48 milligrams
½ cup canned kidney beans — 35 milligrams
Chapter 3: Determining inflammation’s role in chronic disease
Inflammation is a common denominator among chronic diseases. Causes of inflammation include: smoking, chronic infection, daily stress, nutrient deficiencies, environmental toxins, lack of exercise, plus genetic predispositions.
The connections appear to be like this: all or some of the above -> decreased physical activity -> skeletal muscle weakness -> chronic disease -> inflammation. The cycle is self-perpectuating.
–Connection heart disease, obesity, and diabetes to inflammation
–Stress and weight gain: How cortisol release due to stress promotes weight gain
When your body is under stress or your blood contains low levels of hormones called glucocorticoids, the pituitary gland in the brain secretes a hormone called acetylcholinesterase (ACTH) which signals the adrenal gland on the kidney to secrete cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that increase blood sugar; supresses the immune system; decreases bone formation; and affects fat, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism, which can lead to weight gain. Cortisol levels are controlled by the part of the brain called hypothalamus.
Chapter 2: “Understanding how food can be your body’s enemy”
Some foods are toxic in that they are harmful to the body and can lead to inflammation and chronic disease. Three categories of toxic foods are:
(1) Foods that increase inflammation in everyone, eg. trans fats, refined sugars, and artificial foods.
(2) Foods that are toxic to some people, eg. wheat, corn, and diary
(3) Foods that contain chemicals and other harmful substances that causes inflammation and endocrine changes in the body; they may accumulate in the fat cells and liver and can be associated with cancer.
Top three toxic foods for anti-aging: refined sugar, trans fat, and bleached flour.
Some of the toxic foods found in everyday diets:
Cookies, doughnuts, pastries
Prepared salad dressings and condiments
Flavored oatmeal or cereal
Soda and fruit punch
Packaged baked goods
Potato and corn chips
Creamy salad dressings and condiments
Bleached or enriched flour–
Cookies, even homemade
I went back to work the next day fter I got back from China on June 5. That weekend I took my daughter to our local library to check out some books. Anti-Inflammation Diet for Dummies is one of them.
I flipped through a few pages and found there are plenty of things that are new to me. Here are some headings and sub-headings in chapter 1: “Inflammation, Food and You.”
–Understanding the difference between acute and chronic inflammation.
Low-grade inflammation often goes undetected, but here are common symptoms:
Body aches and pains
Diarrhea or irritable bowel symptoms
Shortness of breath
–Gut reactions: linking food, digestion, and the immune system
–Breaking down food and dealing with the pieces
–Recognizing the digestive tract as part of the immune system
–Treating your symptoms with nutrition
–Creating a diet that works for you
–Eating right for long-term benefits
–Supplementing your diet with an anti-inflammation lifestyle
I read this piece last week on PubMed.gov, “Chocolate: food or drug?” by
Bruinsma K, Taren DL. The message is people can get addicted to chocolate just as they do with drug and alcohol abuse.
“Although addictive behavior is generally associated with drug and alcohol abuse or compulsive sexual activity, chocolate may evoke similar psychopharmacologic and behavioral reactions in susceptible persons.
“A review of the literature on chocolate cravings indicates that the hedonic appeal of chocolate (fat, sugar, texture, and aroma) is likely to be a predominant factor in such cravings. Other characteristics of chocolate, however, may be equally as important contributors to the phenomena of chocolate cravings.
“Chocolate may be used by some as a form of self-medication for dietary deficiencies (eg, magnesium) or to balance low levels of neurotransmitters involved in the regulation of mood, food intake, and compulsive behaviors (eg, serotonin and dopamine).
“Chocolate cravings are often episodic and fluctuate with hormonal changes just before and during the menses, which suggests a hormonal link and confirms the assumed gender-specific nature of chocolate cravings.
“Chocolate contains several biologically active constituents (methylxanthines, biogenic amines, and cannabinoid-like fatty acids), all of which potentially cause abnormal behaviors and psychological sensations that parallel those of other addictive substances.
“Most likely, a combination of chocolate’s sensory characteristics, nutrient composition, and psychoactive ingredients, compounded with monthly hormonal fluctuations and mood swings among women, will ultimately form the model of chocolate cravings.
“Dietetics professionals must be aware that chocolate cravings are real. The psychopharmacologic and chemosensory effects of chocolate must be considered when formulating recommendations for overall healthful eating and for treatment of nutritionally related health issues.”
Wow, it offers tons of information which I was not aware of before. Watch out for your chocolate intake.
This piece of information was sent to me a few weeks ago, but I forgot who sent it. Here they are — 6 Tricks to avoid mindless eating and overeating
(1) Take Smaller Sips Research consistently shows that taking in a smaller amount of liquid helps you consume less. And the latest study confirms that not only do people drink more when they sip big, they also underestimate how much they drank, researchers reported in the journal PloS One.
(2) Pick Something Stinky Foods with a strong smell may help curb your portion control, according to a 2012 study in Flavor.
(3) Choose A Contrasting Color Want to eat less of those mashed potatoes? Don’t pick a white plate. Choosing a container with a color that contrasts the food helps you heap less on to begin with, according to a study in the Journal of Consumer Research.
(4) Use chopstick or a Vibrating Fork. The HAPIfork helps users from eating too fast by vibrating as soon as it senses too many bites per minute, thanks to its smart sensor.
(5) Eat On A Smaller Plate Eating off a small plate can help trick you into thinking you’re eating more than you really are — and that can reduce your consumption by 20 percent.
(6) Dim The Lights And The Music. A study of fast food restaurants found that adding softer lights and music inspired customers to eat 175 fewer calories per meal — an 18 percent decrease — than if they were in the restaurant’s normal environment. Why not try it at home?
Do you want to transform your eating habits into a program of nutritious and delicious food choices that can last a lifetime? Here are some tips from Harvard Medical School newsletter that uses the latest results of nutrition science and that promises to “take you by the hand as you learn to eat for heart health, longevity, energy, and vitality.” What a heart-warming feeling!
5 ways to make food labels work for you:
1. Size matters. Serving size is always the first item on the label. All other information is based on that serving size. The servings per container tell you know how many portions are in the whole box, package, or can. Beware: many packages contain more than one serving. Look at your orange juice for example. If the label says 125 calories per 8 ounce serving and your breakfast includes a 16 ounce glass of OJ, then you’ve taken in 250 calories from the juice alone. (About as many calories as you’d find in many chocolate bars.)
2. Look for fat: Check the saturated fat and trans fat content of the food. For a general healthful diet, keep saturated fat and cholesterol low and avoid trans fats altogether. Look for foods that have 0 grams (g) of trans fat and are lowest in saturated fat and cholesterol. Try to stay away from foods that have the words “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” in the ingredients list. Foods made with healthy unsaturated oils (olive, canola, safflower, etc.) are better bets.
3. Is it worth its salt? Compare the sodium content to the calories per serving. To keep your salt intake in check, consider products in which the sodium content is less than or equal to the calories per serving. For a food with 250 calories per serving, ideally the sodium content should be no more than 250 mg. If you need to seriously restrict your salt intake consider the low-sodium, low-salt, or unsalted versions.
4. Figure out the fiber. Aim for foods that have 5 g of fiber per serving, or at least one gram of fiber for every 10 grams of carbohydrate
5. Stay away from added sugars: Sugar, no matter what it’s called, contains almost no nutrients other than pure carbohydrate. A heavy sugar intake fills you up with empty calories, keeps you from eating healthy foods, and stresses your body’s ability to maintain a healthy blood sugar level. Steer clear of foods that have sugar, honey, molasses, corn syrup, corn sugar, fructose, or high-fructose corn syrup among the first three ingredients. Other names for sugar include agave nectar, brown sugar, cane sugar, corn sweetener, dextrose, maltose, fruit juice concentrate, and glucose.
Saturated fats and trans fats. Easy to remember and to avoid.
We should try to stay away from them, as we are told by the experts on cholesterol control.
Saturated fats.The saturated fats found in red meat, milk and other dairy foods, and coconut and palm oils directly boost LDL. So one way to lower your LDL is to cut back on saturated fat. Try substituting extra-lean ground beef for regular; low-fat or skim milk for whole milk; olive oil or a vegetable-oil margarine for butter; baked fish or chicken for fried.
Trans fats.Trans fats are a byproduct of the chemical reaction that turns liquid vegetable oil into solid margarine or shortening and that prevents liquid vegetable oils from turning rancid. Trans fats boost LDL as much as saturated fats do. They also lower protective HDL, rev up inflammation, and increase the tendency for blood clots to form inside blood vessels. Although trans fats were once ubiquitous in prepared foods, many companies now use trans-free alternatives. Some restaurants and fast-food chains have yet to make the switch.
I read this during the last week of last year. I thought I had read it before but it doesn’t hurt to re-read it at the beginning of the year just to start the year right with a healthy eating habit.
1. Oats. Choose either oatmeal or a cold oat-based cereal like Cheerios for breakfast. It gives you 1 to 2 grams of soluble fiber. Add some fruit for more fiber.
2. Beans. Especially rich in soluble fiber. They also take a while for the body to digest, which means you feel full for longer after a meal. That’s one reason beans are a useful food for folks with weight problem. Beans are a very versatile food.
3. Nuts. Tons of studies show that eating almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and other nuts is good for the heart. Eating 2 ounces of nuts a day can slightly lower LDL, on the order of 5%. Nuts have additional nutrients that protect the heart in other ways.
4. Foods fortified with sterols and stanols. Sterols and stanols extracted from plants gum up the body’s ability to absorb cholesterol from food. Companies are adding them to foods ranging from margarine and granola bars to orange juice and chocolate. They’re also available as supplements. Getting 2 grams of plant sterols or stanols a day can lower LDL cholesterol by about 10%.
5. Fatty fish. Eating fish two or three times a week can lower LDL in two ways: by replacing meat, which has LDL-boosting saturated fats, and by delivering LDL-lowering omega-3 fats. Omega-3s reduce triglycerides in the bloodstream and also protect the heart by helping prevent the onset of abnormal heart rhythms.
One healthy practice that I will follow during the new year is to cut down the intake of salt and sugar. I am actually following the advice given in Harvard Medical School newsletter.
“Your body needs less than one gram of sodium a day. That’s under half a teaspoon of table salt. But if you are like most Americans, you consume up to four times that amount. The result? Increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
As for added sugar, most of us consume more than twice the recommended daily amount, increasing the risk of obesity, diabetes, and even depression.”
The last one is a bit surprise, as I used to think sugar lifts people up spiritually. Maybe not so.
On 11/1/2012, I read this piece of information from Harvard Medical School newsletter. “A good, balanced diet — one that includes a variety of unrefined carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, with an emphasis on vegetables, whole grains, and healthy oils — will help keep you healthy. Eating well also provides optimum fuel for your body and can help keep you firing on all cylinders.”
Don’t we already know this? Why not candy and other simple sugars? Here’s the link among the three: fatigue, sugar, and weight gain.
Candy and sugars give you a quick burst of energy, but the burst won’t last long. In fact, as the energy quickly fades, it leaves you feeling depleted and craving for more candy or sugar-type food, which inevitably leads to weight gain. This reminds me of a classmate of mine back in Bowling Green, Ohio. He became obese from eating donuts while driving himself insanely through Ph.D dissertation process. Trust me it doesn’t take much to get to that stage.
On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats are slow cookers, supplying the reserves and energy that you can draw on throughout the day.
Here are a few take home messages:
(1) If you want to keep your energy up and steady without weight gain, limit refined sugar and starches to the minimum.
(2) Take small meals and snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. Keep in mind large meals can cause food coma, leading you feel sluggish instead of energizing you.
(3) Remember it doesn’t take much to feed your brain. A piece of fruit or a few nuts should do the job. Always have healthy snack around and keep out of sight the sugar snacks.
(4) Lunch is in the middle of the day. The key word is SMALL, unless you want a afternoon nap.
I know many people will be eating like there is no tomorrow during holiday season. Here are some advices from Harvard Medical School on how to fight heartburn.
Heartburn is a common problem. It’s caused by the backwash of stomach acid into the esophagus, the tube connecting the mouth and stomach. This is formally called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). More than just a minor discomfort, heartburn can significantly reduce quality of life. “Heartburn can cause damage to the esophagus and even increase the risk of cancer if ignored and untreated,” says Dr. William Kormos, editor in chief of Harvard Men’s Health Watch and a primary care physician at Massachusetts General Hospital.
(1) Eat in a heartburn-smart way
Large meals put pressure on the muscle that normally helps keep stomach contents from backing up into the esophagus. The more you eat, the longer it takes for the stomach to empty, which contributes to reflux. Try smaller, more frequent meals and don’t wolf down your food.
(2) Avoid late-night eating
Having a meal or snack within three hours of lying down to sleep can worsen reflux, causing heartburn. Leave enough time for the stomach to clear out.
(3) Don’t exercise right after meals
Give your stomach time to empty; wait a couple of hours. But don’t just lie down either, which will worsen reflux.
(4) Sleep on an incline
Raising your torso up a bit with a wedge-shaped cushion may ease nighttime heartburn. Wedges are available from medical supply companies and some home goods stores. Don’t just prop your head and shoulders up with pillows. Doing so can increase pressure on the stomach by curling you up at the waist.
(5) Identify and avoid foods associated with heartburn
Common offenders include fatty foods, spicy foods, tomatoes, garlic, milk, coffee, tea, cola, peppermint, and chocolate. Carbonated beverages cause belching, which also causes reflux.
(6) Chew sugarless gum after a meal
Chewing gum promotes salivation, which helps neutralize acid, soothes the esophagus, and washes acid back down to the stomach. Avoid peppermint gum, which may trigger heartburn more than other flavors.
(7) Rule out medication side effects
Ask your doctor or pharmacist whether any of the medications you take might cause pain resembling heartburn or contribute to reflux.
(8) Lose weight if you need to
Being overweight puts more pressure on the stomach and pushes stomach contents into the esophagus. Tight fitting clothing and belts that come with weight gain may also be a factor.
I read this piece of news on Friday, 9/21 “Cancer now No. 1 killer of U.S. Hispanics” by Dr. Otis Brawley, Special to CNN. Toward the end of the article, the author yields some figures on obesity among Hispanics, which come as a bit surprise.
“Hispanics do have higher diagnosis and death rates from cancers of the stomach, liver, cervix and gallbladder.
The triad of poor nutrition, lack of physical activity and obesity is the second leading cause of cancer in the United States, surpassed only by tobacco use.
This triad is an especially significant problem among Hispanic women. Current data indicate that among Hispanics, 43% of women and 34% of men are obese. This compares with 33% of all women in the United States and 32% of all men.”
I don’t know why. It could be because of Mexican foods or because they are not physically active or the combination of both. I will read more on this so that I can tell my children not to eat too much of their food if food is the culprit.
I love topics on health. Here’s a scary fact about salt intake in America: 9 out of 10 Americans eat too much salt, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). U.S. guidelines recommend that most people get less than 2,300 mg of salt a day.
Those who are aged 51 or older should eat even less, keeping intake to 1,500 mg a day. That’s just over 1/2 teaspoon of salt. But the average American eats about 3,300 mg of salt daily. Isn’t that horrible?
Here’s the link from high salt intake to the risk of heart disease. Our body works to maintain a delicate balance of sodium and water. Too much salt (sodium) in our body pulls in or holds onto extra fluid to keep this balance. The extra fluid increases blood volume. The extra circulating blood volume raises blood pressure. High blood pressure increases your risk for a heart attack or a stroke.
Salt is everywhere — pizza, soup, poultry, meat, sandwiches, cheese, salad, pasta, and dishes. If you have developed a strong taste bud, consider adjusting it to a lighter one, for the health of your heart and
This is from Harvard medical school that I read on 8/11/2012. The article offers six ways to combine nutritional science, a jolt of common sense, and pure enjoyment.
1) Ditch whole milk. Not only does this reduce saturated fat in your diet, it shaves off calories. Switch to 1% or nonfat milk, and nonfat versions of other dairy products like yogurt and ice cream. Can’t bear to go cold turkey? Step down more slowly to 2% milk, then 1% en route to nonfat, if possible.
2) Harness the power of nuts (and seeds) Almonds, cashews, filberts, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, and pistachios pack plenty of beneficial nutrients, including vitamin E, folic acid, potassium, and fiber. Although many nuts are high in fat, the fat is mainly unsaturated – a healthy choice.
3) Taste food before you salt it. For two days, don’t put any salt on your food at all. A short break can help reset your taste buds. Then, leave the salt shaker in the cabinet, so it becomes a bit of an effort to reach for it. Make a ritual out of truly tasting your food before you decide if it needs tweaking.
4) Pack lunch at least once a week. You can make sure that you’re not supersizing your meal. Plus, it saves you money.
5) Eat five (or more) vegetables and fruits a day. It’s a nutrient-packed way to fill your plate that is generally low in calories.
6) Plan meals that are delightful, delicious and healthy.
Here are 20 guidelines for healthful and enjoyable eating for people with diabetes and anyone else who wants to eat healthfully. I think this is from some important health journal.
1. Eat a variety of foods; since no single food is perfect, you need a balanced mix of foods to get all the nutrients your body requires.
2. Eat more vegetable products and fewer animal products.
3. Eat more fresh and homemade foods and fewer processed foods. Avoid fast food and junk food. You know what they are.
4. Choose your fats wisely. Cut down on meat, the skin of poultry, whole-fat dairy products, stick margarine, fried foods, processed snack foods, and commercial baked goods made with trans fats. Think about dressings, sauces, and cooking oil. Use olive or canola oil to cook whenever possible, and moisten your bread with olive oil or soft margarine. Get “good fats” from fish and nuts.
5. Choose your carbs wisely. Cut down on simple sugars; remember that sodas, sports energy drinks, and fruit juices are loaded with sugar. Cut down on highly refined products made with white flour. Favor whole-grain, coarsely ground, unrefined products. Don’t be fooled by dark-colored bread or by labels that boast of unbleached flour, wheat grain, or multigrain flour.
Instead, look for whole grain as the first ingredient, and read the fine print to learn the fiber content of a portion; more is better. Learn to like bran cereal, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Consider fiber supplements if you can’t get enough from foods.
6. Consume at least three cups of non- or low-fat dairy products a day.
7. Eat protein in moderation. Favor fish and skinless poultry. Experiment with soy and beans as a protein source. Aim for 5½ ounces of protein-rich foods a day; count ¼ cup of cooked beans or tofu, ½ ounce of nuts or seeds, or one egg as equivalent to 1 ounce of cooked fish or cooked lean meat or poultry.
8. Restrict your sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day, particularly if your blood pressure is borderline or high, by reducing your use of table salt and processed foods such as canned soup and juices, luncheon meats, condiments, frozen dinners, cheese, tomato sauce, and snack foods. People with blood pressure above 120/80 mm Hg should aim for 1,500 mg a day, as should anyone above age 50.
9. Eat more potassium-rich foods, such as citrus fruits, bananas, and other fruits and vegetables. Eat more calcium-rich foods such as low-fat dairy products, broccoli, spinach, and tofu (but don’t take calcium supplements to boost your daily intake above 1,200 mg).
10. Eat more grain products, especially whole-grain products, aiming for at least 6 ounces a day. Count 1 cup of dry cereal; ½ cup of cooked cereal, rice, or pasta; or one slice of bread as 1 ounce. Whole grains and brown rice should provide at least half your grains; the more, the better.
11. Eat more vegetables, especially deep-green and yellow-orange vegetables. Aim for at least five servings a day. Count 1 cup of raw leafy greens, ½ cup of cooked or raw vegetables, or ½ cup of vegetable juice as one portion.
12. Eat more fruits, aiming for at least four servings a day. Count one medium-size piece of fruit; ½ cup of fresh, frozen, or canned fruit; or ½ cup of fruit juice as one portion.
13. Eat more fish, aiming for at least two 4-ounce servings each week. Remember to broil, bake, or grill instead of frying.
14. If you choose to eat red meat, try to reduce your intake to two 4-ounce servings per week. Avoid “prime” and other fatty meats, processed meats, and liver. Switch to chicken and turkey, always removing the skin. Be sure your meat and poultry are cooked to 160° or more, but not charred.
15. Eat eggs sparingly; aim for an average of no more than one egg yolk per day, including those used in cooking and baking. Use egg substitutes whenever possible.
16. Include seeds and unsalted nuts in your diet. Nuts have been linked to a reduced risk of cardiac death, but since they are high in calories, moderation is the watchword.
17. Use vegetable oils in moderation, favoring olive and canola oils. Reduce your intake of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, palm oil, and coconut milk.
18. If you choose to use alcohol, drink sparingly. Men should not average more than two drinks per day, women one a day. Count 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1½ ounces of liquor as one drink. Never drive or operate machinery after drinking.
19. Adjust your caloric intake and exercise level to maintain a desirable body weight. If you need to reduce, aim for gradual weight loss by lowering your caloric intake and increasing your exercise level.
20. Avoid fad diets and extreme or unconventional nutritional schemes. If it’s too good to be true, it’s not true. And remember that these guidelines are intended for healthy people; people with medical problems should consult their doctors to develop individualized nutritional plans.
Here’s what I learned from a study in The Journal of the American Medical Association (Aug.24/31, 2011).
A vegetarian diet emphasizing a “portfolio” of cholesterol-lowering foods did a better job of reducing low-density lipoprotein — the so-called “bad” cholesterol — than a low-saturated-fat vegetarian diet.
All participants in the study followed a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Those in the portfolio group were told to emphasize four specific types of cholesterol-lowering foods in their diets — soluble fiber, nuts, soy protein, and margarines enriched with plant sterols — while those in the low-saturated fat group were told to avoid these foods.
For someone eating 2,000 calories per day, a portfolio diet would aim to provide the following amounts of these cholesterol-lowering foods:
Soluble fiber: 18 grams per day of fiber from foods such as oatmeal, oat bran, barley, peas, beans, lentils, psyllium, and vegetables such as okra and eggplant
Nuts: one ounce, or about one handful, per day
Soy protein: 42.8 grams per day from soy-based foods such as soy milk, tofu, and soy meat substitutes (four ounces of tofu contains 9.4 grams of soy protein; eight ounces of regular soy milk contains six grams of soy protein)
Plant-sterol-enriched margarine: 1.8 grams per day (1 to 2 tablespoons, depending on the product)