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Posts Tagged ‘healthy foods’

HEALTHY MEAL 2

Who doesn’t want to extend years of life as long as possible? Researchers confirm that even after middle age, we can lengthen our life span. In a study of nearly 74,000 health professionals 60 years-of-age or older, those who shifted to better eating habits lived longer. What changes did they make? Those who increased the amount of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains plus other healthy foods in their diets lowered their risk of premature death compared to those whose diets remained the same. Likewise, those who let their eating habits slip to less healthy fares in their older years increased their risks for dying.

Researchers used three scoring systems based on the Alternate Healthy Eating Index, the Alternate Mediterranean diet, and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. While those diets differ somewhat, all promote fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, low-fat dairy, olive oil, and nuts. Some foods may include more of certain vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, or other nutrients, but all of these received higher scores and are good options. In all diets, less healthy choices such as sweets, processed foods, and red meats received low scores. The higher the overall score, the lower the risk of premature death.

Even changing a few items, such as fish or legumes in place of red meat, made a slight difference.  Alice Lichtenstein, spokesperson for the American Heart Association stated, “The key is to make changes that you can stick with for the rest of your life.” She added, “There are no magic-bullet foods or nutrients.” The message isn’t new. However, many believe if they haven’t followed healthy eating rules throughout their lifetimes, change is hopeless. Not so. It’s never too late to improve eating habits.

Choosing healthy foods helps prevent an early death and assures that the years we live will be less hampered by the many diseases resulting from poor diets. Quality of life is a precious commodity for everyone, especially as we age. Making slight diet changes can improve physical well-being and make those extra years’ worth living. It’s a win-win choice.

 

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Cancer—the dreaded C word. The thought chills us with the realization of our mortality. What is this frightening disease? Cancer results from the malfunction of genes that control cell growth and division. Most cancers aren’t strongly linked to heredity, but some like colorectal, breast, and prostate are. Most cancers result from damage to genes occurring during a person’s lifetime. It may take ten years or more to detect the effect of factors causing mutant cells.

What if you could avoid getting cancer? February is Cancer Prevention Month. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, Americans can prevent one-third of the most common cancer cases by changes in diet, weight, and physical activity. That translates into 374,000 people annually who could go cancer-free with those changes. Next to tobacco use, which estimates say will cause 176,000 deaths in 2014, changing your lifestyle could keep you from getting cancer.

Anyone can develop cancer. No one is immune and the risk increases with age. About seventy-seven percent of all cancers occur in people fifty-five years of age and older. Researchers expect diagnosis of about 1,665,540 new cancer cases in 2014, and that figure excludes some precancerous conditions. Likewise, they expect 585,720 Americans to die of cancer in 2014. How can you keep from being a statistic?

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends the following:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. We hear this over and over. Are we listening? The ACS suggests being as lean as possible throughout life without being underweight. If you are obese or overweight, losing even a small amount has health benefits. Reduce high-calorie foods and beverages, and use up unneeded calories with increased activity.
  • Adopt a physically active lifestyle. The ACS suggests 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Don’t forget the children. They need at least one hour of exercise daily with more intense exercise at least three days each week. Avoid being a couch potato or spending too much time at computers or other sedate activities. Make it a point to get up and move. Even small amounts of exercise help. Physical activity may reduce risks of breast, colon, endometrium, and advanced prostate cancer. Physical activity also seems to improve the quality of life and reduce mortality for those who already have cancer.
  • Consume a healthy diet. If you have followed this blog, you know that’s what it’s all about. Lest I sound like a stuck record, the ACS makes the following recommendations.
    • Choose foods and beverages in amounts that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
    • Limit consumption of red meat and processed meat.
    • Eat at least two and one-half cups of vegetables and fruits daily.
    • Choose whole grains instead of refined-grain products.
    • Limit alcoholic beverage consumption. Drinking alcoholic beverages increases risks for cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colorectal, breast, and possibly pancreas. Men should limit drinks to no more than two per day while women shouldn’t drink more than one a day. As little as a few drinks per week may slightly increase the risk for breast cancer in women.

 To find out how much you know about cancer, try the quiz at this link. And tune in next week for nutritional claims related to cancer—what you can trust and what you should ignore. Your health is too important to snub warnings. Improve your chances of avoiding cancer.

 

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By now, most have set resolutions for 2014, and perhaps many have broken them already. We declared what we wanted to accomplish this year. Some were far-reaching goals that needed time and commitment. Others required a change in mind-set.

Last year I delineated five positive nutrition principles to focus on in 2013, (Forget Diet Resolutions—Focus on Positives). Briefly these included:

  • Everyone eats food—we can’t live without it.
  • Sugar doesn’t make us fat—just the excess, especially when accompanied with high fat.
  • Diet isn’t a bad word—everything we eat is a part of our diet.
  • Add instead of subtract—eat more fruits/veggies, nix the salt.
  • Watch portion size—bigger isn’t better.

How did you make out? Maybe it’s time to review, remember, and remedy. If you made diet resolutions again and have already faltered, take heart. Any time is a good time to improve healthy eating. Review food choices you made last year. Remember what situation or specific foods may have caused you to go astray. Consider some of the following to remedy or improve eating habits.

  • Post a list on the refrigerator of healthy foods you need daily. A constant reminder makes it easier to remember to make wise choices.
  • Write down foods to buy before shopping using your refrigerator list as a guide. If you purchase healthy foods instead of unhealthy ones, that’s what you will eat because they’re available.
  • Eliminate the word diet from your vocabulary. Concentrate on each food instead of diet.
  • Put away the salt shaker. Be more diligent in reading food labels. Remember processed foods contain a lot more sodium/salt than most home-prepared dishes. When possible, purchase reduced-salt products. If you use convenience foods when cooking, such as condensed soup, omit additional salt in the recipe.
  • Invest in a good set of measuring utensils and measure recommended portion sizes until you visually recognize that amount on your plate or in your bowl.

It’s still about simple changes. Just as bad habits form by doing the same thing over and over, repeating small changes becomes a habit for healthier eating. Hopefully, you made strides toward improved eating in 2013. If so, good job. Keep going. If not, it’s never too late. Focus on adjustments you want to make before 2015. Get going and make it a happy healthy year.

 

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