The power of healing through proper nutrition is well documented. In Chinese medicine, it is a discipline that goes back thousands of years. But even in Western medicine, and even without medications, changes in one’s diet can reap phenomenal results. As we age, the three common diseases about which we are all worried are high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and today’s number one killer, diabetes. Obviously, exercise plays a key and powerful role in healing, but from the point of view of food intake, try to follow the following suggestions.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in all animal products. The human body makes cholesterol in the liver and absorbs it through the diet. It is essential for the body and is used to form bile acids for digestion of fats, and build cell membranes. However, too much cholesterol in the blood can spell trouble in the form of increased risk of coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. To decrease your overall cholesterol and to maintain a better ratio of HDL (good cholesterol) to LDL (bad cholesterol), try the following dietary measures:
Saturated Fat Limit to less than 7% of calories, or 16 grams on a 2000-calorie diet. This is the fat that raises LDL – the “bad” cholesterol; it’s found in red meats and in high fat dairy foods like ice cream, whole milk and butter – just two tablespoons of butter would be the maximum limit.
Trans Fats These are the harmful fats that increase heart disease risk by raising LDL and lowering HDL – the “good” cholesterol. They are found in many baked goods like bourekas, cakes and cookies.
“Soluble” Fiber All fiber-rich foods are healthy components of a diet. However, specific fibers known as viscous fibers, or soluble fibers, have heart-healthy properties. These fibers are found in oat bran, oat meal and cereal, barley, fruits such as apples and berries, and vegetables such as okra and eggplant. Soluble fibers may help to lower LDL cholesterol by preventing cholesterol absorption in the body.
Plant Sterols These are plant chemicals found in vegetable oils, leafy green vegetables and nuts. Sterols may help to lower LDL cholesterol levels without adversely affecting HDL cholesterol levels. The body mistakes them for dietary cholesterol, which causes less “real” cholesterol to be absorbed in the blood.
Nuts and Seeds Nuts and seeds are a source of monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats; these fats may help to lower cholesterol, especially when they are substituted for the saturated fats found in meat and cheese. Olive oil, vegetable oils, flax seed and avocados are sources of these beneficial fats, too.
Fatty fish Fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel contain omega 3 fatty acids, which decrease LDL and triglycerides. They may also reduce inflammation in blood vessels, decreasing the chance of a heart attack or stroke. The American Heart Association currently recommends eating fish twice a week.
Soy Protein Soy has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol levels; this is the basis of a FDA claim linking soy protein to heart health. Soy is found in foods such as tofu, soymilk and soy nuts (NOT soy protein powders).
Just what is diabetes? Diabetes impairs the body’s ability to burn the fuel or glucose that it gets from food for energy. Glucose is carried through the bloodstream to the body’s cells; however, the cells need insulin, which is made by the pancreas, to allow glucose to move inside. Insulin is the key that opens the door into the cell. Without it, glucose accumulates in the blood and then is dumped into the urine by the kidneys. High sugar in the blood causes fatigue, irritability and damages nerves. In type II diabetes, beta cells make insulin but, because of insensitivity to the hormone, it is used inefficiently. This results in insulin resistance and an accumulation of both glucose and insulin in the blood. To help improve the symptoms of type 2 diabetes, use the following guidelines:
Eat smaller meals more often. Eating smaller amounts of food 5 or 6 times a day, as opposed to 2 or 3 larger meals, will help prevent insulin spikes.
Eat balanced meals which include complex carbohydrates, lean proteins and vegetables. Complex carbohydrates include: whole grain breads, whole grain pastas, sweet potatoes, brown rice and whole grain, low-sugar cereals. This will help control blood glucose levels. Examples of lean proteins are fish, breast of chicken, legumes, tofu and low fat dairy products.
Cut down on fat, particularly saturated fat, as this is linked to heart disease. Use less butter, margarine, cheese and fatty meats. Choose low-fat dairy foods such as skim milk and low-fat yogurt. Grill, steam or bake foods instead of cooking or frying with oil or other fats.
Eat more fruit and vegetables. Aim for at least five portions a day to provide vitamins, minerals and fiber as well as to help balance the overall diet.
Cut down on sugar and sugary foods. This does not mean that you need to eat a totally sugar-free diet. Choose low-sugar or sugar-free fizzy drinks, as sugary drinks can cause blood glucose levels to rise quickly. Simple starches – i.e. white potatoes, white rice and white bread – also cause sharp rises in blood glucose.
Drink alcohol in moderation only. That’s two units a day for women and three units a day for men. Alcohol is a type of sugar and can also cause a rise in blood glucose.
Don’t be tempted by ‘diabetic’ foods or drinks. They are expensive, unnecessary and have no added benefit for people with diabetes.
Our next installment will address healthy blood pressure, and the role exercise plays in maintaining overall good health.
Alan Freishtat is an A.C.E.* CERTIFIED PERSONAL TRAINER and a LIFESTYLE FITNESS COACH with over 15 years of professional experience. He is the Co-Director of the Jerusalem-based weight loss and stress reduction center Lose It! along with Linda Holtz M. Sc. and is available for private consultations, assessments and personalized workout programs. Alan also lectures and gives seminars and workshops. He can be reached at 02-651-8502 or 050-555-7175, or by email at [email protected] Check out the Lose It! web site – www.loseit.co.il. US Line: 516-568-5027.
(YWN Desk – NYC)