As a conscientious individual about proper dietary needs for the past 20 years+, I have experienced first hand the benefits of a healthy diet in today’s society of convenient fast foods, supermarket packaged foods very high in sodium or sugar, addicting caffeinated coffee and soft drinks, as well as seeing the difference between vegetables from the farmer’s markets, grocery stores and organic non-GMO foods in general.
Published studies have shown (Harvard Medical Journal, the American Institute for Cancer Research, Journal of the American Medical Association, the American Heart Association, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the Journal of Clinical Pathology, National Institutes of Health associated with National Library of Medicine and National Center for Biotechnology Information, University of Maryland School of Medicine as reported by Journal of American College of Cardiology, American Diabetes Association, American Kidney Association, CBS News, BBC News, and more) a lifestyle with regular exercise and a plant-based diet can reduce cancer risk, aid in preventing obesity, lowering blood pressure, reduce the chance of heart disease and stroke, assist in reducing the risk of diabetes and is far healthier in other ways than the typical American diet. Medical professionals advise a change in lifestyle rather than going on fad diets. Food combining (Fit For Life) and the alkaline diet are among a couple schools of thought based on healthy lifestyle rather than a fad diet. It is up to the individual whether to reduce or eliminate meat portions in their diet, depending on what works best for each person. The following are key elements that are advised from research studies:
1.a diet lower in cholesterol (only found in animal foods) as our bodies already produce more than we need
2.a diet lower in saturated fat (primarily from meats and dairy products) limited to no more than 30% overall fat (10% saturated fat, and
for recovering heart attack patients, those with diabetes or high LDL cholesterol 7% saturated fat)
3.a diet lower in homocysteine (an amino acid derived from methionine, another amino acid from animal foods)
4.lowering alcohol consumption to 0-1 drinks per day for women and 0-2 drinks per day for men
5.limiting sodium intake
6.regular exercise such as walking
8.stress management through many different avenues such as yoga, meditation, getting together with friends, taking up a cheerful
9.a diet incorporating tea, especially green tea (preferably decaffeinated) which contains flavonoids, antioxidants and more
10.increased farm fresh vegetables, fruit, grains, and legume consumption
11.reduce or eliminate colas whether diet or sugar
It is estimated by the American Heart Association every 29 seconds someone suffers a heart attack in the US, being the #1 cause of death in our country. The #3 cause of death in the US is by stroke. Every 53 seconds someone in the US suffers a stroke. New age medical professionals say that bypass surgery bypasses the problem without solving the issue of a changed lifestyle for better health. Persistence in unhealthy living habits can be a significant risk for heart disease. In April of 2002, Dr. Robert Atkins, creator of the Atkins Diet, suffered a heart attack. He died a year later in April of 2003 from a slip and fall where the surgeons about a week before he died attempted to save his life by removing a blood clot to relieve pressure in his brain. His high profile diet suggested high protein with low carbohydrates consequently low fiber, high fat and high cholesterol.
The important issue is a healthy diet which will vary from person to person. Another way we can accomplish this is by incorporating more fresh picked vegetables and fruits from our local farmer’s market in our diets. The most alarming invention by man for feeding the earth is with the GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) found in some grocery stores, but not found in local farmer’s markets (held by the small farmers in the area) or in health food stores. We would be wise to take note from the 6 countries around the world that have banned GMO’s and the additional 24 countries who propose to ban GMO crops. By eliminating GMO foods in our diet we don’t have to worry about the consequences down the road by ingesting what the genetic engineers have been creating: injecting human genes in corn or rice, mouse and human genes in potatoes, fish genes in tomatoes, and more.
Concerning the benefits of green tea, the anti-oxidants it contains have been found to block cancer. The researchers at Rochester University as reported on BBC News showed that the chemicals found in green tea shut down the AH receptor in cancerous mouse cells and early results indicate the same is true for human cells. Medical researchers in the UK have found that green tea may help to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers in Sheffield as reported on BBC News have found that EGCG (epigallocatchin gallate) and ECG (epicatechin gallate) which are two compounds found in green tea to block the enzyme that destroys cartilage and can help prevent osteoarthritis (the most common form of arthritis). British Journal of Nutrition has had a research conclusion that animal foods may be a major factor contributing to the inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis. National Cheng Kung University Hospital in Taiwan, conducted studies that found regular tea drinking, especially green tea when used over several years preserves bone density in both men and women and particularly noticeable after drinking tea for over 10 years. They believe the high fluoride content as well as the flavonoids and phyto-estrogen may also help preserve bone density. Their recent studies also indicate tea can help to reduce the risk of cancer, heart attack and Parkinson’s disease. The American Medical Association also states that drinking tea (especially decaffeinated) is linked to protecting against heart disease and protective against bone mineral loss shown in a study of older women. Decaffeinated drinks are best as caffeine has been linked in studies to increase blood pressure. Depending on a person’s genetic makeup, caffeinated coffee has been linked to increased risk of heart attack. If in conjunction with other poor dietary habits, we can only imagine the even greater risk. The study found individuals that metabolize caffeine slower due to genetics, causes the caffeine to stay in the body for longer period. For those who metabolize caffeine rapidly, the study appeared to show the opposite in reducing the risk. No conclusive studies have yet determined caffeinated coffee to pose a heart attack risk, however, the study has found a link between cola sodas and the increased risk of hypertension regardless of whether it has sugar or is diet soda.
It is important to visit a medical professional for advice on what works best for each individual. By following these wise words from medical research and having a plant-based diet increases our intake of fiber, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants and phytochemicals, etc., all of which have shown though studies to reduce the risk of diseases. More specifically eating lycopene in tomatoes and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, bok choy and cauliflower) studies have shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer, while a plant-based diet incorporating cruciferous vegetables showed a link to reducing heart disease and stroke as well. Research has also found cooking animal proteins (specifically muscle meats) produces cancer-causing chemicals called heterocyclic amines. New research in the UK has shown that diets high in animal food have significantly lower levels of salicylic acid in their blood than herbivores. Fruits and vegetables have high levels of salicylic acid which assist in reducing the inflammation that causes most cardiovascular illness. Both natural and synthetic salicylic acid, reduce inflammation in the arteries to help prevent narrowing and hardening of the arteries. Eating cruciferous and/or green leafy vegetables was also significantly associated with less cognitive decline among aging women in a Harvard Medical School study.
It is interesting to note that The National Kidney Foundation has advised reducing the quantity of animal protein in assisting to prevent the formation of kidney stones and being watchful of taking too high of an intake of calcium supplements which has shown can increase the chances of stone formation in some individuals. In the early stages of kidney disease, the diet must not be too high in protein or phosphorus as well as sodium.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, published findings whereby the mineral bone loss on a typical meat-based diet was a lot more versus the alternative plant-based diet incorporating dairy products. In the Nurse’s Health Study at Harvard Medical School, found no promising data linking fracture risk to calcium rich foods such as drinking milk twice a day. Moreover they reported the importance of regular exercise, Vitamin K (found in foods such as broccoli and lettuce) as well as Vitamin D. The study found danger in consuming high amounts of inorganic forms of Vitamin A known as Retinol A which has been shown to increase risk of hip fracture. The form of Vitamin A to look for is Beta-carotene which is found in certain supplements and food sources. The Nurse’s Health Study at Harvard have found a higher intake of dairy products appear to be a contributing risk factor for Parkinson’s disease in men. So as far as diet, balance is the key; incorporating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes into our life together with all the elements mentioned above as suggested by medical research for a healthy lifestyle.
In summary, although I’ve been a lacto-vegetarian (incorporating dairy but not eggs) since birth, it is important that each individual choose what works best for them. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends a gradual progression into a plant-based diet if one is not used to it. A lifestyle change that comprises of regular exercise along with healthy eating habits as advised through so many studies will help all of us live a long and quality life; Living a life with a higher immune system, recreational physical activity into our golden years, staying out of the hospitals, and leading into the retirement of our dreams.