Isn’t it about time you invested in you? As individuals, we invest so much time and passion into our families and professions, yet we often neglect our bodies and take our health for granted until it catches up with us. The time to invest in your health is now.
Approximately 70 percent of all deaths in the United States are related to lifestyle, and 90 percent of these individuals die prematurely. Achieving good health does not mean you have to give up all the foods you love or that you have to run a marathon to enjoy the health benefits of leading an active lifestyle. Even a series of small steps can make a big difference, and I hope that you will be able to use some of the following suggestions to help you lead a longer, healthier life.
Have you heard of functional foods? Functional foods provide health benefits beyond the basic nutrition obtained from carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. Functional foods include plant phytochemicals (antioxidants and nutraceuticals) and animal zoochemicals. Examples of phytochemicals include flavanols, lutein, lycopene, proanthocyanidins and soy. Zoochemicals include Omega 3 fatty acids. While these words are a mouthful, it is easy to assess whether you’re consuming them by answering a few simple questions.
1. HOW COLORFUL IS MY PLATE?While some colorful foods are rich in healthy carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, their hue is a hint that they may offer additional health benefits. For example:
RedLycopene may help prevent prostate cancer. Examples include cherries, cranberries, raspberries, red cabbage, strawberries, tomatoes and watermelon.
Yellow/OrangeCarotenoids may reduce risk of heart disease. Examples include apricots, cantaloupe, corn, carrots, lemons, mangos, oranges and pineapple.
GreenSulforaphane may help prevent cancer. Examples include artichokes, avocadoes, collards, cucumbers, green grapes, kiwi, dark green lettuce and spinach.
Blue/PurpleAnthocyanins may help lower blood pressure, boost memory and reduce risk of heart disease. Examples include blackberries, blueberries, eggplant, plums, purple cabbage, purple grapes and raisins.
White/BrownAllicin may help lower cholesterol and risk of heart disease. Examples include bananas, cauliflower, garlic, jicama, onions, pears, potatoes and turnips.
2. DO I CONSUME A DIET RICH IN WILD FISH AND NUTS?Wild fish feed on Omega 3-rich algae and plankton on the ocean floor. Consuming wild fish provides a rich source of Omega 3s and selenium, another antioxidant. Try baking or grilling, and seasoning with lemon, spices and herbs. Deep frying cancels the benefits of the Omega 3s and selenium. In some studies, diets rich in wild fish and nuts have been found to significantly lower risk of heart disease and recurrent heart attack.
THE BOTTOM LINE
1. Choose a more colorful plate. Try to consume fruit with all your meals. Fresh fruit is best for dietary fiber. Add two vegetables to your lunch and dinner. Boiling your vegetables can leach out precious nutrients. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and fat, can promote a feeling of fullness and can offset unwanted calories from chips, fries and mayonnaise-based salads. Try using I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter or Parkay butter spray instead of margarine or butter to omit some of the unhealthier types of fat and sodium, yet keep the flavor.
2. Choose wild fish. Try consuming wild fish three days a week or nine ounces a week – but don’t fry it. Salmon, herring, trout, tuna and sardines are great sources of Omega 3s. Beware of bottom dwellers such as shark, mackerel and albacore canned tuna due to potentially higher mercury levels.
3. Eat more nuts. Nuts such as peanuts, cashews and almonds are a great source of monounsaturated fat and can help you lower your total cholesterol and bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol). Walnuts are one of the best types of polyunsaturated fat and have been shown in some studies to lower the risk of recurring heart attack when consumed in conjunction with wild fish.
Why not make it your goal to add each of these three options one at a time as a goal each week to start leading a healthier lifestyle? Once you accomplish this goal and it becomes a part of your routine, set another goal. Before you know it, you will be leading a much healthier lifestyle!
DR. TINA CLONEY is a health and nutrition professor in the College of Professional Studies, division of exercise science and sport. She is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and board certified specialist in sports dietetics. Her passion is communicating the role of nutrition in sport performance and nutrition and exercise in disease prevention and management.