Food is prized not just because it assuages hunger, but for its delicious taste, mouth-watering aroma, and visual appeal. Add to the list the recognition that food can play a crucial role in helping each of us to stay well and to live longer.
NEW WAYS OF LOOKING AT FOOD
Good nutrition is the primary means of realizing your genetic potential. Unless you eat the right amount of nutrients in the right balance, you Won’t live as long or be as healthy as it‘s possible for you to be.
Past dietary recommendations that promoted eating protein and deplored “starchy” foods (actually, carbohydrates) have been turned around completely. We now know that carbohydrates should form the largest part of your diet, approximately 55 to 60 percent and that you should hold down the quantity of protein to about 15 percent of total calories.
By avoiding foods that are high in fat, you lower your risk of heart disease, obesity, and other disorders. You should aim for a diet that keeps fat to less than 30 percent of your total calories.
For foods that may actually help to lower your risk of cancer, see the chart at left.
WHAT PROTEIN DOES
Skin, hair, nails, cartilage, tendons, muscles, and bones are made up largely of ﬁbrous proteins. Protein is essential to metabolism and other bodily processes, and it helps fight disease. Children need protein for growth. Adults need protein to replace tissues that are continuously breaking down.
Myth: You must eat meat to get enough protein. Generally, there’s no need to worry about getting enough protein. Americans eat 50 to 100 percent more protein than their bodies can use. Many foods besides meat are rich in protein, including dairy products, beans, grains, and other plant foods. (Eggs were once classiﬁed as a protein because egg white is high in protein; however, yolks are high in fat.)
Myth: Meat contains more protein than any other food. The meat actually ranks in about the middle of the protein-quantity scale, along with cheese, beans, and some nuts. Only about 25 percent of the calories in a T-bone steak tome from protein; the remaining 75 percent comes from fat. Even a lean cut of well-trimmed ﬂank steak may get 50 percent of its calories from fat. Fish, poultry without the skin, and low-fat dairy products provide a higher percentage of protein per ounce than meat and eggs.
Myth: Adults require less protein as they age. The need for protein per pound of bodyweight remains the same, although some researchers suspect that the elderly might require more protein because the body uses it less efﬁciently over the years. Since calorie needs decrease with age, the elderly need to get low-fat protein.
Myth: Athletes heed much wore protein than non-athletes. Athletes may need slightly more during the initial stages of training or competition. But since most Americans eat more than enough protein, chances are that a normal, balanced diet supplies all that an athlete needs.
POTENTIALLY PROTECTIVE FOODS
Although no food has been shown to prevent any disease absolutely, many foods contain natural substances that experts believe may help prevent some cancers. Foods that contain significant amounts of these substances are listed below.
|Beneficial Substance||Associated Cancers||Food Sources|
|Fiber (insoluble)||Colon, gastrointestinal,|
|Wheat bran, whole wheat |
and other whole-grain
cereals and bread products;
fruits and vegetables
(vitamins C and E,
|Vitamin C: citrus fruits, dark|
green leafy vegetables,
strawberries, tomatoes, parsley;
vitamin E: vegetable oils,
wheat germ, soy products,
avocados, nuts; beta-carotene:
deep yellow and orange
vegetables and fruit
often give plants
ﬂavor an odor)
|Cabbage, broccoli, Brussels|
sprouts, cauliflower, and
other cruciferous vegetables;
soybeans, licorice root,
|Cervical, colon, rectal||Whole wheat products,|
wheat germ, dried beans,
dark green leafy vegetables,
asparagus, bean sprouts,
sunflower seeds, cantaloupe,
Growth in the teen years demands higher calorie consumption than in adulthood, but teens need relatively more carbohydrates, not more protein, to fuel their growth.
WHAT CARBOHYDRATES DO
During the digestive process, carbohydrates are turned into glucose, the body’s chief energy source. If glucose is not used right away, it is stored as glycogen. There are two kinds of carbohydrates: simple (some fruits, some vegetables, honey, table sugar, and so on) and complex (beans, grains, potatoes, and other vegetables and fruit). Ideally, complex carbohydrates will comprise about 80 percent of the carbohydrates in your diet.
Carbohydrates are fattening. Ounce for ounce, most plant foods have the same number of calories as most meats or far fewer calories. in fact, carbohydrates should be featured in any Weight-control program. Whole-grain foods, vegetables, and fruits, which most salad bars offer, not only provide a wealth of nutrients but ﬁll the stomach and satisfy hunger.
A calorie is a calorie, and excess calories, Whether from fat, protein, or carbohydrates, will be converted to fat by the body and stored.
WHAT FAT DOES
Fats provide a ready source of energy. Dietary fats supply the fatty acids necessary for many of the body’s chemical activities, including growth in children, and provide cells’ membrane linings. Fats carry the fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K. Fats lend ﬂavor, texture, and aroma to food, and they satisfy feelings of hunger.
Myth: Body fat is bad for you. Moderate amounts of body fat, about 18 to 24 percent of the total weight for women and 15 to 18 percent for men, is consistent with good health. Stored fats regulate body temperature, provide a protective cushion for organs, and aid in hormone production and regulation.
Myth: Cholesterol is bad for you. The body needs blood cholesterol, a type of fat, for the development of sex hormones, skin oils, digestive juices, and other important functions. As a rule, the body makes all the cholesterol it needs. To avoid raising their blood cholesterol, most people have to follow two dietary rules: limit both high-cholesterol foods and those containing Trans fat and processed food.
Myth. “if you are trying to lose weight, you must ban fat from your” diet. Even people who want to slim down should get about 10 to 20 per- cent of their calories from fat (unless your physician tells you otherwise).
Myth: If you forgo meat and concentrated fats such as butter and oil, your diet will be far-free. Almost all foods contain at least traces of fat, often in the form of oils. Even carrots and celery contain minute amounts of fat.
VITAMINS AND MINERALS
Even though vitamins and minerals are needed in relatively small quantities, their roles in health and well-being are substantial: they stimulate dozens of biochemical reactions throughout the body.
Don’t worry about deficiency diseases. Few people need vitamin pills to ward off scurvy or rickets. Our concern with vitamins and minerals nowadays is whether or not they can enhance our health.
Many health and nutrition authorities believe that people who eat a balanced diet will get all the vitamins and minerals they need without resorting to pills. (The exceptions are pregnant women and persons with particular medical problems.) For a list of good food sources for vitamins and minerals, see page.
Other practitioners urge everyone to consume vitamin and mineral supplements. Nobel laureate Dr. Linus Pauling believes that massive doses of vitamin C bolster the immune system and ease colds.
Eat plenty of red peppers, squashes, tomatoes, cantaloupes, and other colorful produce because they are rich in antioxidants. In very simple terms, antioxidants repair cell damage. Researchers are investigating whether antioxidants can reduce the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, cataracts, and other ailments.
If you are prone to eye problem conjunctivitis, cat plenty of products high in vitamin A, such as sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrots, and winter squash. This is preferable to taking vitamin A in pill form because you can’t get too much in foods, but you can get too much in pills.
if you take supplements of vitamin C or E or beta- carotene, which is an antioxidant that the body converts to vitamin A, use moderation. For safe upper limits, choose vitamin C in 250- to 500-milligram pills; for vitamin E, 100 to 400 international units; for beta-carotene, 20,000 units.
Do not take vitamins or minerals in mega doses, that is, far in excess of the recommended levels, where they may begin to function like drugs. Consuming mega doses can put you at risk of side effects. If you take supplements, choose a brand from a reliable manufacturer.
At least one-third of women over 50 in the United States suffer from osteoporosis, a bone-weakening disease that is caused in part by a calcium deﬁcit. The best defense against osteoporosis is a lifetime of exercising, drinking little or no alcohol, not smoking and eating calcium-rich foods. How effective calcium supplements are in overcoming bone loss in adults has not been established, but a diet that includes good calcium sources is always sound.
Add milk powder to gravies, soups, and casseroles. Drink skim milk and eat collard greens, Swiss and ricotta cheeses, and canned sardines and salmon with bones. These are among the best dietary sources of calcium.
Eat foods that are high in vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium. Fortiﬁed milk, milk products, and butter are good sources of added vitamin D (though butter should be limited since it is entirely fat).
Stir a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice into soups and stews made with bones, and squeeze lemon juice on broccoli and other calcium-rich vegetables. The acid draws out calcium and helps your body absorb it. This is very popular in Romania with two types of soups called ciorba and bors.
Include in your diet whole-grain foods, which contain a type of fiber that may guard against colon cancer. Fiber, which is the fibrous part of plants that cannot be digested, is good for you because it helps waste matter to move quickly through the digestive tract.
The fiber in such foods as oat bran, legumes, apples, and pears apparently can lower blood cholesterol levels. Experts disagree on whether high-fiber diets can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Consuming high-fiber fruits and vegetables, such as potatoes, peas, strawberries, apples, and pears, plus whole grains and legumes, helps you avoid constipation and various intestinal disorders.
Bypass fiber-poor white bread in favor of 100 percent whole wheat, rye, oat, cracked-wheat, or multigrain breads. If the label lists two or more grams of fiber per slice, you are getting a good source of fiber.
GREAT TASTE, NO CALORIES
Call it the world‘s oldest health drink. Water is essential for good health, good skin tone, and most of the body‘s functions. While the average person should drink eight glasses of water every 24 hrs, large or active people should drink more if they need it.
Drinking water could actually improve your health. People who drink too little water may be at risk of developing kidney stones. They may also suffer more often from headaches, fatigue, and lack of mental alertness. Continued under-hydration can put stress on the heart, as well as on the vascular and digestive systems.
Parents need to be sure that their newborns get enough liquids. Infants, who obviously cannot communicate thirst, can get dehydrated quickly. Seniors should make a habit of drinking water even if they aren’t thirsty. around age 65, the sense of thirst wanes, which could lead to under- hydration.
If you find it difficult to drink enough water, try to follow this schedule: Drink one glass when you ﬁrst wake up and another with breakfast. Have one when you arrive at the office, one with lunch, another for a mid-afternoon break, and glass with dinner. Drink one or two glasses of water when you exercise.
People who don‘t like the taste of their tap water or worry about their safety often turn to bottled water. If you drink bottled water, check the source to make sure it does not just tap water. If you‘re on a low-salt diet, choose bottled water carefully—some brands are high in sodium.
Drinking juice can be a healthy way to fill your eight glasses-a-day quotas. Many tomato juices are high in sodium, however, so read labels to ﬁnd the low-sodium brands.
The reason for buying organic foods is generally to avoid the pesticides used in commercial agriculture. To be sure the food is, in fact, organically grown, look for a “certified organic” label that list’s the name and address of the certifying organization.
Don’t expect organically grown food to last as long as other products. Organic foods tend to be more perishable than produce is grown for supermarkets, which is often chemically treated to retard spoilage and extend shelf life.
Be aware of that. U.S. government standards for permissible residue levels include hefty safety margins. This means that even foods that contain pesticides are likely to be safe to eat. However, it may be some time before the questions on safety issues are resolved once and for all.
WHAT IS A SERVING?
Many people wonder how they can possibly eat 2 servings of grain products a day or as many fruits and vegetables as the food pyramid indicate (shown below). But once you consider what a serving is, the problem disappears. A serving is half a cup of cooked or fresh vegetables, one cup of raw leafy greens, a medium-sized fruit, or three-quarters of a cup of fruit juice.
A grain serving is half a cup of cooked pasta or rice or a slice of bread. A large roll or bagel provides two or three-grain servings.
A grain serving is half a cup of cooked pasta or rice or a slice of bread. A large roll or bagel provides two or three-grain servings. A cup of milk or an eight-ounce carton of yogurt is a dairy serving.
Recognize that foods are seldom simple. A muffin counts as one or two servings of grain, but it may also be high in fat. So if you count calories, note not just the fat that went into the muffin but any calories you put on it, such as cream cheese or jelly.