Easy Tips for Planning a Healthy Diet and Sticking to It

Healthy eating tip 1: Set yourself up for success

To set yourself up for success, think about planning a healthy diet as a number of small, manageable steps rather than one big drastic change. If you approach the changes gradually and with commitment, you will have a healthy diet sooner than you think.

    Simplify. Instead of being overly concerned with counting calories or measuring portion sizes, think of your diet in terms of color, variety, and freshness. This way it should be easier to make healthy choices. Focus on finding foods you love and easy recipes that incorporate a few fresh ingredients. Gradually, your diet will become healthier and more delicious.
    Start slow and make changes to your eating habits over time. Trying to make your diet healthy overnight isn’t realistic or smart. Changing everything at once usually leads to cheating or giving up on your new eating plan. Make small steps, like adding a salad (full of different color vegetables) to your diet once a day or switching from butter to olive oil when cooking. As your small changes become habit, you can continue to add more healthy choices to your diet.
    Every change you make to improve your diet matters. You don’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to completely eliminate foods you enjoy to have a healthy diet. The long term goal is to feel good, have more energy, and reduce the risk of cancer and disease. Don’t let your missteps derail you—every healthy food choice you make counts. Think of water and exercise as food groups in your diet.
Healthy Eating Plane
Healthy Eating Plane


Water. Water helps flush our systems of waste products and toxins, yet many people go through life dehydrated—causing tiredness, low energy, and headaches. It’s common to mistake thirst for hunger, so staying well hydrated will also help you make healthier food choices.

Exercise. Find something active that you like to do and add it to your day, just like you would add healthy greens, blueberries, or salmon. The benefits of lifelong exercise are abundant and regular exercise may even motivate you to make healthy food choices a habit.

Healthy eating tip 2: Moderation is key

People often think of healthy eating as an all or nothing proposition, but a key foundation for any healthy diet is moderation. But what is moderation? In essence, it means eating only as much food as your body needs. You should feel satisfied at the end of a meal, but not stuffed. Moderation is also about balance. Despite what certain fad diets would have you believe, we all need a balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber, vitamins, and minerals to sustain a healthy body.

The goal of healthy eating is to develop a diet that you can maintain for life, not just a few weeks or months, or until you've hit your ideal weight. For most of us, that means eating less than we do now. More specifically, it means eating far less of the unhealthy stuff (refined sugar, saturated fat, for example) and replacing it with the healthy (such as fresh fruit and vegetables). But it doesn't mean eliminating the foods you love. Eating bacon for breakfast once a week, for example, could be considered moderation if you follow it with a healthy lunch and dinner—but not if you follow it with a box of donuts and a sausage pizza. If you eat 100 calories of chocolate one afternoon, balance it out by deducting 100 calories from your evening meal. If you're still hungry, fill up with an extra serving of fresh vegetables.

    Try not to think of certain foods as “off-limits.” When you ban certain foods or food groups, it is natural to want those foods more, and then feel like a failure if you give in to temptation. If you are drawn towards sweet, salty, or unhealthy foods, start by reducing portion sizes and not eating them as often. If the rest of your diet is healthy, eating a burger and fries once a week probably won’t have too much of a detrimental effect on your health. Eating junk food just once a month will have even less of an impact. As you reduce your intake of unhealthy foods, you may find yourself craving them less or thinking of them as only occasional indulgences.
    Think smaller portions. Serving sizes have ballooned recently, particularly in restaurants. When dining out, choose a starter instead of an entree, split a dish with a friend, and don't order supersized anything. At home, use smaller plates, think about serving sizes in realistic terms, and start small. If you don't feel satisfied at the end of a meal, try adding more leafy green vegetables or rounding off the meal with fresh fruit. Visual cues can help with portion sizes–your serving of meat, fish, or chicken should be the size of a deck of cards and half a cup of mashed potato, rice, or pasta is about the size of a traditional light bulb.

Healthy eating tip 3: It's not just what you eat, it's how you eat

Healthy eating is about more than the food on your plate—it is also about how you think about food. Healthy eating habits can be learned and it is important to slow down and think about food as nourishment rather than just something to gulp down in between meetings or on the way to pick up the kids.

    Eat with others whenever possible. Eating with other people has numerous social and emotional benefits—particularly for children—and allows you to model healthy eating habits. Eating in front of the TV or computer often leads to mindless overeating.
    Take time to chew your food and enjoy mealtimes. Chew your food slowly, savoring every bite. We tend to rush though our meals, forgetting to actually taste the flavors and feel the textures of our food. Reconnect with the joy of eating.
    Listen to your body. Ask yourself if you are really hungry, or have a glass of water to see if you are thirsty instead of hungry. During a meal, stop eating before you feel full. It actually takes a few minutes for your brain to tell your body that it has had enough food, so eat slowly.
    Eat breakfast, and eat smaller meals throughout the day. A healthy breakfast can jumpstart your metabolism, and eating small, healthy meals throughout the day (rather than the standard three large meals) keeps your energy up and your metabolism going.
    Avoid eating at night. Try to eat dinner earlier in the day and then fast for 14-16 hours until breakfast the next morning. Early studies suggest that this simple dietary adjustment—eating only when you’re most active and giving your digestive system a long break each day—may help to regulate weight. After-dinner snacks tend to be high in fat and calories so are best avoided, anyway.

Healthy eating tip 4: Fill up on colorful fruits and vegetables
Shop the perimeter of the grocery storeFruits and vegetables are the foundation of a healthy diet. They are low in calories and nutrient dense, which means they are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.

Try to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day and with every meal—the brighter the better. Colorful, deeply colored fruits and vegetables contain higher concentrations of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants—and different colors provide different benefits, so eat a variety. Aim for a minimum of five portions each day.

Some great choices include:

    Greens. Branch out beyond bright and dark green lettuce. Kale, mustard greens, broccoli, and Chinese cabbage are just a few of the options—all packed with calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E, and K.
    Sweet vegetables. Naturally sweet vegetables—such as corn, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, yams, onions, and squash—add healthy sweetness to your meals and reduce your cravings for other sweets.
    Fruit. Fruit is a tasty, satisfying way to fill up on fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. Berries are cancer-fighting, apples provide fiber, oranges and mangos offer vitamin C, and so on.

The importance of getting vitamins from food—not pills

The antioxidants and other nutrients in fruits and vegetables help protect against certain types of cancer and other diseases. And while advertisements abound for supplements promising to deliver the nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables in pill or powder form, research suggests that it’s just not the same.

A daily regimen of nutritional supplements is not going to have the same impact of eating right. That’s because the benefits of fruits and vegetables don’t come from a single vitamin or an isolated antioxidant.

The health benefits of fruits and vegetables come from numerous vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals working together synergistically. They can’t be broken down into the sum of their parts or replicated in pill form.

Healthy eating tip 5: Eat more healthy carbs and whole grains

Choose healthy carbohydrates and fiber sources, especially whole grains, for long lasting energy. In addition to being delicious and satisfying, whole grains are rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants, which help to protect against coronary heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes. Studies have shown people who eat more whole grains tend to have a healthier heart.
A quick definition of healthy carbs and unhealthy carbs

Healthy carbs (sometimes known as good carbs) include whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables. Healthy carbs are digested slowly, helping you feel full longer and keeping blood sugar and insulin levels stable.

Unhealthy carbs (or bad carbs) are foods such as white flour, refined sugar, and white rice that have been stripped of all bran, fiber, and nutrients. Unhealthy carbs digest quickly and cause spikes in blood sugar levels and energy.
Tips for eating more healthy carbs
Whole Grain Stamp

    Include a variety of whole grains in your healthy diet, including whole wheat, brown rice, millet, quinoa, and barley. Experiment with different grains to find your favorites.
    Make sure you're really getting whole grains. Be aware that the words stone-ground, multi-grain, 100% wheat, or bran can be deceptive. Look for the words “whole grain” or “100% whole wheat” at the beginning of the ingredient list. In the U.S., Canada, and some other countries, check for the Whole Grain Stamps that distinguish between partial whole grain and 100% whole grain.
    Try mixing grains as a first step to switching to whole grains. If whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat pasta don’t sound good at first, start by mixing what you normally use with the whole grains. You can gradually increase the whole grain to 100%.

Avoid: Refined foods such as breads, pastas, and breakfast cereals that are not whole grain.

Healthy eating tip 6: Enjoy healthy fats & avoid unhealthy fats
Good sources of healthy fat are needed to nourish your brain, heart, and cells, as well as your hair, skin, and nails. Foods rich in certain omega-3 fats called EPA and DHA are particularly important and can reduce cardiovascular disease, improve your mood, and help prevent dementia.
Add to your healthy diet:

    Monounsaturated fats, from plant oils like canola oil, peanut oil, and olive oil, as well as avocados, nuts (like almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans), and seeds (such as pumpkin, sesame).
    Polyunsaturated fats, including Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, found in fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and some cold water fish oil supplements. Other sources of polyunsaturated fats are unheated sunflower, corn, soybean, flaxseed oils, and walnuts.

Reduce or eliminate from your diet:

    Saturated fats, found primarily in animal sources including red meat and whole milk dairy products.
    Trans fats, found in vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, candies, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods, and other processed foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.

What is a healthy daily limit for saturated fat and trans fat?

Experts recommend you limit the amount of saturated fats you eat to less than 7 percent of total daily calories. That means, for example, if you need about 2,000 calories a day, no more than 140 of them should come from saturated fats. That’s about 16 grams of saturated fat a day.

No more than 20 of those calories should come from trans fat. That’s less than 2 grams of trans fat a day. Given the amount of naturally occurring trans fat you probably eat every day, this leaves virtually no room at all for industrially manufactured trans fat.

Source: American Heart Association

Healthy eating tip 7: Put protein in perspective

Protein gives us the energy to get up and go—and keep going. Protein in food is broken down into the 20 amino acids that are the body’s basic building blocks for growth and energy, and essential for maintaining cells, tissues, and organs. While too much protein can be harmful to people with kidney disease, the latest research suggests that most of us need more high-quality protein than the current dietary recommendations. It also suggests that we need more protein as we age to maintain physical function.
How much protein do you need?

Protein needs are based on weight rather than calorie intake.  Adults should eat at least 0.8g of protein per kilogram (2.2lb) of body weight per day. A higher intake may help to lower your risk for obesity, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, and stroke.

    Older adults should aim for 1 to 1.5 grams of protein for each kilogram of weight. This translates to 68 to 102g of protein per day for a person weighing 150 lbs.
    Divide your protein intake among meals but aim for 25 to 40g of high-quality protein per meal; less than 15g won’t benefit bone or muscle.
    Get plenty of calcium (1,000 to 1,200 mg per day).

Source: Environmental Nutrition

Think of water and exercise as food groups in your diet.

Water. Water helps flush our systems of waste products and toxins, yet many people go through life dehydrated—causing tiredness, low energy, and headaches. It’s common to mistake thirst for hunger, so staying well hydrated will also help you make healthier food choices.

Exercise. Find something active that you like to do and add it to your day, just like you would add healthy greens, blueberries, or salmon. The benefits of lifelong exercise are abundant and regular exercise may even motivate you to make healthy food choices a habit.

The following is a sampling of high-protein foods—some may not be healthy to eat in anything but moderation. Most red meat is very high in fat, as are whole-milk cheeses and the skin on chicken or turkey. In the U.S., non-organic meat and poultry may also contain antibiotics and hormones.
Aim for sufficient protein intake at each meal—including breakfast—in the leanest and healthiest form.
Food Serving size Protein
grams
Sat. fat (g)
Calories
FISH
Canned tuna 3.5 oz (100g) 19
0.2
 
86
Salmon 3.5 oz (100g) 21
0.8
130
Halibut 3.5 oz (100g) 23
0.4
111
Fresh tuna 3.5 oz (100g) 30
1.6
184
POULTRY (skinless)
Turkey breast 3.5 oz (100g) 31
0.6
147
Chicken breast 3.5 oz (100g) 31
1
165
Chicken thigh 3.5 oz (100g) 25
2.3
179
Chicken leg 3.5 oz (100g) 24
2.1
174
MEAT
Pork chops 1 chop (145g) 39
5
286
Skirt steak 3.5 oz (100g) 27
4
205
Ground beef (70% lean) 3.5 oz (100g) 14
11
332
Leg of lamb 3.5 oz (100g) 26
6.9
258
Cured ham 3.5 oz (100g) 23
9
178
LEGUMES
Soy beans 1/3 cup (100g) 17
1.3
173
Kidney beans 1/3 cup (100g) 10
0
123
Black beans 1/3 cup (100g) 9
0.1
132
Baked beans (canned) 1/3 cup (100g) 5
0
94
Peas 1/3 cup (100g) 8
0
118
MILK & EGGS
Skim milk 1/2 cup (100g) 3.4
0
34
Soy milk 1/2 cup (100g) 3.3
0.2
54
Eggs 2 boiled (100g) 13
3.3
155
Egg white 3 eggs (100g) 11
0
52
CHEESE
Non-fat mozzarella 3.5 oz (100g) 32
0
141
Non-fat cottage cheese 3.5 oz (100g) 10
0
72
Low-fat cheddar 3.5 oz (100g) 24
4.3
173
Low-fat Swiss cheese 3.5 oz (100g) 28
3.3
179
NUTS & SEEDS
Peanuts 1/4 cup (28g) 7
2
164
Almonds 1/4 cup (28g) 6
1
167
Pistachios 1/4 cup (28g) 6
1
159
Sunflower seeds 1/4 cup (28g) 6
2
166
Flaxseed 1/4 cup (28g) 5
1
150
OTHER PROTEIN OPTIONS
Veggie burger 1 patty (100g) 23
2
219
Tofu 3.5 oz (100g) 7
0.3
55
High-protein cereal 1 cup (50g) 13
1
160
Greek yogurt (non-fat) 1/2 cup (100g) 10
0
59
Whey protein powder 1/3 cup (32g) 19
0.2
120
* Nutrition values are approximate only; significant variations occur according to brand, cut of meat, cooking method, etc.

Healthy eating tip 8: Add calcium for strong bones

Calcium is one of the key nutrients that your body needs in order to stay strong and healthy. It is an essential building block for lifelong bone health in both men and women, as well as many other important functions.
You and your bones will benefit from eating plenty of calcium-rich foods, limiting foods that deplete your body’s calcium stores, and getting your daily dose of magnesium and vitamins D and K—nutrients that help calcium do its job.
Recommended calcium levels are 1000 mg per day, 1200 mg if you are over 50 years old. Try to get as much of your daily calcium needs from food as possible and use only low-dose calcium supplements to make up any shortfall.

Good sources of calcium include:

  • Dairy: Dairy products are rich in calcium in a form that is easily digested and absorbed by the body. Sources include milk, yogurt, and cheese.
  • Vegetables and greens: Many vegetables, especially leafy green ones, are rich sources of calcium. Try turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens, kale, romaine lettuce, celery, broccoli, fennel, cabbage, summer squash, green beans, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and crimini mushrooms.
  • Beans: For another rich source of calcium, try black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, white beans, black-eyed peas, or baked beans.

Healthy eating tip 9: Limit sugar and salt

If you succeed in planning your diet around fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and good fats, you may find yourself naturally cutting back on foods that can get in the way of your healthy diet—sugar and salt.

Sugar

Sugar causes energy ups and downs and can add to health and weight problems. Unfortunately, reducing the amount of candy, cakes, and desserts we eat is only part of the solution. Often you may not even be aware of the amount of sugar you’re consuming each day. Large amounts of added sugar can be hidden in foods such as bread, canned soups and vegetables, pasta sauce, margarine, instant mashed potatoes, frozen dinners, fast food, soy sauce, and ketchup. Here are some tips:
  • Avoid sugary drinks. One 12-oz soda has about 10 teaspoons of sugar in it, more than the daily recommended limit! Try sparkling water with lemon or a splash of fruit juice.
  • Sweeten foods yourself. Buy unsweetened iced tea, plain yogurt, or unflavored oatmeal, for example, and add sweetener (or fruit) yourself. You’re likely to add far less sweetener than the manufacturer would have.
  • Eat naturally sweet food such as fruit, peppers, or natural peanut butter to satisfy your sweet tooth. Keep these foods handy instead of candy or cookies.

How sugar is hidden on food labels

Check food labels carefully. Sugar is often disguised using terms such as:
  • cane sugar or maple syrup
  • corn sweetener or corn syrup
  • honey or molasses
  • brown rice syrup
  • crystallized or evaporated cane juice
  • fruit juice concentrates, such as apple or pear
  • maltodextrin (or dextrin)
  • Dextrose, Fructose, Glucose, Maltose, or Sucrose

Salt

Most of us consume too much salt in our diets. Eating too much salt can cause high blood pressure and lead to other health problems. Try to limit sodium intake to 1,500 to 2,300 mg per day, the equivalent of one teaspoon of salt.
  • Avoid processed or pre-packaged foods. Processed foods like canned soups or frozen dinners contain hidden sodium that quickly surpasses the recommended limit.
  • Be careful when eating out. Most restaurant and fast food meals are loaded with sodium. Some offer lower-sodium choices or you can ask for your meal to be made without salt. Most gravy and sauces are loaded with salt, so ask for it to be served on the side.
  • Opt for fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned vegetables.
  • Cut back on salty snacks such as potato chips, nuts, and pretzels.
  • Check labels and choose low-salt or reduced-sodium products, including breakfast cereals.
  • Slowly reduce the salt in your diet to give your taste buds time to adjust.

Healthy eating tip 10: Bulk up on fiber

Eating foods high in dietary fiber can help you stay regular, lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, and help you lose weight. Depending on your age and gender, nutrition experts recommend you eat at least 21 to 38 grams of fiber per day for optimal health. Many of us aren't eating half that amount.
  • In general, the more natural and unprocessed the food, the higher it is in fiber.
  • Good sources of fiber include whole grains, wheat cereals, barley, oatmeal, beans, nuts, vegetables such as carrots, celery, and tomatoes, and fruits such as apples, berries, citrus fruits, and pears—more good reasons to add more fruit and vegetables to your diet.
  • There is no fiber in meat, dairy, or sugar. Refined or “white” foods, such as white bread, white rice, and pastries, have had all or most of their fiber removed.
  • An easy way to add more fiber to your diet is to start your day with a whole grain cereal, such as Fiber-One or All-Bran, or by adding unprocessed wheat bran to your favorite cereal.

How fiber can help you lose weight

Since fiber stays in the stomach longer than other foods, the feeling of fullness will stay with you much longer, helping you eat less. Eating plenty of fiber can also move fat through your digestive system at a faster rate so that less of it can be absorbed. And when you fill up on high-fiber foods, you'll also have more energy for exercising.
To learn more, read: Fiber: The Essential Guide

17 Health Benefits of Cayenne Pepper

Many societies, especially those of the Americas and China, have a history of using cayenne pepper therapeutically. A powerful compound with many uses, cayenne pepper is currently gaining buzz for cleansing and detoxifying regimes such as the Master Cleanse, which uses the spice to stimulate circulation and neutralize acidity.
Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper has been used for a variety of ailments including heartburn, delirium, tremors, gout, paralysis, fever, dyspepsia, flatulence, sore throat, atonic dyspepsia, hemorrhoids, menorrhagia in women, nausea, tonsillitis, scarlet fever and diphtheria.
The Health Benefits of Cayenne Pepper
1. Anti-Irritant Properties

Cayenne has the ability to ease upset stomach, ulcers, sore throats, spasmodic and irritating coughs, and diarrhea.


2. Anti-Cold and Flu Agent

Cayenne pepper aids in breaking up and moving congested mucus. Once mucus begins to leave the body, relief from flu symptoms generally follows.
3. Anti-Fungal Properties

The results of one study indicated that cayenne pepper could effectively prevent the formation of the fungal pathogens phomopsis and collectotrichum
4. Migraine Headache Prevention

This may be related to the pepper’s ability to stimulate a pain response in a different area of the body, thus reverting the brain’s attention to the new site. Following this initial pain reaction, the nerve fibers have a depleted substance P (the nerve’s pain chemical), and the perception of pain is lessened.
5. Anti-Allergen

Cayenne is an anti- agent and may even help relieve allergies.


6. Digestive Aid

Cayenne is a well-known digestive aid. It stimulates the digestive tract, increasing the flow of enzyme production and gastric juices. This aids the body’s ability to metabolize food (and toxins). Cayenne pepper is also helpful for relieving intestinal gas. It stimulates intestinal peristaltic motion, aiding in both assimilation and elimination.
7. Anti-Redness Properties

Cayenne’s properties makes it a great herb for many chronic and degenerative conditions.
8. Helps Produce Saliva

Cayenne stimulates the production of saliva, an important key to excellent digestion and maintaining optimal oral health.
9. Useful for Blood Clots

Cayenne pepper also helps reduce atherosclerosis, encourages fibrinolytic activity and prevents factors that lead to the formation of blood clots, all of which can help reduce the chances of a heart attack or stroke.
10. Detox Support
Cayenne is a known circulatory stimulant. It also increases the pulse of our lymphatic and digestive rhythms. By heating the body, the natural process of detoxification is streamlined. Cayenne also causes us to sweat, another important process of detoxification. Combined with lemon juice and honey, cayenne tea is an excellent morning beverage for total body detox.
11. Joint-Pain Reliever

Extremely high in a substance called capsaicin, cayenne pepper acts to cause temporary pain on the skin, which sends chemical messengers from the skin into the joint, offering relief for joint pain.
12. Anti-Bacterial Properties

Cayenne is an excellent preservative and has been used traditionally to prevent food contamination from bacteria.
13. Possible Anti-Cancer Agent

Studies done at the Loma Linda University in California found that cayenne pepper may help prevent lung cancer in smokers. This may be again related to cayenne’s high quantity of capsaicin, a substance that might help stop the formation of tobacco-induced lung tumors. Other studies have also shown a similar reaction in cayenne’s resistance to liver tumors.
14. Supports Weight Loss

Scientists at the Laval University in Quebec found that participants who took cayenne pepper for breakfast were found to have less appetite, leading to less caloric intake throughout the day. Cayenne is also a great metabolic-booster, aiding the body in burning excess amounts of fats.
15. Promotes Heart-Health

Cayenne helps to keep blood pressure levels normalized. It also balances the body of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
16. Remedy for Toothache

Cayenne is an excellent agent against tooth and gum diseases.
17. Topical Remedy

As a poultice, cayenne has been used to treat snake bites, rheumatism, sores, wounds and lumbago.

- Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
References:

    P.C. Agarwal, Usha Dev, Baleshwar Singh, Indra Rani, Dinesh Chand, R.K. Khetarpal. Seed-borne fungi identified from exotic pepper (Capsicum spp.) germplasm samples introduced during 1976–2005. PGR Newsletter – Bioversity. issue. 149, pp.39-42.
    Urashima M, Segawa T, Okazaki M, Kurihara M, Wada Y, Ida H. Randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation to prevent seasonal influenza A in schoolchildren. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 May;91(5):1255-60. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.29094. Epub 2010 Mar 10.

Source: globalhealingcenter.com


Most of The Human Studies Show Health Benefits

Multiple observational studies have shown that people who eat more fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of many diseases.
Many of the studies pool together fruits and vegetables, while some look at fruits directly.
One review of 9 studies found that the risk of heart disease reduced by 7% for each daily portion of fruit.
A study on 9,665 adults in the U.S. found that fruit and vegetable intake was associated with a 46% lower risk of diabetes in women, but there was no difference in men.
One study that looked at fruits and vegetables separately found that vegetables were associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer, but not fruit.
Show Health Benefits
Show Health Benefits
There are many other studies showing that fruit and vegetable consumption is associated with a lower risk of heart attacks and stroke, the two most common causes of death in Western countries.
One study looked at how different types of fruit affect the risk of type II diabetes. Those who consumed the most grapes, apples and blueberries had the lowest risk, with blueberries having the strongest effect.
However, a problem with these types of studies is that they can not separate correlation from causation… that is, that the fruit caused the lower risk of the disease.
Because everyone “knows” that fruits are healthy, people who eat more of them are going to be more health conscious overall and less likely to smoke, more likely to exercise, etc.
That being said, there are also a few randomized controlled trials (real human experiments) showing that increased fruit intake can lower blood pressure, reduce oxidative stress and improve glycemic control in diabetics.Overall, it seems clear from the data that fruits do have significant health benefits.

Bottom Line: There are many studies showing that fruit intake is associated with a lower risk of serious diseases like heart disease, stroke and type II diabetes.

Is Fruit Good or Bad For Your Health? The Sweet Truth
“Eat more fruits and vegetables.”

If I had a dime for every time I heard that recommendation, I’d be a rich man today.Everyone knows that fruits are healthy… they are the default “health foods.”They come from plants… they’re real, whole foods and humans have been eating them for a long time.Most of them are also very convenient… some people call them “nature’s fast food” because they are so easily portable and easy to prepare.On the surface, they seem like the perfect food.However… many people have challenged the belief about the health effects of fruit in the past few years.The main reason is that fruit is relatively high in sugar compared to other whole foods.

“Sugar” is Bad… But it Depends on The Context

There is a lot of evidence that added sugar is harmful 
This includes table sugar (sucrose) and high fructose corn syrup, which are both about half glucose, half fructose.
The main reason they are harmful, is because of the negative metabolic effects of fructose when consumed in large amounts.
I’m not going to get into the details, but you can read more about the harmful effects of added sugars here.
Many people now believe that because added sugars are bad, the same must apply to fruits, which also contain fructose.
However… this is completely wrong, because fructose is only harmful in large amounts and it is almost impossible to overeat fructose by eating fruit.
Bottom Line: There is a lot of evidence that large amounts of fructose can cause harm when consumed in excess. However, this depends on the dosage and context and does not apply to fruit.

Fruit Also Has Fiber, Water and Significant Chewing Resistance

Eating whole fruit, it is almost impossible to consume enough fructose to cause harm.

Fruits are loaded with fiber, water and have significant chewing resistance.

For this reason, most fruits (like apples) take a while to eat and digest, meaning that the fructose hits the liver slowly.

Plus, fruit is incredibly fulfilling. Most people will feel satisfied after one large apple, which contains 23 grams of sugar, 13 of which are fructose.

Compare that to a 16oz bottle of Coke… which contains 52 grams of sugar, 30 of which are fructose .

A single apple would make you feel quite full, automatically making you eat less of other foods. However, a bottle of soda has remarkably poor effects on satiety and people don’t compensate for the sugar in sodas by eating less of other foods .

When fructose hits your liver fast and in large amounts (soda and a candy bar) then that can have disastrous consequences… but when it hits your liver slowly and in small amounts (an apple) then your body can easily take care of the fructose.

Also, let’s not forget the evolutionary argument… humans and pre-humans have been eating fruit for millions of years. The human body is well adapted to the small amounts of fructose found in nature.

Whereas large amounts of added sugar are harmful to most people, the same can NOT be said for fruit. Period.

Bottom Line: Whole fruits contain a relatively small amount of fructose and they take a while to chew and digest. Humans can easily tolerate the small amounts of fructose found in fruit.

Fruits Contain Lots of Fiber, Vitamins, Minerals and Antioxidants


Of course, fruits are more than just watery bags of fructose.
There are lots of nutrients in them that are important for health. This includes fiber, vitamins, minerals, as well as a plethora of antioxidants and phytonutrients.

Fiber, especially soluble fiber, has many benefits. This includes reduced cholesterol levels, slowed absorption of carbohydrates and increased satiety. Plus there are many studies showing that soluble fiber can contribute to weight loss (7, 8, 9, 10).
Fruits tend to be high in several vitamins and minerals… especially Vitamin C, Potassium and Folate, which many people don’t get enough of.
Of course, “fruit” is an entire food group. There are dozens (or hundreds) of different fruits found in nature and the nutrient composition can vary greatly between the different types of fruit.
It makes sense that if you want to maximize the health effects, then focus on the fruit with the greatest amount of fiber, vitamins and minerals compared to the sugar and calorie content.
It is also a good idea to switch things up and eat a variety of fruits, because different fruits contain different nutrients.
Bottom Line: Fruits contain large amounts of important nutrients, including fiber, vitamins, minerals and various antioxidants and phytonutrients.

Eating Fruit Can Help You Lose Weight



One thing that is often forgotten when discussing the sugar and carb content of fruit… they are also incredibly fulfilling!
Because of the fiber, the water and all the chewing, fruits are very satiating, calorie for calorie.
The satiety index is a measure of how much different foods contribute to satiety.
Fruits like apples and oranges are among the highest scoring foods tested, even more satiating than beef and eggs (19).
What this means, is that if you increase your intake of apples or oranges, chances are that you will feel so full that you will automatically eat less of other foods.
There is also one interesting study that demonstrates how fruits can contribute to weight loss (20).
In this study, 9 men were placed on a diet that consisted of nothing but fruit (82% of calories) and nuts (18% of calories) for 6 months.
Not surprisingly, the men lost significant amounts of weight. The men who were overweight lost more than those who were at a normal weight.
Overall, given the strong effects fruits can have on satiety, it seems perfectly logical that replacing other foods (especially junk foods) with fruit could help people lose weight over the long term.

Bottom Line: Fruits like apples and oranges are among the most fulfilling foods you can eat. Eating more of them should lead to an automatic reduction in calorie intake.

When Fruit Should be Avoided

Even though fruit is healthy for most people, there are some reasons I can think of not to eat them.
One obvious reason is some sort of intolerance. For example, eating fruit can cause digestive symptoms in people with fructose intolerance.
The other reason is being on a very low-carb / ketogenic diet. The main goal of these diets is to reduce carbohydrates sufficiently for the brain to start using mostly ketone bodies instead of glucose for fuel.
For this to happen, it is necessary to restrict carbs to under 50 grams per day, sometimes all the way down to 20-30 grams.
Given that just a single piece of fruit can contain more than 20 grams of carbs, it is obvious that fruits are inappropriate for such a diet. Even just one piece of fruit per day could easily knock someone out of ketosis.

Bottom Line: The main reasons to avoid fruit include some sort of intolerance, or being on a very low-carb / ketogenic diet.

Fruit Juices and Dried Fruits Are Always a Bad Idea

Even though whole fruits are very healthy for most people, the same can NOT be said for fruit juices and dried fruit.
Many of the fruit juices on the market aren’t even “real” fruit juices. They consist of water, mixed with some sort of concentrate and a whole bunch of added sugar.
But even if you get 100% real fruit juice, it is still a bad idea.
There is actually a lot of sugar in fruit juice, about as much as a sugar-sweetened beverage.
However, there is no fiber and chewing resistance to slow down consumption, making it very easy to consume a large amount of sugar in a short period of time.
Dried fruits (like raisins) can be a problem as well. They are very high in sugar and it is easy to consume large amounts.
Smoothies are somewhere in the middle. If you put the whole fruit in the blender, then it’s much better than drinking fruit juice, but not as good as eating whole fruit.

For 90 Something Percent of People, Fruit is Super Healthy

If you can tolerate fruit and you’re not on a low-carb/ketogenic diet, then by all means eat fruit… preferably as parts of a healthy, real food based diet that includes animals and plants.
At the end of the day, fruits are “real” foods. They are highly nutritious and so fulfilling that eating them can help you feel more satisfied with less food.
The majority of people would see great health benefits by replacing some of the crap they are eating with fruit.

An Important Message about Bell Peppers

Bell Peppers are Our Food of the Week
This week we celebrate bell peppers while they are in the peak of their season, have the best flavor and are the least expensive. Few other vegetables can add such a wonderful splash of color to your Healthiest Way of Eating table. The green, red, yellow, purple and black colors reflect the rich source of health-promoting phytonutrients found in bell peppers, which provide powerful antioxidant protection against free radicals.
bellpeppers
Bell Peppers
  • More About Bell Peppers From Our Newsletter
  • Learn how to prepare bell peppers, step-by-step, Diced Bell Peppers
  • Why is the food of the week among the WHFoods?
  • Healthy Eating with the Seasons

An Important Message About Bell Peppers

We have placed nightshade vegetables (such as bell peppers) on our "10 Most Controversial WHFoods List." This list was created to let you know that even though some foods (like bell peppers) can make an outstanding contribution to your meal plan, they are definitely not for everyone. Nightshade vegetables can be difficult to find in high-quality form; can be more commonly associated with adverse reactions than other foods; and can present more challenges to our food supply in terms of sustainability.

About Bell Peppers

A wonderful combination of tangy taste and crunchy texture, sweet bell peppers are the Christmas ornaments of the vegetable world with their beautifully shaped glossy exterior that comes in a wide array of vivid colors ranging from green, red, yellow, orange, purple, brown to black. Despite their varied palette, all are the same plant, known scientifically as Capsicum annuum. They are members of the nightshade family, which also includes potatoes, tomatoes and eggplant. Sweet peppers are plump, bell-shaped vegetables featuring either three or four lobes. Green and purple peppers have a slightly bitter flavor, while the red, orange and yellows are sweeter and almost fruity. Paprika can be prepared from red bell peppers (as well as from chili peppers). Bell peppers are not 'hot'. The primary substance that controls "hotness" in peppers is called capsaicin, and it's found in very small amounts in bell peppers. Although peppers are available throughout the year, they are most abundant and tasty during the summer and early fall months.

What's New and Beneficial about Bell Peppers

  • Bell pepper is not only an excellent source of carotenoids, but also a source of over 30 different members of the carotenoid nutrient family. A recent study from Spain took a close look vitamin C, vitamin E, and six of these carotenoids (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, cryptoxanthin and zeaxanthin) in all commonly eaten foods and found that only two vegetables contained at least two-thirds of all the listed nutrients. One of these foods was tomato, and the other was sweet bell pepper! Bell pepper alone provided 12% of the total zeaxanthin found in the participants' diets. (Bell pepper also provided 7% of the participants' total vitamin C intake.)
  • If you want to maximize the availability of vitamin C and carotenoids from bell pepper, allow this amazing vegetable to ripen. Recent studies have shown that the vitamin C content and the carotenoid content of bell pepper both increase with ripening. When the vitamin C and carotenoid content of bell peppers increases, so does their total antioxidant capacity, which can be a source of great health benefits. Growers can allow bell peppers to ripen on the plant prior to harvest (which means that you will be able to purchase them in the grocery store in a ripened state). Or, if harvested early in the ripening stage, bell peppers can still be allowed to ripen post-harvest and after you've purchased them and brought them home from the market. In one recent study, the vitamin C in not-fully-ripe bell peppers continued to increase during home storage over a period of about 10 days. It can, though, be difficult to tell whether a bell pepper is optimally ripe. Most--but not all--green bell peppers will turn red in color over time, but they may be optimally ripe before shifting over from green to red. A good rule of thumb is to judge less by their basic color and more by their color quality as well as overall texture and feel. Whether green, red, yellow, or orange, optimally ripe bell peppers will have deep, vivid colors, feel heavy for their size, and be firm enough to yield only slightly to pressure.
  • Higher heat cooking can damage some of the delicate phytonutrients in bell peppers. In one recent study from Turkey, the effects of grilling on sweet green bell peppers were studied with respect to one particular phytonutrient--the flavonoid called luteolin. Prior to grilling, the bell peppers were found to contain about 46 milligrams/kilogram of this important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory flavonoid. After grilling for 7-8 minutes at a temperature of 150°C (302°F), about 40% of the luteolin was found to be destroyed. This loss of luteolin from higher heat cooking is one of the reasons we like cooking methods for bell peppers that use lower heat for a very short period of time.
  • Although we tend to think about cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or allium vegetables like onions and garlic as vegetables that are richest in sulfur-containing compounds, bell peppers can also be valuable sources of health-supportive sulfur compounds. Several recent studies have taken a close look at the presence of enzymes in bell peppers called cysteine S-conjugate beta-lyases and their role in a sulfur-containing metabolic pathway called the thiomethyl shunt. These enzymes and this pathway may be involved in some of the anti-cancer benefits that bell pepper has shown in some animal and lab studies. They may serve as the basis for some of the anti-cancer benefits shown by green, yellow, red and orange vegetable intake in recent studies, including a recent study on risk reduction for gastric cancer and esophageal cancer.

Bell Peppers, sliced, red, raw
1.00 cup
(92.00 grams)
Calories: 29
GI: very low

NutrientDRI/DV

 vitamin C156.6%

 vitamin A16%

 vitamin B615.8%

 folate10.5%

 molybdenum10.2%

 vitamin E9.6%

 fiber7.4%

 vitamin B26.1%

 pantothenic acid5.7%

 vitamin B35.6%

 potassium5.5%

 vitamin K5%

 manganese5%

 vitamin B14.1%

 phosphorus3.4%

 magnesium2.7%


This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Bell peppers provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by Bell peppers can be found in the Food Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Bell peppers, featuring information

What's New and Beneficial about Carrots

Although carrots are available throughout the year, locally grown carrots are in season in the summer and fall when they are the freshest and most flavorful. Carrots belong to the Umbelliferae family, named after the umbrella-like flower clusters that plants in this family produce. As such, carrots are related to parsnips, fennel, parsley, anise, caraway, cumin and dill. Carrots can be as small as two inches or as long as three feet, ranging in diameter from one-half of an inch to over two inches. Carrot roots have a crunchy texture and a sweet and minty aromatic taste, while the greens are fresh tasting and slightly bitter. While we usually associate carrots with the color orange, carrots can actually be found in a host of other colors including white, yellow, red, or purple. In fact, purple, yellow and red carrots were the only color varieties of carrots to be cultivated before the 15th or 16th century.

What's New and Beneficial about Carrots

carrot
Carrots
  • We are fortunate to have the results of a new 10-year study from the Netherlands about carrot intake and risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD)—and those results are fascinating. Intake of fruits and vegetables in the study was categorized by color and focused on four color categories: green, orange/yellow, red/purple, and white. Out of these four categories, orange/yellow (and in particular, foods with deeper shades of orange and yellow) emerged as most protective against CVD. And even more striking, carrots were determined to be the most prominent member of this dark orange/yellow food category. Participants who had the least carrot intake had the least amount of CVD risk reduction, even though they still received risk-reducing benefits from their carrot intake. However, participants who ate at least 25 more grams of carrots (with 25 grams being less than one-quarter of a cup) had a significantly lower risk of CVD. And the groups of participants who ate 50- or 75-grams more had an even more greatly reduced risk of CVD! We're not sure how any study could better demonstrate how easy it can be to lower disease risk by making a food like carrot part of the everyday diet in such achievable amounts.
  • Much of the research on carrots has traditionally focused on carotenoids and their important antioxidant benefits. After all, carrots (along with pumpkin and spinach) rank high on the list of all commonly-consumed U.S. antioxidant vegetables in terms of their beta-carotene content. But recent research has turned the health spotlight onto another category of phytonutrients in carrots called polyacetylenes. In carrots, the most important polyacetylenes include falcarinol and falcarindiol. Several recent studies have identified these carrot polyacetylenes as phytonutrients that can help inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells, especially when these polyacetylenes are found in their reduced (versus oxidized) form. These new findings are exciting because they suggest a key interaction between the carotenoids and polyacetylenes in carrots. Apparently, the rich carotenoid content of carrots not only helps prevent oxidative damage inside our body, but it may also help prevent oxidative damage to the carrot polyacetylenes. In other words, these two amazing groups of phytonutrients in carrots may work together in a synergistic way to maximize our health benefits!
  • Even people who usually boil carrots have discovered that they taste better steamed! In a recent study examining different methods for cooking vegetables, study participants were asked to evaluate the flavor and overall acceptability of the results. In comparison to boiling, participants in the study significantly favored the flavor and overall acceptability of steamed carrots to boiled carrots. This preference was also expressed by participants who had always boiled carrots in their previous kitchen practices.
  • Not surprisingly, research on the carotenoids in carrots has become fairly sophisticated and we now know that it's especially important to protect one specific form of beta-carotene found in carrots called the (all-E)-beta-carotene isomer. That form of beta-carotene appears to have better bioavailability and antioxidant capacity than another beta-carotene form called the Z (cis) isomer form. With this new knowledge of beta-carotene specifics, researchers in Victoria, Australia wondered about the stability of (all-E)-beta-carotene under proper storage conditions. What they found was excellent retention of (all-E)-beta-carotene under the right storage conditions. Over several weeks period of time at refrigerator temperatures and with good humidity (as might be provided, for example by the wrapping of carrots in damp paper and placement in an air-tight container), there was very good retention of the carrots' (all-e)-beta-carotene. While we always like the idea of vegetable consumption in

Blueberries

Blueberries
In terms of U.S. fruit consumption, blueberries rank only second to strawberries in popularity of berries. Blueberries are not only popular, but also repeatedly ranked in the U.S. diet as having one of the highest antioxidant capacities among all fruits, vegetables, spices and seasonings. Antioxidants are essential to optimizing health by helping to combat the free radicals that can damage cellular structures as well as DNA. We recommend enjoying raw blueberries — rather than relying upon blueberries incorporated into baked desserts — because, like other fruits, raw blueberries provide you with the best flavor and the greatest nutritional benefits.
As one of the few fruits native to North America, blueberries have been enjoyed by Native Americans for hundreds of years. They have also enjoyed great popularity around the world in cuisines from Asia to the Mediterranean. For more on the Healthiest Way of Preparing Blueberries, see below. 

What's New and Beneficial About Blueberries


blueberries
Blueberries
  • After many years of research on blueberry antioxidants and their potential benefits for the nervous system and for brain health, there is exciting new evidence that blueberries can improve memory. In a study involving older adults (with an average age of 76 years), 12 weeks of daily blueberry consumption was enough to improve scores on two different tests of cognitive function including memory. While participants in the study consumed blueberries in the form of juice, three-quarters of a pound of blueberries were used to make each cup of juice. As participants consumed between 2 to 2-1/2 cups each day, the participants actually received a very plentiful amount of berries. The authors of this study were encouraged by the results and suggested that blueberries might turn out to be beneficial not only for improvement of memory, but for slowing down or postponing the onset of other cognitive problems frequently associated with aging.
  • New studies make it clear that we can freeze blueberries without doing damage to their delicate anthocyanin antioxidants. There's no question about the delicate nature of many antioxidant nutrients found in blueberries. These antioxidants include many different types of anthocyanins, the colorful pigments that give many foods their wonderful shades of blue, purple, and red. After freezing blueberries at temperatures of 0°F (-17°C) or lower for periods of time between 3-6 months, researchers have discovered no significant lowering of overall antioxidant capacity or anthocyanin concentrations. Anthocyanins studied have included malvidins, delphinidins, pelargonidins, cyanidins, and peonidins. These findings are great news for anyone who grows, buys, or picks fresh berries in season and wants to enjoy them year round. They are also great news for anyone who has restricted access to fresh blueberries but can find them in the freezer section of the market.
  • Berries in general are considered low in terms of their glycemic index (GI). GI is a common way of identifying the potential impact of a food on our blood sugar level once we've consumed and digested that food. In general, foods with a GI of 50 or below are considered "low" in terms of their glycemic index value. When compared to other berries, blueberries are not particularly low in terms of their GI. Studies show the GI for blueberries as falling somewhere in the range of 40-53, with berries like blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries repeatedly scoring closer to 30 than to 40. However, a recent study that included blueberries as a low-GI fruit has found that blueberries, along with other berries, clearly have a favorable impact on blood sugar regulation in persons already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Participants in the study who consumed at last 3 servings of low-GI fruits per day (including blueberries) saw significant improvement in their regulation of blood sugar over a three-month period of time. (Their blood levels of glycosylated hemoglobin, or HgA1C were used as the standard of measurement in this study.) It's great to see blueberries providing these clear health benefits for blood sugar regulation!
  • If you want to maximize your antioxidant benefits from

Vegetarian Diet

Vegetarian Diet

Introduction

The term "vegetarian" is used to describe any diet that emphasizes the consumption of plant foods and discourages the consumption of animal foods. In its most restrictive form, a vegetarian diet excludes all animal foods, including animal flesh, dairy products and eggs. Vegan, macrobiotic, and fruitarian diets fall into this category. Less restrictive forms include the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet (includes dairy products and eggs) and the lacto-vegetarian diet (includes dairy products). The popularity of vegetarianism is on the rise in the United States, and converts cite personal health, spiritual and religious beliefs, concern about animal welfare, and distress about the economic and environmental consequences of a meat-based diet as reasons for adopting a plant-based diet. This movement towards vegetarianism is consistent with a growing body of research that touts the health benefits of plant-based diets including lower rates of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and heart disease. When carefully planned and well-balanced, vegetarian diets provide sufficent amounts of all essential nutrients. However, because infants, children, adolescents, and pregnant and lactating women have increased caloric and nutrient needs, care must be taken to include a variety of foods from all food groups (fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and, for those vegetarians who consume them, eggs and/or dairy products) to ensure that nutritional needs are met.
vegetarian diet
Vegetarian diet


History

Throughout human history, advocates of vegetarianism have employed moral and spiritual arguments to express their disdain for eating the flesh of animals. Ancient writers such as Ovid and Plutarch deplored the killing of innocent creatures for food. Plutarch stated: "I am astonished to think what appetite first induced man to taste of a dead carcass or what motive could suggest the notion of nourishing himself with the flesh of animals which he saw, just before, bleating, bellowing, walking, and looking about them." The Greek philosopher Pythagoras, who lived towards the end of the 6th century BC, argued that the flesh of beasts contaminated and brutalized the soul. In recognition of Pythagoras' commitment, vegetarians were known as Pythagoreans until the mid-19th century. Other writers have associated vegetarianism with spiritual enlightenment. According to the 17th century English vegetarian Thomas Tryon, "...by thoroughly cleansing the outward court of terrestrial nature, itopens the windows of the inward senses of the soul." (Whorton, 1994) For these reasons, a variety of religions, including Brahminism, Buddhism, Hinduism and the Seventh Day Adventists encourage followers to abstain from eating meat.
While philosophers have long articulated the moral and spiritual benefits of the vegetarian way of life, the pursuit of vegetarianism for the reasons of health did not begin until the 19th Century. Early in the 1800s, scientific and medical evidence for the benefits of plant-based diets began to emerge. In 1806, a London physician named William Lambe cured himself of longstanding illness by abstaining from meat. Encouraged by his experience, Lambe began to treat his patients with the same diet prescription. His work eventually convinced many of his colleagues that a plant-based diet was as, or more healthy than a meat-based diet. Around the same time in the United States, a popular health reform movement was gathering steam. This movement was initiated by Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham, most well-known now as the father of the Graham cracker. Graham, who preached on temperance and denounced the growing use of refined flour, was also a vegetarian. Following the establishment of the British Vegetarian Society in 1847, Graham worked to organize a similar group in America, and the American Vegetarian Society was founded in 1850. In the late 1800s, John Harvey Kellog, a Seventh Day Adventist and the maker of cereals bearing his family name, labored to make Americans aware of the nutritional benefits of vegetarianism.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, scientists continued to evaluate the health benefits of vegetarian diets. But, even as a growing body of scientific evidence emerged to validate this way of life, vegetarianism remained, to a large extent, on the fringe of society. Even as late as the 1970s, vegetarianism was associated with the counter-culture, a diet adhered to only by flower children and religious fanatics.

Popularity

During the last few decades of the 20th Century, the popularity of vegetarianism surged in the United States and Europe, as evidenced by the number of people claiming to be vegetarian and the increase in published literature promoting the health benefits of vegetarian diets. According to one source, in 1994 more than 12 million people in the United States reported themselves to be vegetarians, compared to 6 million in 1986 (Rajaram and Sabate, 2000). The Vegetarian Resource Group, a leading source of information on vegetarianism, reported the results of a 2000 survey that estimated the number of vegetarians in the United States to be only about 5 million people. In Europe, it is estimated that 5% of the populations of both the United Kingdom and Germany are vegetarian, and 4% of the adult population of the Netherlands follows a vegetarian diet (Hebbelinck, 1999). Vegetarians cite personal health, spiritual and religious beliefs, concern about animal welfare, and distress over the economic and environmental consequences of a meat-based diet as reasons for adopting a plant-based diet.
Are you a vegetarian? If so, you are in good company! Famous vegetarians include Mahatma Ghandi, Carl Lewis (Olympic athlete), Natalie Merchant (musician); Vanessa Williams (actress and singer); Raffi (children's musician); Dean Ornish, MD (cardiologist and author); Paul McCartney (rock musician); Desmond Howard (Heisman trophy winner); Dustin Hoffman (actor); Tony LaRussa (pro-baseball manager); and Fred Rogers (TV's Mr. Rogers).

Principles

In general, the term "vegetarian" is used to describe any diet that emphasizes the consumption of plant foods, avoids the consumption of animal flesh, and discourages the consumption of other animal products. In its most restrictive form, a vegetarian diet excludes all animal foods, including animal flesh, dairy products and eggs. Vegan, macrobiotic, and fruitarian diets fall into this category. Less restrictive forms include the lacto-ovo vegatarian diet (includes dairy products and eggs) and the lacto-vegetarian diet (includes dairy products). Interestingly, many people who claim to be "vegetarian" do not fit into any of the categories above. Many who consider themselves vegetarian eat fish on occasion, while other self-defined vegetarians include poultry and/or pork in their diet.
To be considered healthy, a vegetarian diet should include daily consumption of a variety of foods from all the plant groups, such as grains, legumes, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, plant oils, herbs and spices. To maximize the nutritional value of their diet, vegetarians should choose whole, organic, minimally processed foods, and go easy on highly processed foods, junk foods and sweets. A vegetarian diet featuring lots of chips, cookies and frozen confections, even if made from organic ingredients, will not promote health.

Research

A significant body of population-based research documents the health benefits of a vegetarian diet. For example, a paper published in 1999 summarized the results of a study associating diet with chronic disease in a group of nearly 35,000 Seventh day Adventists living in California. The members of the group who followed a vegetarian diet (defined as eating no red meat, poultry, or fish)had lower incidences of many diseases, including obesity, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and ischemic heart disease than the nonvegetarians (Fraser, 1999). Also in 1999, Key, et al., analyzed the combined results from five studies involving a total of more than 76,000 people that compared the incidence of disease among vegetarians (defined as eating no red meat, poultry or fish) to that of nonvegetarians with similar lifestyles. Mortality from ischemic heart disease was 24% lower in vegetarians than nonvegetarians (Key, et al).
For many years, the health benefits of vegetarian diets were thought to be due to the absence of meat and other animal fats in the diet, and the subsequent reduction in the intake of several known dietary villains such as total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. In support of this explanation, scientists pointed to results of research studies that link high intake of the above-mentioned dietary villains to an increased risk for various medical conditions including heart disease and cancer. Researchers have also suggested that the health benefits of vegetarian diets are due, at least in part, to other healthy lifestyle choices that often accompany vegatarianism, such as increased physical activity and not smoking.
Clearly, avoiding meat and animal fats and increasing physical activity contribute to the health benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle. However, recent research has focused on the presence of a variety of specific nutrients in plant foods that have health-promoting qualities.
  • Fiber: Plant foods such as whole grains, beans, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and nuts provide dietary fiber. High intake of dietary fiber may reduce your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, premenstrual syndrome, and colon cancer.
  • Antioxidants: Fruits and vegetables contain high amounts of vitamin C, vitamin E, and carotenoids, all of which act as antioxidants, protecting your cells from the damaging effects of free radicals
  • Phytonutrients: Plant foods contain a variety of unique nutrients such as phytoestrogens, indoles, isothiocyanates, and flavonoids. Emerging research indicates that these nutrients may help prevent cancer, heart disease, and other degenerative diseases.
Advocates of vegetarianism also point to research on the environmental impact of meat-based diets to support their lifestyle. Consider these facts:
  • Thirty-eight percent of total grain production worldwide is fed to chicken, pigs, and cattle. Seventy percent of grain production in the United States is fed to livestock. (Gussow, 1994)
  • The United States is losing approximately 4 million acres of cropland each year due to soil erosion. It is estimated that 85% of this topsoil loss is directly related to raising livestock. (The Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook, 1995)
  • More than 4,000 gallons of water are needed to produce a single day's worth of food for the typical meat eater. In comparison, an ovo-lacto vegetarian requires only 1,200 gallons of water, and a vegan needs a mere 300 gallons. (The Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook, 1995)
  • One pound of pork that provides between 1000 and 2000 calories takes 14,000 calories of energy to produce in the United States. (Gussow, 1994)
  • Huge livestock farms generate an estimated five tons of animal manure for every person in the United States. In one day, a single hog farm produces the same amount of raw waste as a city of 12,000 people. In one year, a large egg farm yields enough manure to fill 1,400 dump trucks. Manure from livestock farms pollutes rivers and lakes, resulting in overgrowth of algae and pathogenic (disease-causing) microorganisms.
  • In Latin America, 20 million hectares of tropical forest have been converted to cattle pasture since 1970. This deforestation has had a devastating impact on plant and animal diversity in Latin America. (Gussow, 1994)
  • Many medical authorities link the emergence of foodborne pathogens such as E.coli and Mad Cow disease with factory farming methods.
  • One-third of the irrigation water in the State of California is used to produce feed for dairy cattle.

Foods Emphasized

Vegetarian diets emphasize the consumption of grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, soy products, nuts, and seeds.

Foods Avoided

All true vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish, and poultry. Strict vegetarian diets also exclude dairy products and eggs, while more liberal vegetarian diets include dairy products and eggs.

Nutrient Excesses/Deficiencies

Historically, vegetarian diets have been condemned by nutritionists for providing inadequate amounts of several important nutrients that are found primarily in animal foods including iron, protein, calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. However, it is now widely accepted by most nutritionists that vegetarian diets, when a variety of plant foods are included, can meet or exceed the nutritional requirements of most individuals.
Although vegetarian diets do tend to be lower in iron than meat-based diets, vegetarians do not have a higher rate of iron deficiency anemia than meat eaters. This may be explained by the fact that the iron found in vegetarian diets (in vegetables and unrefined grains) is often accompanied, in the food or in the meal, by large amounts of vitamin C, which increases the absorption of the mineral.
Vegetarians also tend to eat less protein than meat-eaters, but their intake still exceeds the required amounts. Several decades ago, it was believed that vegetarians had to eat complementary proteins at each meal to ensure adequate intake of all the essential amino acids. It is now known that vegetarians need not worry about complementary proteins at each meal, as long as they ensure intake of foods containing all essential amino acids during the day. For more information on complementary proteins, see the article on protein in our nutrient database.
Since vitamin D-fortified milk is the primary food source of vitamin D in the United States, vegetarians who exclude dairy products from their diet may require a supplemental source, especially if they do not have consistent exposure to the sun.
As is the case with vitamin D, the calcium intake of vegetarians depends to a great extent on whether or not dairy products are included in the diet. All vegetarians should incorporate plant foods (dark green leafy vegetables and organic tofu) that contain calcium, but this is especially important for those who exclude dairy products. Interestingly, because vegetarian diets tend to be lower in protein, vegetarians may retain more calcium than meat-eaters, thus promoting bone health.
Vegans must pay attention to their intake of vitamin B12 since this vitamin occurs primarily in animal foods, and its deficiency can cause a variety of irreversible neurological problems. A study published in 1999 involving 245 Australian Seventh-day Adventist ministers evaluated the vitamin B12 status of lactovo-vegetarianns and vegans who were not taking vitamin B12 supplements. Seventy three percent of the participants had low serum vitamin B12 concentrations. (Hokin, 1999) Interestingly, vitamin B12 cannot be made by animals or plants, but only by microorganisms, like bacteria. When plant foods are fermented with the use of B12-producing bacteria, they end up containing B12. Otherwise, they usually don't. Sea plants are an exception to the fermented plant rule since they can contain small amounts of B12 from contact with microorganisms in the ocean. Although animals cannot make vitamin B12, they are able to store B12 in their liver and muscles. The storage of B12 by animals explains why animal foods are the primary food sources of dietary B12.
Another nutrient to which vegetarians should pay special attention is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA is an omega 3 fatty acidsbelieved to play an important role in the development and function of the central nervous system, as well as the eyes. It occurs naturally in meat, fish, eggs, and milk. DHA an also be synthesized by the body from alpha-linolenic acid, an omega 3 essential fatty acid, although it is not yet clear to what extent this conversion actually takes place. This process is slowed by the presence of large amounts of another essential fatty acid called linoleic acid, which is an omega 6 fat found in corn, safflower and sunflower oils. Vegetarians, and especially vegans, may want to supplement with DHA. To maintain a beneficial ratio of omega 3 fatty acids to omega 6 fatty acids, they may also want to and/or substitute foods containing alpha-linolenic acid, such as flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds and soybeans for foods containing linoleic acid.

Who Benefits

A vegetarian diet may be especially beneficial for overweight individuals, as well as for women with premenstrual syndrome and individuals with diabetes, high blood pressure and/or cardiovascular disease.

Who is Harmed

Because infants, children, adolescents, and pregnant and lactating women have increased caloric and nutrient needs, individuals in any of these groups choosing to follow a vegetarian diet must take care to include a variety and adequate amount of food from all food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds) to ensure that nutritional needs are met.
These vegetarian recipes were developed by the George Mateljan Foundation.

Resources

For additional information about vegetarianism, contact the following organizations:
  • Earthsave
  • www.earthsave.org
  • The North American Vegetarian Society
  • P.O. Box 72
  • Dolgeville, NY 13329
  • Phone: 518-568-7970
  • Vegetarian Resource Center
  • P.O. Box 38-1068
  • Cambridge, MA 02238
  • Phone: 617-625-3790
  • The Vegetarian Resource Group
  • P.O. Box 1463
  • Baltimore, MD 21203
  • Phone: 410-366-8343

References

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