Smarter eating 4 health

 

Fruits and vegetables of all colours, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, good fats, lean proteins and probiotics – these are the elements of a healthy diet that makes for smarter eating. Most of us can be seduced by the odd ready meal, takeaway or junk food pit stop, but if these become the staples of our diet we are increasing our risk of longer term health issues. Being overfat, overweight or obese increases the risk of serious chronic conditions, so here are four reasons why introducing some smarter eating during the week is a really clever idea.

Heart health

According to figures published in 2017, as many as 92.1 million people in the U.S. have at least one type of cardiovascular disease. These conditions primarily involve the heart or blood vessels. More than 7 million people in the UK are estimated to have CVD; heart and circulatory disease. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, up to 80 percent of cases of premature heart disease and stroke can be prevented by making lifestyle changes, such as increasing levels of physical activity and eating smarter.

Foods that can benefit: research suggests that vitamin E may prevent blood clots, which can lead to heart attacks. Foods rich in vitamin E include: almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, green vegetables.

Foods that can harm: The link between trans fats and heart-related illnesses, such as coronary heart disease las long been recognised by the medical profession. Eliminating trans fats from our diets will reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. This type of cholesterol causes plaque to collect within the arteries, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Reducing blood pressure can also be essential for heart health, so limiting salt intake to 1,500 milligrams a day can help. However, as salt is added to many processed and fast foods, if lowering blood pressure is the aim, best avoid them.

Reduced cancer risk

Foods that can harm: a number of studies in 2018 have highlighted that the higher the proportion of processed and heavily processed foods in our diets the higher the incidence and the greater the risk of obesity, which may increase a person’s risk of developing cancer.

In 2014, the American Society of Clinical Oncology reported that obesity contributed to a worse outlook for people with cancer, while according to Cancer Research UK in 2018, obesity is the UK’s biggest cause of cancer after smoking.

Foods that can benefit: studies have found that a diet rich in fruits reduced the risk of cancers of the upper gastrointestinal tract. Other studies have found that a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and fibre lowered the risk of colorectal cancer and that a diet rich in fibre reduced the risk of liver cancer.

Many phytonutrients found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes act as antioxidants, which protect cells from damage that can cause cancer. Some of these antioxidants include beta-carotene, lycopene, and vitamins A, C, and E. However more research is needed as trials in humans have so far been inconclusive.

Gut health

The colon is full of naturally occurring bacteria, which play important roles in metabolism, digestion and in boosting our immune system. Harvard Health Publishing has highlighted the importance of the interplay between the microbes in our guts and other systems in the body in relation to cardiovascular health. Certain strains of bacteria also produce vitamins K and B, which benefit the colon. These strains also help to fight harmful bacteria and viruses.

Foods that can harm: a diet low in fibre and high in sugar and fat alters the gut microbiome, increasing inflammation in the area.

Foods that can benefit: a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains provides a combination of prebiotics and probiotics that help good bacteria to thrive in the colon. Fermented foods, such as yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, and kefir, are rich in probiotics. Fibre is an excellent prebiotic, abundant in legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Fibre also promotes regular bowel movements, which can help to prevent bowel cancer and diverticulitis.

Dealing with Diabetes

Eating smarter is probably most urgent for diabetes sufferers, while increasingly doctors are reporting the ability of specialised diets being capable of reversing Type 2 diabetes.

Smarter eating can at the very least help diabetes sufferers to:

  • lose weight
  • manage blood glucose levels
  • keep blood pressure and cholesterol within target ranges
  • prevent or delay complications of diabetes

Foods that can harm: it is essential for people with diabetes to limit their intake of foods with added sugar and salt. It is also best to avoid fried foods high in saturated and trans fats.

The big bonus from smarter eating

A genuine bonus from smarter eating is it also provides a solution to an issue many of us struggle with: sustainable weight management.

Whole vegetables and fruits are lower in calories than most processed foods, while the fibre makes them more filling. Indeed, because real foods are more nutrient rich and calorie light than processed foods, the lower the proportion of processed foods and the higher of real foods in a diet, the easier it is to eat and maintain a healthy weight without counting calories and being plagued by hunger.

Fibre makes such a difference in this regard: plant-based foods contain plenty of dietary fibre, which helps to regulate hunger by making people feel fuller for longer. Indeed, earlier this year a study from the Stanford Prevention Research Center published in JAMA found that a diet rich in fibre and lean proteins resulted in weight loss without the need for counting calories.

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