Thursday, October 22, 2009

Prescription for Better Health: Eat Plants

Let's start by answering the question "what is a diet of plant based foods or whole food?" Plant-based foods, includes fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts. Other words you are hearing related to nutrients rich diets and supplements are "whole food, whole food nutrition" these are all referring to plant based foods. Plants in addition to providing you with energy and essential micronutrients (vitamins, minerals), contribute thousands of biologically active phytochemicals. These plant chemicals are one of the elements that impact your health either by adding your healthy lifestyle or taking away from your healthy lifestyle.

To date there are over 4000 studies to support the health benefits of diets rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts. Even with all this evidence it is unclear as to what specific nutrients directly benefit specific health issues. Scientists are very interested in the potential for specific phytochemicals to prevent or treat disease, however at this time the current scientific evidence suggests that FOODS are the MOST EFFECTIVE WAY to get vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidents.

The American Heart Association no longer recommends taking a supplement, the recommendation is to eat a diet full of fruits and vegetables. Makes sense to me. Why take a vitamin C, E or A when you can get all this and more from a carrot? Studies suggest a fresh, clean whole apple provides 12,000 phytonutrients including all the vitamins and minerals that have been discovered and the others that have not. It is believed that it is the synergy of all that is present in the food that impacts the state of your health.

Despite all of the controversy surrounding the optimal components of a healthy diet, there is little disagreement among scientists regarding the importance of fruits and vegetables. Eating a diet full of fruits and vegetables reduces your risk of the following diseases.

At first glance this may look like the diseases your grandmother is getting however, children are now at risk too.

* Cardiovascular Disease - Stoke, Heart Disease, High Blood Pressure
* Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
* Cancer - particularly cancers of the digestive tract (oropharynx, esophagus, stomach, colon and rectum and lung)
* Osteoporosis

These are the diseases your grandmother maybe developing as they are Age Related Diseases:

* Cataracts
* Macular Degeneration
* Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
* Neurodegenerative Disease - Parkinson's, Alzheimers

The National Cancer Institute recommends a range of 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

The table below provides some examples of a single serving of fruits or vegetables.
Examples of One Serving of Fruits or Vegetable

* 1 medium sized apple or orange
* 1 small banana
* 1 cup of raw salad greens
* ½ cup of vegetables
* ½ cup of chopped fruit
* ½ cup of cooked peas or beans
* ¼ cup of dried fruit

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines (USDA) for Americans are similar with respect to fruit and vegetable intake recommendations, but they are tied to caloric intake rather than age and gender.

USDA Daily Recommendation for Fruit and Vegetable consumption:
ADULTS: 2 cups (4 servings) of fruit and 2½ cups (5 servings) of vegetables = 5 1/2 cups
CHILDREN: 1.5 cups of fruit and (3 servings) and 2 cups (4 servings) of vegetables = 3 1/2 cups

In both cases, consumption of a variety of different fruits and vegetables is recommended, including dark green, red, orange, yellow, blue and purple fruits and vegetables, as well as legumes (peas and beans), onions and garlic.

The evidence is clear the prescription for better health is to eat a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes every day.

Have you had your 5 1/2 cups of fruits and veggies today? whole grains? nuts?