Eating a good diet is not difficult. There are several principals that are easy to apply. The same diet that is good for preventing heart disease is also good for reducing the risk to high blood pressure, stroke, cancer and osteoporosis. Here they are! Now you can evaluate all the advice you get in the magazines and television with the sense that these simple principles constitute 95% of what is important in terms of good diet.
1. Low Fat Eating: The characteristics of a low fat diet are fairly simple.
a) No more than two servings of red meat per week. This includes meat served on a sandwich at lunch, (such as a roast beef or ham sandwich), or meat served as a main course at dinner. In general it is best to purchase meat that is raised organically and free range, (not feed lot fed). The quality is better. There are fewer chemicals, (fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, hormones and antibiotics) in organic products, and the type of fat in the animal is healthier for you.
b) Two to four servings of poultry per week. Emphasize the white meat portions. Again, emphasize organically raised birds. Avoid fried chicken. Avoid the skin, (very high in fat).
c) You can have two to four servings of seafood per week. I am happy to tell you that the cholesterol in shrimp and crab will not be a problem. Shellfish have sterols, which inhibit the absorption of the cholesterol. Studies done at NIH 20 years ago demonstrated no increase in serum cholesterol levels with shellfish ingestion. Once again avoid the fried preparations.
d) You can have one to two servings of low fat or no fat dairy products per day, (emphasize organically raised animal sources). This includes low fat yogurts, cheeses and ice creams.
e) Avoid foods high in fat such as fried foods, creamy soups and salad dressings, dairy desserts such as custard or ice cream that are not low fat, and packaged goods. In general packaged goods such as potato chips are very high in fat. Read the labels!
Reading labels is the key to avoiding foods that are high in fat. Current labeling practice is to tell you the grams of fat in a total serving. This is intentionally misleading. You want to know the percent of fat in any serving. Ideally, you would like to limit fat intake to no more than 30% of total calories. Every gram of fat has 9 calories. A label may state that the total calories in a serving are 100 calories and there are 4 grams of fat. The total calories from fat would be, (9x4=36), 36. Fat would make up 36% of the calories. This would be a high fat food.
Trans fats are processed fats added to foods to preserves shelf life. They are particularly unhealthy. Avoid foods with trans fats in them.
2. High Fiber Eating: 1-2 servings of salad per day, 1-2 servings of fruit per day, 2-4 servings of cooked or raw vegetables per day, 1-2 servings of whole grain breads or cereals daily characterize a high fiber diet. The greater your intake of fruits and vegetables, (primarily vegetables), the better your health will be; aim for 4-6 servings per day.
3. Avoid Empty Calorie Foods: Foods with empty calories include
a. Foods with refined sugar; candies, soft drinks, dairy desserts, pastry
b. Foods with excess fats; high fat red meats, dark poultry meats, packaged goods, (potato chips, etc.), high fat dairy desserts, (ice cream), high fat baked goods, creamed soups and salad dressings.
c. Alcoholic beverages.
4. Do not get caught in the high starch food trap! People feel that if they only avoid fats they can eat all the other foods they want: particularly starchy foods. The common high starch foods are grain products such as bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and corn. Depending on your body size and your need to lose weight or control the tendency to gain weight you will need to limit servings of high starch foods to one to four per day. A serving size is one slice of bread, one cup of pasta, one ice cream scoop of rice or a baked potato with the inner third scooped out. Avoid starches that are processed, (potato chips, corn chips, Doritos, pretzels, cheese crackers, party mix).
When To Use Vitamin and Mineral Supplements:
The World Health Organization states that starvation begins, (for an average adult), when total daily calorie intake is less than 2,100 calories per day. People who eat refined/processed foods have some degree of malnutrition at any calorie intake level. People with underlying health problems often have special needs for certain nutritional components. At different times in our lives we have different nutritional needs, (prior to conceiving, pregnancy, lactation, old age, acute and chronic illness).
a. To prevent osteoporosis take 1000-1500 mgs. of calcium daily. Much of the calcium can be obtained from food. Calcium supplements should account for no more than 600 mgs per day. The preferred form of calcium is calcium citrate. Capsules are better than tablets because they are more easily absorbed. Vitamin D in a daily dose of 1,000-2,000 units per day is strongly recommended. Some individuals need a higher dose of Vitamin D.
b. Vitamin C in a dose of 500 to 1000 mgs. taken two times daily may help prevent arteriosclerosis, (heart disease and stroke). For some people Vitamin C will improve their resistance to infectious diseases.
c. Vitamin E in a dose of 200-400 units daily may prevent oxidative damage. Vitamin E should be taken as Mixed Tocopherols.
A good multi vitamin forms a base that will cover any nutritional inadequacies. I vary my recommendation based on age, sex and underlying health conditions. When recommending a vitamin product I am interested in the quality control in production, post-production testing of the product to insure that the contents are accurate and bioavailabilty. The Multi-Vitamin that I commonly recommend is Multi t/d by Pure Encapsulations. This product has a good balance of B vitamins, Carotenoids and Minerals. It does not have copper which is not necessary and may contribute to chronic illness.
There are many special issues related to diet based on underlying food intolerances, sensitivities, allergies and background health problems.
People with health problems should seek the guidance of their health care provider, a qualified Nutritional Counselor or Dietician.