Category Archives: Top Ten Things You Can Do For Your Health

Eat More Veggies – #2 of Ten Actions To Improve Health

Popeye had it right eating his spinach to gain his strength – “I am what I am”, chuckle, chuckle chuckle!  We are what we eat as well.  And putting emphasis on eating more veggies helps us to get the nutrients to lower the risk of getting hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obesity and age related eye disease.   But it is not as simple as just eat more veggies.  There has been more recent research on how the quality of our fruits and vegetables has declined over the years due to breeding of plant species for disease resistance and taste.

Hypertension

The DASH diet plan (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) recommends eating a minimum of 4 servings of veggies a day.  The benefit of filling half of our plates with dark leafy greens like arugula, kale, spinach are that they are high in potassium which offsets some of the damage done by sodium.  It is thought that potassium makes arteries less stiff.  Hypertension is caused by stiffening of arteries and having to pump too much volume (sodium makes us retain fluid, leading to increase blood volume that the heart has to pump, thereby raising blood pressure).   Eating more dark leafy greens that are high in potassium helps our arteries.

Type 2 Diabetes

Vegetables are full of fiber, high in magnesium and can be low in carbohydrates.  This means they will have little impact on your blood sugar and can actually slow down the usual rise in blood sugar after eating.  Some studies have indicated that magnesium improves insulin sensitivity, consequently eating foods high in magnesium reduces blood sugars for those with pre-diabetes or diabetes.  However starchy veggies like potatoes, winter squash and corn can raise blood sugars so for those with diabetes they should plan for them as part of their total carbohydrates for the meal.

Weight Loss

You don’t hear of anyone gaining weight from eating too many veggies!  There is nothing better for weight loss than loading up on non-starchy veggies like broccoli, kale, cabbage and brussel sprouts which are low in calories, high in fiber keeping you fuller longer without all fat – provided there is no cheese topping!  Vegetables have low calorie density meaning that they are a low calorie food choice that will go a long way with giving you volume without all the extra calories.

Age Related Eye Disease

Vegetables are high in lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids that benefit the lens and retina of the eye, which many studies have linked to lowering the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.

Breeding of Vegetables

In Jo Robinson’s article in the New York Times Sunday Review May 25, 2013 she writes about how many varieties of fruits and vegetables have lost there nutritional value partly due to natural mutation over time, but mostly due to breeding by farmers to create more disease-resistant and tastier produce.  She recommends eating foods that have a stronger taste to improve nutritive value like dandelion greens, arugula, deep yellow corn, scallions (particularly the green part) and fresh herbs.  She states that the more bitter the food, the higher the nutritional value.   She also  says to go for peruvian purple potatoes and blue cornmeal (can be found on Amazon) to boost the healthy food nutrients as well.

But What if You Don’t Like Veggies

OK, the idea of eating 4 servings of vegetables a day can be a little daunting!  So how could you sneak them in?  Make a Frittata (see under my breakfast recipes) or a veggie omelet with chopped broccoli or spinach.  Have a glass of low sodium V8.  Add frozen chopped veggies to your soups, chili’s and casseroles.  Prepare some fresh veggies like carrots, celery, scallions, cauliflower and broccoli and have with some fat free yogurt dip or humus.  Know that veggies are better than medicine and by eating more of them you might find yourself needing less medicine.  After all, would you rather develop diabetes, heart disease, lose your vision or have weight concerns or feel and be healthier and perhaps even lose some weight?  Would you rather look like Popeye or Brutus?

 

Avoid All Or Nothing Thinking – #1 of Ten Actions To Improve Health

Sometimes my clients have “all or nothing” thinking.  If they do not do something 100% perfectly, then they think they failed and will not give themselves any credit at all.  I tell them that small changes do add up and do count and to adjust how they think about changing habits.  That no matter what, they are on a different path than they were on last week.  They have already left their old lifestyle and are moving towards a healthier version of themselves.

I tell my clients that my motto is “enhance the good and dilute the bad”  which corresponds to my belief that our actions do not have to be perfect, they can just be better choices.   It’s when you add up all the small changes that real achievement is acknowledged.

Dilute the Bad

So what are some of those small steps?  You can “dilute the bad” with some of these suggestions. Switching from 2 Tbsp of half and half in your coffee to 2 Tbsp of 2%  milk will save you 25 calories and 2 grams of artery clogging saturated fat. And that’s just one cup of coffee.  Switching from 1 cup of whole milk to 1% milk will save you 50 calories and 5.5 grams of saturated fat. Using  2 Tbsp of light ranch dressing instead of regular ranch dressing will save you 84 calories and 12 grams of saturated fat.  Eliminating the thin slice of American cheese on your sandwich will save you nearly 100 calories and 7 grams of saturated fat. You can see how combining all these small changes can save over 300 calories a day.  It takes about 3500 calories to lose one pound, you can see that in about a month one could lose about three pounds.  Weight comes on gradually; why not have it come off gradually so it feels more natural and sustainable.

Enhance the Good

On the “enhance the good” side of the motto, adding chopped frozen spinach, turnip greens or broccoli to a chili adds all kinds of wonderful nutrients like potassium that are important for heart function and can improve blood pressure eating proper amounts.  Adding low calorie foods like vegetables reduces the calorie density of foods, gives us more volume to help give us a feeling of fullness after eating without all the extra calories of just the standard meat chili.  Switching from regular yogurt to Greek plain fat free yogurt and adding your own fresh or frozen fruit will give you much more protein – one of the macronutrients that helps maintain our muscles and prevents the aftermeal sleepiness that often happens. And since our body does not store protein, it’s important to eat some with every meal. Topping your potato with plain fat free Greek yogurt sprinkled with fresh chives instead of sour cream will save you about 25 calories and 2.5 grams of saturated fat plus it will give you added protein.  Adding barley to your rice or adding kidney beans or some other canned beans to your soups will give you added fiber, particularly the soluble kind, that will fill you up, improve bowel health, help with weight loss, lower blood sugars for those with diabetes or prediabetes and lower cholesterol.

Each of these small steps, done on a daily basis, can add up to gradual, sustainable weight loss but more importantly a healthier, better performing body!

2.  Eat More Veggies ….next week