Eating for the health of it

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By The Staff

It’s a common dilemma: If you’re busy, it’s tempting to go for the quick fix at mealtime. But before you cook up some macaroni and cheese or grab a cheeseburger with bacon, realize this: Experts are increasingly finding that as your nutrition goes, so goes your health.

“A diet made up primarily of lots of colorful fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products is usually high in substances that are proven to promote health,” says Noralyn Wilson, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association in Baltimore, Md.

Preventive Power

Eating fruits and vegetables, for example, is linked to lower risk of cancers of the gastrointestinal tract and lung cancer. “About a third of the cancer deaths every year in the United States can be prevented by people eating better, being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight,” says Colleen Doyle, M.S., a registered dietitian and director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, Ga. “You do have some control over your cancer risk.”

Want more proof? A multiyear Harvard study of more than 100,000 people recently found that the more fruits and veggies consumed daily, the lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Research also indicates that adequate amounts of fiber – five cups of fruits and/or vegetables and three servings of whole grains or beans daily – can significantly lower your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and may play a role in reducing colorectal cancer risk.

Eating for a

Healthier You

Still other factors seriously affect health. High sodium intake is associated with increased blood pressure. Rather than automatically reach for the salt shaker, sample food first, and try using herbs and spices to liven up dishes.

Inadequate folate intake by pregnant women can cause neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, in fetuses.

Folate also has been found to reduce young women’s risk for high blood pressure as well as decrease the incidence of stroke, according to the American Heart Association.

Folate sources include fortified cereals, citrus fruits, beans and dark green, leafy vegetables.

Saturated fat has been linked to an increased risk of prostate and colon cancer, Doyle says. On the other hand, omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish, such as salmon, lake trout and tuna, benefit heart health. Those at risk for cardiovascular disease should aim to eat fish at least twice weekly, Wilson advises.

Worried about possible toxins in fish? Soybeans, flaxseed, tofu and walnuts and their oils also provide some omega-3 benefits.

Of course, poor nutrition can expand your waistline, and obesity is a risk factor for diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

This article is brought to you by Munroe Regional Medical Center. If you have health questions or need a physician referral, call the Munroe Regional Health Resource Line at 867-8181 or visit www.MunroeRegional.com.