FOOD IS MEDICINE by Dr. Robert Oh
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Hippocrates
Food Choices should focus on real foods that are minimally processed. I call them God made (found in nature) vs. man-made. Whether you just want to eat better or you have Diabetes (Type 1 or 2), High Blood Pressure, or heart disease (coronary disease, strokes) most Americans can improve their health and disease by eating real food that is minimally processed. So, where do we start?
- EAT MORE PLANTS
- Above the ground vegetables. Not just salad. Eat nutrient dense vegetables such as: Broccoli, Kale, Cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, Spinach, Green Beans. These are “Free”, and you can eat as much as you want!
(photo from http://www.dietdoctor.com)
- Below the ground vegetables. For those without cardiometabolic disease or are not overweight, these can be eaten, especially if you are very physically active. But be careful! If you have any hypertension, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high triglycerides, these may need to be eaten in moderation. If you do eat these, try to eat the skin. These have added nutrients that are missing if you remove the skin. If you have any insulin resistance, Diabetes, or hypertension, then you should really limit these foods. These are not “free”.
- Fish, Seafood, Meat and Eggs
Yes, Fish, Seafood, meat and eggs are a great source of protein and vitamin b12 vitamin, which you can only get from animal food products. And, fish, specifically fatty fish has healthy omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA). Other fatty fish include mackerel and herring. Tuna has moderate amounts. Meat, if raised naturally, ie. Pasture/grass fed cows, then it will have higher ratio of healthy omega-3 fats. But, isn’t meat high in saturated fats? There are LOTS of controversy with saturated fats, but many of the new studies have debunked the relationship between saturated fats and heart disease. So, don’t fear the fat!
- Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are a great source of healthy fats and are high in protein. Not allergic? Go nuts on nuts. Even peanuts (which are a legume/bean, and not a nut) are ok to eat. These are plant based version of fatty acids, which are basically alphalinolenic acid (ALA) which converts into omega-3 fatty acids.
- More Fats and Oils
Again, don’t fear the fat. We’ve been brainwashed in thinking that fat is bad for you. Well, it’s not. While there are some controversy on meat based fats, there really is less controversy with the healthy oils. Time and time again, extra-virgin olive oil has shown to be healthy. So, my advice…go crazy with EVOO. This will provide healthy fats (primarily monounsaturated fats) that has been shown in the PREDIMED diet to be part of a healthy dietary pattern. How about other oils? I am not too crazy with processed vegetable oils. Stick with cold pressed (virgin) oils. To name a few, these are: Extra-virgin olive oil, Sesame seed oil, Coconut oil, avocado oil
If you don’t have cardiometabolic risk (i.e. metabolic syndrome, diabetes), fruit is good for you. Be careful, though. Try to eat it in its natural form. Don’t peel kiwis (tons of fiber in the skin, and yes you can eat it), eat the apple skin, pear skin, etc. Please, specifically…don’t DRINK IT! People can overdo it with “healthy smoothies”, and 100% fruit juice, thinking that this is healthy for them. Again, if you have any cardiometabolic risk (metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes, diabetes), it is best to eat the fruit whole.
Berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries) are low in overall fructose (type of sugar found in fruit), but high in natural fiber. These are ok to have! Other great fruits: avocados (yes it’s a fruit), Tomatoes (yes, it’s a fruit)
Tropical fruits such as: pineapple, mango, banana should be minimized in those with cardiometabolic risk. Also watermelon. These have high fructose (sugar found in fruit) and less fiber since you don’t eat the skin in these fruits.
- Whole Grains and Legumes
If you don’t have cardiometabolic disease then whole grains can be part of a healthy diet. Be careful what it means by whole grains. Use the app FOODUCATE to help determine if whole grain is really whole grains. Read the package label. Bread should be whole grain, flour should be wheat flour, rice should be wild/brown, pasta should be 100% whole wheat. Please be careful here..lots of misinformation to fool you to buying. If it says, “enriched wheat” or you see vitamins added, that’s a tell tale sign that it’s been adulterated with processed grains. For example..did you know that the Multigrain Cheerios has more added sugar than regular Cheerios? Which is healthy? (hint…neither!) AVOID if you can! There may be something to be said about “ancient grains.” If you have Diabetes, or Metabolic syndrome, these may have to be avoided for a time until your blood pressure, diabetes and high triglycerides improve.
Cheese, Greek Yogurt (plain), butter. There’s been no link to these dairy products and disease. These are generally fine, and they are naturally rich in calcium. If you have cardiometabolic disease, avoid milk- it has tons of lactose (sugar) which can raise blood sugar too.
- LIMIT–everything else
-processed packaged foods, products with added sugar, all grains that are not whole grains (white rice, white pasta, white bread, enriched wheat bread, etc) are all highly processed and is not good for you. Minimize this. Only as a TREAT. TREAT= RARE. If you are having ice cream every day as a treat…sorry it’s not a TREAT. And don’t say “moderation.” Studies have shown that “moderation” is just an excuse to eat more crap. Nobody says, “I’m going to eat broccoli in moderation.” Nobody thinks we should smoke in “moderation”, or do crack cocaine in moderation, why eat candy in “moderation” if there’s absolutely no health benefit? Say what it is..I’m going to TREAT myself today..it’s my birthday, it’s a celebration for my wife, my children. Bottom line, TREATS are RARE and not an EVERYDAY thing. Trust me, if you treat your TREATS as that, oh you will savor it greatly and get more enjoyment out of it!
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