Monday, November 01, 2010

Health boosting diets, ways of eating, and Cuisines....

Today's Post: Monday, 11-1-2010

There are a number of ways to eat that support good health or prevent disease or booth.

As we posted on Tuesday last week, they all have in common a large and varied amount of vegetables and whole fruit. Nonstarchy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, tomatoes, garlic, onions, spice plants such as basil, rosemary, oregano, and peppers AND fruits like berries and citrus fruits seem to work best.

They also contain virtually no soft drinks or packaged snacks or desserts.

They tend to use no vegetable oils high in omega 6 such as corn and soy and canola.

They also mostly tend to be low in sugary foods.

Beyond that they vary a bit.

1. One of the best, most health protective, and best known is the Mediterranean diet.

It features monosaturated oils in extra virgin olive oil, olives, and nuts. Such oils keep LDL cholesterol down, actually increases your HDL cholesterol that protects you, and by replacing saturated fats and hydrogenated oils that increase LDL and replacing omega 6 oils that increase inflammation, monosaturated oils and foods protect you from heart disease, all kinds of mental decline, and many cancers.

The Mediterranean diet includes beans often for their protein and fiber content.

The Mediterranean diet includes some fish and seafood.

The Mediterranean diet also makes heavy use of garlic, basil, oregano and other plant based spices. Garlic helps prevent many cancers and though it seems not to change cholesterol does protect blood vessel health and prevent your blood from clotting too easily. It may even help remove plaque in your blood vessels. These effects, particularly of crushed, raw garlic in salads, tend to lower or prevent high blood pressure and prevent heart disease. The other spices are very potent anti-oxidants and add some real richness and enjoyment to the flavors.

The Mediterranean diet also encourages moderate consumption of red wine with dinner. Red wine, drunk in moderation increases HDL and in Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, & Burgundies contains saponins that lower LDL cholesterol. And, red wine contains some resveratrol which is heart protective also. Last but far from least, in moderate quantities, red wine is stress relieving and enjoyable to drink.

The Mediterranean diet contains more wild caught fish and less meat from animals fed grain than other diets often do.

The Mediterranean diet also tends to make use of cooked tomatoes and tomato puree in sauces that usually also contain extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and other spices. This can add huge amounts of flavor. And, it makes lycopene and other health protecting carotenoids more bioavailable and protective.

The negatives are that:

The Mediterranean diet contains some refined grains and whole grains and it often uses cheese.

If the pasta and other grains are minimized, skipped, or replaced by spaghetti squash or other vegetables – or egg is added to the pasta or whole wheat pasta is used, or some of each is done, it is better for you. Too much refined grain pasta or bread is bad for you even in Mediterranean cuisine.

The Mediterranean diet contains some cheese and preserved meats such as salami. Cheese from cows fed grain are bad for you due to the bioconcentrated herbicides and pesticides and excessive omega 6 oils. And, even cheese from cows fed only grass is a bit high in saturated fat. Population studies from both France and China show that low & low moderate consumption of saturated fat produces less heart disease than heavy consumption. So, use less of more highly flavored cheeses, such as Parmesan. Don’t have cheese every day. And, try to get only cheese from grass fed cows.

Eating lots of vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, eating garlic, and drinking red wine all help lower the bad effects of grains and dairy fat. But minimizing grains and dairy fat can make the Mediterranean diet even better for you.

2. The Dash II diet tends to lower high blood pressure and help people lose weight with little effort. And, it overlaps somewhat with the Mediterranean diet.

Nonstarchy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, tomatoes, AND fruits like berries and citrus fruits are the core staple.

It minimizes fats from grain fed animals with their excessive saturated fat and omega 6 oils by recommending they be eaten seldom and then only in the leanest and most fat-trimmed way possible.

It emphasizes using nonfat and very lowfat dairy foods as a source of animal protein and vitamin B12.

It particularly bans packaged snacks or desserts & recommends going very easy on breads – both refined grain and whole grain – due to their very high hidden salt content. And, it recommends skilled use of spices other than salt and adding salt to your taste by lightly salting your food and no salt or low moderate salt in cooking rather than large amounts.

It’s so effective by including lots of fiber and potassium in the vegetables and fruit & cutting sodium to 1500 mg a day or less by doing these things, that even people with normal blood pressure who go on it find their blood pressure goes down a bit. People with high blood pressure often see more substantial lowering, particularly those people for whom the more vegetables cause weight loss too.

(A case can be made that combining the best of the Mediterranean diet with the best of the DASH II diet may be close to he most health boosting and protective ways to eat. And, that’s particularly so if wild caught fish high in omega 3 oils are eaten one to three times a week, & omega 3 supplements are also featured every day. Also eating lentils as well as beans -- and eating unsalted raw or dry roasted nuts for people who aren’t allergic to them -- can make either the or the DASH II diet better.)

3. Lacto-Ovo vegetarians can do fair or really well depending on whether or not they include lots of vegetables and fruit (not all of them do this); whether or not they go very easy on cheese from grain fed cows and include nonfat and very lowfat dairy. They also do better if they only eat whole grains in moderation and eat very, very little refined grain foods. They may also benefit from omega 3 supplements daily. A lacto-ovo vegetarian version of the Mediterranean diet or the DASH II diet can be close to as health producing as the complete versions with lean poultry and occasional lean meat or grass fed meat.

Some lacto-ovo vegetarians who eat that way have really good health in fact.

(Both the DASH II diet and the lacto-ovo diet can benefit from the garlic, spices, extra virgin olive oil, and the moderate amounts of red wine in the Mediterranean diet.)

4. Chinese and Japanese cuisines also have a good track record for good health.

They are much better for you if fatty meats from grain fed animals, MSG, and salt are strongly minimized.

They are also better for you if rice is minimized and ALWAYS eaten with vegetables or fish or lean meat rather than by itself.

They are particularly strong at including many kinds of vegetables and using Ginger as a spice. And, like the Mediterranean diet, they tend to use garlic. This most true of Chinese cuisine.

They also tend to use more fish than Western diets. This is most true of Japanese cuisine. When the fish is cooked and from wild caught fish, I think it is best for you. Raw fish is a bit of a gamble that people sometimes don’t win. And eel in particular that is from farmed sources instead of wild caught in clean water can be quite high in pollutants that are NOT good for you.

5. Indian cuisine or foods from India can be quite healthful or a bit less so.

This way of eating has three very strong health benefits.

It makes heavy use of lentils which are the most nutritious kind of bean for protein, vitamins and minerals, and is lowest in glycemic index.

It uses curries that combine turmeric with black pepper and other spices. Turmeric or the curcumin in it when combined with these other spices prevents many cancers and not only prevents Alzheimer’s disease when eaten every week, it may even reverse it in its earlier stages. (You can get this combination from supplements; but many curried foods taste extremely good!)

Virtually all Indian cuisine makes heavy use of vegetables. (And, when it does use chicken or lamb, it often makes a curried version.)

The two drawbacks of Indian cuisine are that it often uses too much dairy fat and refined grain foods. As a result, sedentary people who eat Indian cuisine without passing on that part or eating very little of it can have type 2 diabetes and/or heart disease.

But dairy fat from grain fed cows can be switched with butter from grass fed cows. And you can eat far less.

And, eliminating 90 % or more of the refined grain breads etc is also doable.

6. Vegan vegetarian cuisine can be a sound choice. But where some modifications are a good idea for some of these cuisines and diets, it is essential for vegan vegetarians to have the best health.

Like lacto-ovo vegetarians, vegan vegetarians can eat too little vegetables and fruits. And, they can also eat far too much refined grain foods and even whole grain foods.

Some of the soy-base meat substitutes have health harmful ingredients or effect that traditional soy foods such as tempeh, miso, and tofu do not have. And some people are allergic to soy.

Vegans also need to supplement with at least some iron, copper, and zinc. They will also be in far better health if they supplement with 500 mcg a day or more of vitamin B12. And, since the CoQ10 form is only found in meat and fish and possibly eggs, they likely will have better health if they supplement with the ubiquinol form.

But vegans who eat wide variety of vegetables and fruits and use extra virgin olive oil, garlic, ginger, curry, and other spices, drink red wine in moderation, and take the key supplements they need can be very healthy people.

Eggs, dairy foods, meat and poultry from naturally fed animals, and wild caught fish all have health benefits that vegans miss. But if they work at it and take supplements, vegans can be healthy without them.

It’s not a lifestyle I would enjoy. I think it a bit too limiting. But the right versions belong in this list!

7. Northern European and Mexican and traditional United States recipes can be healthful choices too if the principles behind healthy eating in these other eating styles are applied to them.

These cuisines tend to use too much omega 6 oils, meat, saturated fat, sugar, refined grain foods, and too little vegetables and fruit.

But many of the recipes can be upgraded and far less of these foods need be eaten. And, that means that many recipes from Northern European and Mexican and traditional United States cuisines CAN be good choices.

More vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and red wine from the Mediterranean diet can help. So can using a DASH II version of many of these foods & recipes.

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