The Link Between Diet and Disease

By Chris Chenoweth

Health experts have long recognized the link between diet and health. A nutritionally healthy diet can reduce and prevent many diseases and conditions like heart disease, cancer, stroke, obesity and osteoporosis.

Poor eating habits, on the other hand, are a major contributor to cancer-related deaths and other diseases. The more we know about cancer, the more apparent it becomes that diet is directly related to the incidence of cancer.

Compared to the rest of the world, Americans enjoy an abundance of foods and food choices. Unfortunately, this wealth of food offerings is resulting in an over consumption of some of the unhealthy nutritional choices available such as too much fat and processed foods.

Because we enjoy so many choices, it is important that we learn how to make healthy choices that will help our bodies to fight off disease and poor health. The guidelines below can assist you in making healthy diet choices.

HEART DISEASE AND DIET

*FIBER Soluble fiber binds to fats and carries the fats out of the body through the stool. Eating a diet high in soluble fiber reduces the risk of heart disease.

Good sources of soluble fiber are oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, dried beans and legumes, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables

*SATURATED FAT Eating a diet high in saturated fat causes cholesterol to build up in the arteries, forcing the arteries to harden and narrow. The increased pressure in the arteries causes a strain on the heart greatly increasing the risk for heart disease. Additionally, saturated fat increases the risk for obesity, another risk factor for heart disease.

Foods low in saturated fat include fruits, vegetables, whole grain foods, and low-fat or nonfat dairy products. Avoid butter, margarine, Crisco, animal fats, high fat dairy products, and commercially baked goods such as crackers and cookies.

Eat a diet high in monounsaturated fats (olive oil is the best followed by hazelnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, and avocado) as it lowers cholesterol and reduces the risk for heart disease.

CANCER AND DIET

*FATS A high fat diet increase the risks of certain types of cancer such as breast and colon. Follow the guidelines above for eating foods low in saturated fats.

To reduce your cancer risk cut out fatty meats and frying. Bake, broil, steam or grill. Choose lean cuts of beef and pork and eat more fish and poultry.

*FIBER Both soluble and insoluble fiber reduce the risk for certain types of cancer. Good sources of insoluble fiber (removes toxic waste through the colon very quickly) are whole-grain breads, kidney and green beans, beets, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, carrots, and cauliflower.

Good sources of soluble fiber are oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, dried beans and legumes, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables

*VITAMINS Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and beta carotene are called phytochemicals (plant chemicals) and are full of antioxidants (they protect the cells from oxidation, a process that leads to cell damage and increases cancer risk). A diet high in these nutrients reduces the risk of developing a number of types of cancer, including stomach, colorectal, esophagus, and lung cancer.

Eat fruits and vegetables that contain Vitamins A and C and beta carotene, including dark-green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and turnip greens; citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit; and other red and orange fruits and vegetables.

OSTEOPOROSIS AND DIET

*CALCIUM Calcium is one of the most necessary minerals for human life. It is vital for the formation of healthy teeth and bones.

Milk and milk products are the best sources of calcium. It can also be obtained by taking supplements.

DISEASE AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

A regular fitness regimen can reduce the risks of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, and many other health problems that are related to poor diet. To gain the best health benefits, 30 minutes of exercise daily is recommended. Aerobic exercises (walking, skating, jogging, bicycling) are best. Check with your physician before beginning any exercise program, especially if you lead a very sedentary lifestyle.

Following a healthy diet and regular exercise program is your best weapon against disease and poor health. Making small changes in your diet and lifestyle seems like a small price to pay for a healthy life.

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