Improve Your Chances for a Long and Healthy Life – Eating for
Eat for life? Eat to improve your chances long and healthy life? Yes, you can. We hope you enjoy this useful
article and be sure to visit the resources at the bottom of the page which include wonderful culinary spices,
and accessories that can help you eat healthy. You will also find recommended reading to support a healthy
At a time when we seem to be overwhelmed by conflicting diet and health messages, the National
Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Heart,
Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) have some good news: by making the right food choices, you may
reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Reduce Your Risk to Heart Disease and Cancer
These diseases take the lives of more Americans than all other illnesses and causes of death combined. Each
day, about three out of every four deaths in the United States will occur as a result of cardiovascular disease
or heart disease (like heart attacks and strokes) and cancer. This need not be. Although no diet can ensure
you won’t get a heart attack, stroke or cancer, what you eat can affect your health.
This has been shown by research of the National Cancer Institute and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
(two of this country’s National Institutes of Health), along with the research of other scientists. How does
a person eat for life? It’s easier and more enjoyable than you might think.
The practical ideas in this article show you how to make healthful, tasty, and appetizing food choices at
home and when you’re eating out. They are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published
by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services.
The Seven Basic Guidelines
- Eat a variety of foods
- Maintain desirable weight
- Avoid too much fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol
- Eat foods with adequate starch and fiber
- Avoid too much suga
- Avoid too much sodium.
- If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.
The first two guidelines form the framework of a good diet: eat a variety of foods so that you get enough
of the essential nutrients you need, and eat only enough calories to maintain desirable weight. The next
five guidelines describe special characteristics of a good diet-getting adequate starch and fiber and avoiding
too much fat, sugar, sodium, and alcohol.
Although the guidelines are designed for healthy adult Americans, these suggestions are considered especially
appropriate for people who may already have some of the risk factors for chronic diseases. These risk factors
include a family history of obesity, premature heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or high blood
This article focuses on five guidelines that are particularly related to the prevention of heart disease and/or
cancer: eat a variety of foods; maintain desirable weight; avoid too much fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol;
eat foods with adequate starch and fiber; and avoid too much sodium.
Keep in mind that staying healthy requires more than just good nutrition. Regular exercise, getting enough
rest, learning to cope with stress, and having regular physical checkups are important ways to help ensure
good health. Checkups are especially important for early detection of cancer and heart disease.
Another important way to reduce your risks of heart disease and cancer is not to smoke or use tobacco in any
form. Controlling high blood pressure (hypertension) can also greatly reduce your risk of heart disease and
Remember, three of the major risk factors for heart disease are largely under your control. They are smoking,
high blood pressure, and high blood cholesterol. How Do the Foods We Eat Affect Our Chances of Getting Cancer
and Heart Disease? There is much still to be learned about the relationship between the foods we eat and
our risk of getting cancer and heart disease. The NHLBI and NCI are conducting a great deal of research to
find out more about this relationship.
There is, however, a lot that we know now. The relationship of diet to cancer and the relationship of diet
to risk factors for heart disease are summarized below: Obesity * We know that obesity is associated with
high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, Extreme obesity has also
been linked to several cancers. This means that if you are obese, losing weight may reduce your chances of
developing these serious diseases or conditions.
If you already suffer from hypertension and are overweight, weight loss alone can often lower your blood pressure
to normal levels. Because fat (both saturated and unsaturated fat) provides more than twice the number of
calories provided by equal weights of carbohydrate or protein, decreasing the fat in your diet may help you
lose weight as well as help reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease.
Today, most Americans get about 37 percent of their daily calories from fat. Many experts suggest that fat
should be reduced to 30 percent or less of calories.
When someone is searching for the best diet to lose weight fast, they should make sure the program includes eating healthy, nourishing fats.
We know that high blood cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease, especially as it rises above 200
mg/dl (milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood). The evidence is clear that elevated cholesterol
in the blood, resulting in part from the foods we eat and in part from cholesterol made in the body, contributes
to the development of atherosclerosis, a disorder of arteries that results in their narrowing and in reduced
This condition can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
We know that blood cholesterol levels are greatly influenced by the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol
found in many of the foods we eat. These raise blood cholesterol levels. (Of the two, saturated fat seems
to be the major dietary factor which affects blood cholesterol.)
To reduce your blood cholesterol level, it is important to eat less saturated fat and cholesterol. Saturated
fat and cholesterol are often found together in foods. Saturated fat in the U.S. diet is provided primarily
by animal products such as the fat in meat, butter, whole milk, cream, cheese, and ice cream.
There are a few vegetable fats—coconut oil, cocoa butter, palm kernel and palm oils which are also high
in saturated fat. Cholesterol is found only in animal products eggs, meat, poultry, fish and dairy products.
Plant foods such as vegetables, grains, cereals, nuts, and seeds do not contain cholesterol. A few foods
are high in cholesterol but relatively low in fat–for example, egg yolks and liver.
Watch Grocery Store Labels
Watch out for items in the grocery store that are labeled no cholesterol or, contains no animal fat. They
may still contain a large amount of fat or saturated fat. Examples are peanut butter, solid vegetable shortening,
nondairy creamer, and baked products like cookies, cakes, and crackers.
For people trying to lose blood cholesterol level, these foods should be chosen less often. We know that substituting
unsaturated fatty acids (which are usually liquid and usually come from plant sources) for saturated fats
can help reduce high blood cholesterol. Safflower, corn, soybean, olive, and canola oils are major sources
of unsaturated fats. The omega-3 fatty acids which are found in fish and seafood, may have a favorable effect
on blood fat and reduce the risk of heart disease. No one is sure yet.
We know that there is an association between too much sodium in the diet and high blood pressure in some individuals.
Sodium is a mineral that occurs naturally in some foods and is added to many foods and beverages as salt
or other additives. Most sodium in the American diet comes from salt. One teaspoon of salt contains about
2 grams of sodium.
In countries where people eat only small amounts of sodium, high blood pressure is rare. We also know that
when some people with high blood pressure greatly reduce their sodium intake, their blood pressure will fall.
Because Americans generally eat much more sodium than they need, it is probably best for most people to reduce
the amount of sodium they eat.
According to the National Academy of Sciences, a safe and adequate amount of sodium in the diet of the average
adult is between 1 and 3.3 grams daily.
Recent Studies on Monosaturated Fats
Some recent studies indicated that the substitution of monosaturated fats, such as those saturated fats may
lower blood cholesterol.
Causes of 80 Percent of All Cancer
The National Cancer Institute estimates that about 80 percent of all cancers may be related to smoking, diet,
and the environment. The National Cancer Institute estimates that about one-third of all cancer deaths may
be related to the foods we eat. Studies at the National Cancer Institute suggest that eating foods high in
fiber may reduce risks of cancers of the colon and rectum.
Adult Americans now eat about 11 grams of fiber daily according to NCI studies. NCI recommends that Americans
increase the daily amount of fiber they eat to between 20 and 30 grams, with an upper limit of 35 grams.
The NCI also emphasizes the importance of choosing fiber rich foods, not supplements. Good sources of fiber
are whole grain breads and bran cereals, vegetables, cooked dry peas and beans, and fruits.
We know that diets high in fats of all kinds have been linked to certain cancers, particularly those of the
breast, colon, lining of the uterus, and prostate gland. Some studies have suggested that fat may act as
a cancer promoter (an agent that speeds up the development of cancer).
There is some evidence that diets rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, and beta-carotene (the plant form of vitamin
A) may help reduce the risk of certain cancers. The evidence we have about vitamins A and C comes from studies
of these vitamins as they are found in foods.
That is why NCI recommends that you eat a variety of foods rich in vitamins rather than relying on vitamin
supplements. Good sources of vitamin A include yellow-orange vegetables such as carrots, winter squash, sweet
potatoes and pumpkin; and yellow-orange fruits such as peaches, cantaloupes and mangoes.
Sources of vitamin C include dark-green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, and watercress; broccoli and
asparagus; and tomatoes. Some fruit sources of vitamin C are oranges, lemons, grapefruit, peaches, berries,
There is some evidence that vegetables in the cabbage family may help protect against cancer of the colon.
These vegetables are also good sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Cabbage family vegetables include
cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, collards, kale, turnips, mustard greens, turnip greens,
kohlrabi, watercress and radishes.
Reducing Your Risk of Heart Disease and Cancer
Based on what we know, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Cancer Institute have
joined together to suggest some ways you may reduce your risks of heart disease and cancer. These suggestions
emphasize the need to eat a variety of foods each day. They also include some “mealtime strategies” that
you can use to plan meals that avoid too much fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium, and that help
you to get adequate starch and fiber.
These strategies are consistent with the Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services
Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These strategies should encourage you to think about the foods you eat,
how to prepare them, and what food choices you can make when you go grocery shopping or eat away from home.
Choose More Often Approach
The key is following a Choose More Often approach. It doesn’t mean giving up your favorite foods. It means
taking steps to choose more often foods that are low in fat and high in fiber.
For example, if you enjoy eating steak, choose a low-fat cut such as round steak, trim off the excess fat,
broil it, and drain off the drippings. Pizza? To try a low-fat version that is rich in fiber, use a whole-grain
English muffin or pita bread topped with part-skim mozzarella, fresh vegetables, and tomato sauce. And cookies
or other desserts? In many recipes you can reduce the fat, and substitute vegetable oils or margarine for
butter.To increase fiber, use whole wheat flour in place of white flour.
Here’s how the Choose More Often approach works:
Choose More Often:
- Low-fat meat, poultry, fish Lean cuts of meat trimmed of fat (round tip roast, pork tenderloin, loin
lamb chop), poultry without skin, and fish, cooked without breading or fat added.
- Low-fat dairy products 1 percent or skim milk, buttermilk; low-fat or nonfat yogurt; lower fat cheeses
(part-skim ricotta, pot, and farmer); ice milk, sherbet.
- Dry beans and peas All beans, peas and lentils—the dry forms are higher in protein.
- Whole grain products Breads, bagels, and English muffins made from whole wheat, rye, bran, and corn flour
or meal; whole grain or bran cereals; whole wheat pasta; brown rice; bulgur.
- Fruits and vegetables All fruits and vegetables (except avocados, which are high in fat, but that fat
is primarily unsaturated). For example, apples, pears, cantaloupe, oranges, grapefruit, pineapple, peaches,
bananas, carrots, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, potatoes, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach,
cauliflower, and turnips, and others.
- Fats and oils high in unsaturates
- Unsaturated vegetable oils, such as canola oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, olive oil, and soybean oil,
and margarine; reduced-calorie mayonnaise and salad dressings.
To assure an adequate diet, choose a variety of foods daily including selections of vegetables; fruits; whole-grain
breads and cereals; low-fat dairy products; poultry, fish, and lean meat, dry beans and peas.
Here are some tips for following the “Choose More Often” approach in three important areas: grocery
shopping, food preparation, and eating out.
Grocery Shopping Focus on Variety
Choose a wide selection of low-fat foods rich in fiber. Include whole grain breads and cereals, vegetables,
fruits, low-fat dairy products, and poultry, fish, and lean meat.
Although the goal is to reduce fat to 30 percent or less of calories, when choosing foods that do contain
fat, try to choose ones that contain primarily unsaturated fats. For example, choose an unsaturated-rich
margarine instead of butter; choose vegetable oils.
Read food labels. To help you find foods that are low in fat and cholesterol and high in fiber, get into the
label-reading habit. Many nutritional labels on packaged foods show the amount of unsaturated and saturated
fatty acids and the amount of cholesterol and fiber they contain.
Check the type of fat on the ingredients list. Is it an animal fat, coconut or palm kernel oil high in saturated
fat? Or, is it corn or soybean oil high in polyunsaturated fat? Choose a product with the lowest proportion
of saturated fat. The label also tells you something else about a product.
Ingredients are listed in order of amount from most to least by weight. So, when you buy a breakfast cereal,
for example, choose one that has a whole grain listed first (such as whole wheat or oatmeal). Pay attention
to sodium. Many processed, canned, and frozen foods are high in sodium. Cured or processed meats, cheeses,
and condiments (soy sauce, mustard, tartar sauce) are also high in sodium.
Check for salt, onion or garlic salt, and any ingredient with “sodium” on the label. If the sodium
content is given on the nutritional label, compare products and choose the ones with lower levels.
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