by Dr. David Heine
In the first installment in this series of articles (March/April Scoop), I discussed an overall approach to good health and wellness. It is clear that the choices we make regarding the foods that we eat play a primary role in our health. I referenced the work of Dr. Dean Ornish in my prior article. He and his colleagues have clearly shown that the foods we eat can prevent or reverse illnesses such as heart disease or prostate cancer. We are also aware that the opposite is true, that the foods that we eat can cause high blood pressure, obesity or diabetes. Dr. Ornish’s most recent book, The Spectrum, discusses the need to choose healthier foods more often and less healthy foods less often. Although this seems to be basic common sense, many of us still struggle with making these choices.
Although it may sound intimidating to some of us, Dr. Ornish proposes a plant-based diet. Some of my patients are very comfortable with this concept. However, many of us who are born and raised mid-westerners are more cautious. We like our cheese burgers and fries. We like our meatball suppers and the occasional Sunday chicken dinner. The point of Dr. Ornish’s latest book stresses the need to get most of our calories from healthy sources and view the meat in our diet as something for special occasions. This is a goal to work towards. For many of us this is a radical shift, and we need to start off with change that isn’t so aggressive.
I would like to offer a few ideas that may help make healthy food choices. Many of these concepts are at the heart of the mission of the Oneota Community Food Cooperative. Eat locally grown or produced food when possible. Eat less refined or more whole foods and grains whenever possible. Select fresh organic produce whenever possible. Limit calories from animal sources. Increase calories from vegetables and lean proteins, such as eggs, beans, nuts and peanut butter. Eat all the vegetables you want. If you are still hungry at the end of a meal, eat more vegetables or get up and go for a walk. Limit fat intake to no more than 10% of your calories daily. You do not have to restrict calories unless you are trying to lose weight. Start the day with some type of lean protein such as eggs or peanut butter to improve metabolism. Try eating smaller frequent meals throughout the day to prevent spikes in blood sugar. Limit the portion size of starches in the diet. The starches you are eating should be mostly whole grain. Slow down and enjoy food. Alcohol should be limited to no more than one or 2 servings daily. Supplement your diet with 3 grams of fish oil daily. Most of my patients benefit from a daily calcium supplement with 400-800 units of vitamin D daily. A daily multivitamin containing vitamin B-12 is also beneficial. Maintain good hydration throughout the day to support metabolism and to help reduce appetite.
If you are able to implement some of these suggestions over time, you will be happier with your weight and energy level. More importantly you will be preventing diabetes, elevated blood pressure and heart disease. Life is a series of choices. If you are able to choose healthy food options more often you will see improvement in your health overall. My next article will focus on the role of regular physical activity in maintaining good heart health and the prevention of disease.