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Tips for healthy diet

MagazineDecember 1998 (Vol. 9 Issue 9)Tips for healthy diet

Increase fruit and vegetables

Increase fruit and vegetables. For every extra three servings (a serving is defined as half a cup) per day of fruit and vegetables, you could reduce the risk of stroke by 22 per cent (JAMA, 1995; 273: 1113-17).

Variety is the key. Plant food alone can supply adequate protein but only if you eat a wide variety of foods. For vegetarians, including dairy products and eggs in your diet will ensure your intake of plenty of first class protein, but dairy produce is very high in fat, so be careful of fat intake. Good plant sources of protein include soya products, legumes, nuts, seeds, grains and vegetables. Including grains and legumes each day will ensure that your child is receiving a complete protein.Increase fish consumption. The hunter gatherer diet includes good quantities of fish. Cold water and oily fish can reduce the risk of heart problems, but also improve other areas of health, such as mental performance and better vision.

Trim the fat. When eating meat choose lean varieties. Try using less red meat and more "white" meats such as poultry and turkey. Think of meat as a "condiment". As little as one ounce of red meat daily will supply you with the minerals, EFAs and B12 you need to stay healthy.

Don't forget iron and other nutrients. Iron is present in foods in two forms heme iron and non heme iron. Heme iron (also called organic iron) is found only in meat, poultry and fish. Non heme iron (also called inorganic iron) is found in a wide variety of animal and plant foods. Between 15 and 35 per cent of heme iron is absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract into the bloodstream. Non heme iron is less readily absorbed (between 2 and 20 per cent), and its absorption is affected by the presence of other substances consumed at the same meal. Some substances such as organic acids and vitamin C enhance non heme iron absorption. Others such as the phytates in whole grains and the tannin in tea inhibit it. So vegetarians when planning meals should make sure they include substances which will enhance, and not inhibit, iron absorption.

Good, non meat sources of iron include legumes, whole grain or enriched grain products, dried fruits, potatoes eaten with the skin, leafy, dark green vegetables, some types of nuts and seeds, and eggs. Milk and other dairy products are low in iron; lacto or lacto ovo vegetarians should be careful not to overconsume these at the expense of iron rich foods. One simple way to help iron absorption is to eat a vitamin C rich fruit or drink at each meal.

Make sure to get adequate B12. The body cannot manufacture enough B12 to meet its own needs, therefore B12 needs to come from sources such as eggs and dairy. Although fermented soya products such as tempeh, seaweed products such as nori and kelp and algae (spirulina) were once thought to contain important amounts of B12, more recent thinking suggests that the B12 like substance in these products may not be physiologically active and therefore not able to meet the body's demands. Consider taking B12 supplements if you are vegan.


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