I hate anything that starts or ends with diet — since my “diets” usually start and end on the same day, I never have to be hateful for very long. The word “diet” raises images of pain, deprivation, and pms-like emotional symptoms and combining it with attractive words like South Beach, Zone and Chardonnay are the auditory equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig. That is, it doesn’t help. By the way, I believe it was my older sisters who invented the Chardonnay Diet, also known as the Chardonnay/Coffee diet. You put nothing in your mouth except white wine and caffeine and you laugh and shake your way to thinness. I have tried it and while it is fun, it has some flaws. You ultimately pass out or make a skinny fool out of yourself. So, in an effort to have a good 2011, forget about diets. They suck … the life out of you and they usually just end up taking you on another ride on the Coney Island Cyclone. Instead, try adding more foods that are good for you and limiting, not removing, foods that will kill you in ten years.
1. Fiber is an undigestible type of carbohydrate that is found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, pills and powders. It does more than keep you regular, which is always nice. It lowers your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and diverticular disease. Women should be getting at least 20g/day and men, at least 30g/day. The more calories you take in, the more fiber you should consume.
2. Fruits and vegetables – You know that they are good for you, but how good? More and more, scientists are discovering that adequate servings of fruits and vegetables are absolutely essential to good health. Not only are they low in calorie, they are packed with vitamins and nutrients in the packaging God intended. They are proven to lower cholesterol, weight, blood pressure, and your risk for type 2 diabetes, cancer and eye problems. They also raise your energy level. You should be shooting for 9 servings or 4 1/2 cups per day. Potatoes don’t count no matter how you spell it and just like life, a variety of colors is best.
3. Anti-aging foods – You may know of super-foods, if not, you can recognize them by their mask and cape. There are foods that are hailed as particularly good for you beyond, well, the garden variety. These include avocados, berries, nuts (especially almonds, pecans and walnuts), flax-seed and whole grains. Try to add just a handful of some of these to your intake each day.
Now … what to limit.
4. Processed foods – Read the ingredients and avoid anything that contains things you can’t pronounce, things with trans-fats, and things that seem to fill you up but have lots of zeros in the nutrition panel. Common sense — can’t possibly be good. Oops, hold on … I just spilled a diet coke into my bowl of Pringles. O.K. I’m back. What else should I tell you not to eat?
5. Red meat – If I were a dinosaur, I would be the kind that eats the other dinosaurs. A true carnivore, after looking up some information for this week, I am going to start cooking more fish. Red meat is high in calories, fat, cholesterol and cancer causing ingredients. Restrict your intake if you can. I refuse to suggest turkey substitutes because I would rather eat a carrot stick.
On the island of Okinawa, off the south coast of Japan, people live a long, long time. They grow their own food, eat mostly vegetarian, and don’t process their food. Not only do they live for a long time … they live well for a long time. The younger people there have started to adopt a more American diet (a term that I resent as it calls to mind obese people eating meat and grease but then again, I have been to Disneyland and it is fairly accurate) and they are starting to catch up, from a bad-health standpoint, with us gluttonous westerners.
There is a lot of truth to the saying, “You are what you eat.” So, while your brain wants you to eat only health foods, your body is screaming feed me the good stuff. Eating is fun, satisfying and social. Do not try to start off the new year with an extreme all or nothing attitude. Instead, practice moderation. Buy more fresh ingredients to keep in your house and limit the purchasing of processed foods. If it isn’t there, you won’t eat it. Spend more time with a rod than with a gun, or more time in the fish market than the butcher shop. Make an effort to increase, in even a small way, the foods above that are so good for you. If you have children, keep putting the good stuff on their plates. Many tastes are acquired and they can’t acquire a liking if they are not exposed. Every little bit really does count. No, I don’t want to live forever because life is hard but, if I have to be here anyway, I’d rather feel good — just like the prisoners in the movies who spend a lot of pumping iron.
Tomorrow – exercise and longevity
Friday – interesting stats about long lives