Monday, March 25, 2013

World's Healthiest Foods: Keeping it simple

Worlds Healthiest Foods: Are available, tasty & good for you
World's Healthiest Foods: Available, tasty & good for you
Eating well, as the saying goes, is not rocket science. Sure, you have to be aware of things. Like sodium content and getting enough fiber. But, at the end of the day, it's about taking in quality calories, mostly fruits, whole grains and vegetables. And eating healthy, low-fat cuts of meat or seafood for your protein (if, like me, you cannot eat a pure vegetarian diet due to a food allergy).


But we Americans tend to muck everything up, and make complex that which should be simple. There are conflicting reports about what is healthy for you, and what isn't.

For instance, take eggs. Which have been "off limits," or egg-whites only. No yolks, because they are filled with cholesterol. Until recent research made it clear that, even though egg-yolks actually help lower overall cholesterol, and are chock-full of health benefits. And thus, the recommendation changes to "eat eggs, including yolks, several times per week.

 Which is why I think Micheal Polan, in his recent book In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto  is so spot when he talks about the shifting "healthy/ avoid" foods. His advice is sage:
Eat whole foods, that a grandparent (or great grandparent) in 1900 would recognize as food [this means butter, and not Olivio; sugar or honey instead of Sucralose]. Eat mostly fruits and vegetables, with a smattering of nuts and whole grains. And keep your meat portions small -- about the size of a pack of cards. 


But as always, I am a bit more inquisitive. And wanted to know about the phytochemicals that Polan seemed so keen on. So I asked a nutritionist friend of mine, and she just threw up her hands. There are too many phytochemicals. And the research on them complex, and often conflicting. So she mentioned that she liked simple approaches, like Polan's, best.

She also liked an "eating by color" system (handy brochure from North Dakota State University) , where you eat vegetables of differing colors, increasing the range of phytochemicals you'll get in your diet.

But she advocated the Mediterranean Diet (see what Web MD has to say about this excellent diet),  She thought that, even though the Mediterranean is a tad more complex that Polan's system, it does point one towards healthy food.

The day after our conversation, though, I stumbled upon a good site, compiled by a biologist George Mateljan, who happens to be the founder or a pioneering organic food company called Health Valley Foods. The site,  The World's Healthiest Foods (whfoods.org)includes a page that compiles up-to-date research on the health benefits of 150 common, very health foods -- from apples to zucchini, and lamb to salmon. Mateljan includes recipes that are very much in line with the Mediterranean Diet. He also introducesincluding a neat way to saute (very quickly, using chicken broth instead of butter or olive oil).

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