Cover art: Pomona, Goddess Of The Harvest, by Wendy Eads.
Acrylic on canvas 2’ x 3’. Painting on loan to the editor.
The Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables
Why Are Fruits & Vegetables So Important?
Are Some More Important Than Others?
How Do They Protect Us?
How Can You Change Your Diet?
Whole, Fresh, Lively Foods Deliver Those Traits To Us.
To Find Out How, Look Inside….
TOPIC: THE BENEFITS OF FRUITS
“Eat Your Peas!” According to research from Baylor College of Medicine, the best thing parents can do to encourage their children to eat fruits and veggies is to eat those foods themselves.
In a study of 190 families, fruit and vegetable intake was higher when the parents also partook.
Ironically, parents eating the smallest amounts put the most pressure on their children. This resulted in those children eating even less of these healthy foods.
“Eat More Fruits And Vegetables”
The word is out. Everybody hears, “Eat More Fruits And Vegetables”. However, nobody tells us why. In this issue of Nutrition News, we make an attempt to correct what’s missing. We give you The Why.
Here are a few examples of plant power: Substances recently discovered in broccoli and cabbage sprouts sweep toxins out of cells. Substances found in nuts and beans prevent damage to our DNA. Other compounds in beets, peppers, and tomatoes fight cancerous changes in cells. Oranges and apples protect our blood vessels from damage that could lead to heart disease…. Knowing why these foods are so important to our health makes it easier to integrate them into our diets.
When we consume a sufficient amount and variety of plant foods, we actually reinforce our immune systems to detoxify cancer-causing agents, to repair DNA damage, to improve our defenses against viruses and bacteria, and to protect us against heart disease, diabetes, and other degenerative diseases.
In fact, we now know that the greater the amount and variety of fruits and vegetables we eat, the lower the incidence of heart attack, stroke, and, cancer. Perhaps the greatest bonus for many of us is the gift of healthy weight.
Other benefits include increased energy, clear skin, bright eyes, shining hair, improved dental health, excellent cholesterol profiles, desirable blood pressure levels, regularity, and the glow of good health. Doesn’t it make sense that when we eat whole, fresh, and lively foods, we would feel whole, fresh, and lively ourselves?
However, with our current eating habits most of us are far off the mark of good health. According to the USDA, as a nation, we are eating a mere 7 percent of our daily calories as produce and legumes. Instead, Americans eat 42 percent of total calories as fiberless animal foods and another 51 percent as highly processed, refined carbohydrates and oils. Of the 7 percent we do eat, most is potatoes. Worse, these are generally eaten fried or as chips. And, sadly, on any given day, half of us eat no fruit whatsoever.
No wonder we’re fat and getting fatter and sick and getting sicker. More than two-thirds of all deaths each year – 1.4 million of them – are caused by degenerative disease, including heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. Because these diseases are rooted in poor food choices and a lack of regular exercise, they are commonly referred to as lifestyle diseases.
Plant Foods = Plant Power
To get plant power, eat lots and lots – and a wide variety of – plant foods. Consider them health insurance. Eat them as fresh as possible. Eat them raw and eat them lightly cooked. Eat them morning, noon, and night.
We’re talking about all those foods that come directly from the earth: beans, whole grains, raw nuts and seeds, and, most especially, vegetables and fruits. They are not the bottom of the food chain, but the basis of the food chain.
What’s so special about plant foods? In the first place, calorie for calorie, plant foods are the most nutrient dense foods that we can eat. Literal storage houses of nutrition, they contain the three basic foods (protein, carbohydrates, and fats), plus vitamins, minerals, fiber, water, and a multiplicity phytochemicals. (Phyto– means plant.)
Each of these elements contributes to our health and plant foods have all of them. Plus, plant foods are highly complex. A tomato contains more than 10,000 different phytochemicals. And that’s just the tomato!
Let’s consider protein content, always a concern of the nonvegetarian. Which food do you think has more protein calorie for calorie, broccoli or steak? In his book Eat To Live, Joel Furhman, MD, introduces the concept of nutrient density.1
This concept is based on 100 standard calories rather than 100 grams of weight (about a cup). As an example of nutrient density, 100 calories worth of broccoli contains 11.2 grams of protein while 100 calories of steak has 5.4 grams, less than half the protein value of broccoli. [Surprised? I certainly was! Ed.]
However, all protein on the planet is formed through photosynthesis, the effect of sunlight on green plants. Cows prefer green foods as their protein source; then the greens become the protein in milk and meat.
Looking at the table we’ve included (opposite page), you see that both broccoli and romaine put steak in the dust when it comes to protein and other nutrients.
And, what about fiber? The reputation of fiber was built on its ability to keep our cholesterol down, keep us regular, and protect us from colon cancer.
In fact, initial results of the largest scientific study to ever investigate the links between diet and cancer risk showed that fiber is protective against colon cancer.2
For nearly five years, researchers tracked the diets of over 500,000 people from 10 European countries. Those who ate the most dietary fiber (averaging 35 gm per day, currently the recommended amount in the US) reduced colon cancer risk by 40 percent.
This is compared with those eating the least fiber (an average of 15 gm per day). Unfortunately, Americans currently eat only about 11 grams of fiber daily.
Again, over 66 percent of all deaths in the US are the result of lifestyle-related diseases, and the average American is eating less than seven percent of calories as plant foods.
The Laotian people are at the other extreme. In Laos, the average person gets approximately 90 percent of their total calories from plant foods. As a result, in that country only about 5 percent of all deaths are from heart disease and cancer.
Overall, in populations where death rates from lifestyle-related diseases are low and the incidence of overweight is small, the people are eating more than 75 percent of their calories from unrefined plant foods.
Recently, Dr. David Heber of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition stated that there is “overwhelming evidence that eating up to a pound of diverse fruits and vegetables can markedly reduce the risks of common forms of cancer and other diseases.”
Studies have repeatedly shown a correlation between the quantities of fruits and veggies eaten and the incidence of various cancers, including breast, colon, rectum, lung, stomach, prostate, and pancreas.
The more of them we eat, the more protected we are. It is possible that our bodies are genetically adapted to expect large amounts of plant foods?
This makes cancer a disease of maladaptation, resulting primarily from the lack of substances that are metabolically necessary for “normal protective function”.
Plant Foods = Plant Power
1 The 2011 edition of Eat To Live is available as a paperback and on Kindle.
2 Published in The Lancet, May 3, 2003.
Nutrient Density Comparisons*
*Based on 100 calories, adapted from Eat To Live
The Real Secret To Weight Loss?
The cure for overweight/obesity is known. Studies with thousands of participants have demonstrated that the combination of a dramatic change in eating habits and the addition of daily exercise results in weight loss. This includes a 60 percent reduction in the chance of developing chronic ailments such as diabetes.
“Nature’s Magic” was not originally conceived as a weight loss issue. However, it seems that consuming more plant foods (particularly plant protein) is also the secret to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
In Eat To Live, Dr. Fuhrman introduces the “90% Rule”. The rule stipulates that eating 90 percent of calories as fresh fruits and vegetables for six weeks results in a “thinner, healthier, and happier” person. Furhman also includes a chapter on the scientific documentation of the health benefits of eating plant foods. Much of that vital information appears in other sections of the newsletter.
Joel Fuhrman is one doctor who understands that for many people (particularly women) dieting often does not result in weight loss. This is a great comfort. He states, “Most patients who come to me say that they just can’t lose weight, no matter what they do.” He continues, “My diet plan and recipes are designed for the hardest cases…. Following [my] dietary advice, you will achieve remarkable results, regardless of your experience elsewhere. Weight loss averages fifteen pounds the first month and ten pounds each month thereafter.”
Furthermore, he adds that not only do people lose weight, feel great, and look radiant, they come off their medications and heal themselves as they proceed with their new eating plan.
This way of eating works because appetite is not controlled by the weight of the food you eat (generally expressed as a 100 gram serving size or portion). Rather, appetite is controlled by fiber or bulk, nutrient density, and caloric density.
These three properties form the switch that turns off our appestat, the brain center in the hypothalamus that controls food intake. That is why traditional dieting by eating smaller portions of the same low-nutrient foods we usually eat doesn’t work. It leaves us both hungry and nutrient deficient.
In my experiment, I found it impossible to eat the huge amounts of food needed to maintain the calories necessary to meet nutrient needs. I took Dr. Fuhrman’s advice and continued to take my multivitamin-mineral capsules.
Simply stated, Dr. Fuhrman asks you to commit six weeks of your life to sticking with his plan. His desire, like mine, is to contribute to your good health. You don’t have to buy the book – although I certainly encourage you to do so.
Here’s the nutshell version of the Six Week Plan. You can eat as many fresh vegetables (both raw and steamed) and as many fruits (fresh and frozen – not canned or dried) each day as you like.
Your goal is to eat a pound of raw veggies daily and a pound of steamed green vegetables. Because greens are the most protein-rich foods, make salad your main dish at both lunch and dinner.
Eat at least four servings of fruit. Each day, you may have a cup of any type of beans and a cup of any grain or starchy veggie (like yam, potato, or squash), plus a handful of raw nuts, a tablespoon of ground flax, and no more than 2 oz of avocado. (The oil helps to uptake some veggie nutrients.)
The only animal foods allowed are lean fish once or twice each week and an egg white or egg beaters omelette once a week.3
No dairy products are allowed on this diet. Remember, 100 calories worth of broccoli is equal to 11.5 grams of protein while 100 calories of steak equals only 5.6 grams. Lastly, it’s nix on caffeine and alcohol for the six weeks.
Herbs, spices and every kind of vegetable are encouraged, including eggplant, asparagus, mushrooms, tomatoes, and carrots.
The book contains lots of recipes and encourages soup eating. In Eat To Live, Fuhrman provides a “Life Plan” with more options to follow your six weeks.
The Real Secret To Weight Loss?
3 I disagree with this advice. I don’t believe in egg whites. Whole eggs are the perfect protein-balance food for humans. -Ed.
What Colors Are Your Vegetables?
By eating from a palette of colorful foods, we become a “picture of health”.
Reds: Nutrients: Protection:
Tomatoes, pink grapefruit, Lycopene Reduces risk of prostate
guava, and watermelon cancer; lowers blood pressure.
Beets, kidney beans, red cabbage, Anthocyanins Lowers blood pressure; protection
red onion, raspberries, cranberrries, against circulatory problems from
red apples diabetes.
All the dark berries, such as Anthocyanins Reduces risk of cancer, heart
blueberries and purple grapes disease, and age-related memory
loss; improves vision.
Eggplant, plums, prunes, raisins Phenolics Slows some effects of aging.
Butternut squash, pumpkin, yams, Carotenes Reduces risk of cancer and heart
carrots, apricots, cantaloupe, disease; good vision; enhances
mangos, peaches immunity and respiratory health.
Yellow peppers, apricots, citrus, Bioflavonoids Synergistic with vitamin C content;
nectarines, papaya, peaches, pears, reduces cancer and heart attack risk;
pineapple, yellow raisins maintains healthy skin, heart, bones, and teeth.
Broccoli, green peas, leafy greens Lutein Good vision; reduces risk of
(e.g., romaine, kale, spinach), macular degeneration and
honeydew melon cataracts; reduces risk of cancer.
Arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Indoles Reduces risk of breast and prostate
cabbage, cauliflower, rutabaga, kale, cancer. Maintains healthy hormone balance.
Swiss chard, turnips, watercress Supports the liver. Normalizes cell reproduction.
Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables
My personal disclaimer regards eating lots of fresh produce. I was born and raised in California, was a vegetarian for 18 years, and have eaten lots of fruits and vegetables throughout my life. This means my body is used handling roughage. Yours may not be. You may want to proceed gradually.
In closing, let me remind you: Americans spend $110 million every day on diets and diet programs for a total of over $40 billion annually. (And, this figure doesn’t begin to cover the medical bills that accrue just from disease engendered by overweight.) Ironically, we are the most obese people in history. We can change this for ourselves. We can all play the Nutrition News “Is It Healthy?” Game. Let’s get started!!!4