“Eat your vegetables,” says Mom. Unfortunately, Mom’s chiding doesn’t have nearly enough effect, particularly when we grow up and leave Mom’s table. A recent walk-through at the dining facility of local university revealed that over 85% of the students were eating an inadequate diet. All or almost all of the food items were beige or brown – Ramen noodles, Mac and Cheese, rice, mashed potatoes, french fries and chicken fingers. This type of diet if eaten every day is deficient in antioxidants, vitamins and micro nutrients. The menu options contained a myriad of healthy choices leading the observer to believe the students intentionally omitted the healthy items.
These nutritional elements are vitally important to good health, and maintenance of a healthy weight. The absolute best way to obtain these is to put some color on your plate by eating vegetables that are colorful. Here are some examples: Tomatoes and red bell peppers are rich in vitamin C, carotenoids and lycopene; Spinach and kale are packed with almost every essential vitamin and nutrient. Don’t be seduced by their useless cousin lettuce, which contains almost no nutrition. Carrots, sweet potatoes and squash are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins A and C and anti-inflammatories. Broccoli and brussels sprouts are loaded with folic acid and immune system boosters. Finally, eggplant contains unique compounds that may reduce the risk of stroke and dementia. Fresh or frozen fruits, if eaten whole can provide similar levels of nutrients. Apples, pears, bananas and all types of berries are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients.
“Wait,” you might say, “I take a daily multivitamin. That replaces eating a healthy diet doesn’t it?” In December of 2014 the news reports were ablaze with the results of two large long-term health outcomes trials pitting multivitamins against placebo. Both studies showed no benefit in health risks among the vitamin group. Daily multivitamins did not reduce heart attacks, stroke, cancer, arthritis or Alzheimer’s. The only factors that made a difference were diet and exercise. People who eat a healthy diet and exercise 3 times per week were less likely to suffer health complications. The major beneficial effect of multivitamins and nutritional supplements was to transfer money from your pocket to that of the vitamin manufacturers.
“I’m busy. I don’t have enough time to eat right. I’ll just go to the drive-through.” I timed preparation of my breakfast this morning. From refrigerator to table took 6 minutes which is about half the time required to go through the drive-through at the local fast-food restaurant. Here’s what I had – 2 fresh eggs fried in coconut oil, with chopped bell pepper and ham, served with half an avocado. A banana, spread with natural peanut butter and Sriracha hot sauce. Total cost – $1.16. An Egg McMuffin with hash browns at the drive-through would have cost over $2.50 in case your next objection was going to be that eating healthy is more expensive.
Studies published last year indicated that eating a healthy diet versus a typical American diet costs just $1.50 per day more, or $550 per year. That pales in comparison to the cost of poor health in lost earning power, disability and health care costs. The majority of the cost variance was in purchasing leaner and healthier protein, such as fish or chicken instead of ground beef.
Pre-portioned frozen entrees can be treacherous, too. Even if the label says, low fat, organic or all natural, the ingredients include sugar and all its co-conspirators such as high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, evaporated cane juice and dextrose. Better to cook something fresh than consume one of those.
In summary, colorful fruits and vegetables provide valuable nutrients to support good health. Coupled with lean protein, they can provide a healthy diet leading to better overall health and weight loss. As always consult your personal health provider before undertaking a weight loss or exercise program.
Are you looking for a doctor? Call St. Mary’s 4DOC Physician Referral Line at 812.485.4DOC (4362) or visit us online at stmarys.org/4DOC.