Foods as a “recipe” for healthy living

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A healthy diet is the cornerstone of a long and healthy life. Eat right — plenty of fiber, lean protein, healthy fats, whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds (read: lots of plants) — and you’ll reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, dementia and many other conditions.

The benefits of plants come from many naturally occurring chemical compounds such as flavonoids and lignans. “These compounds are basically information about your genes. Certain foods, for example, have substances that can activate anti-inflammatory genes,” says Sonia Angelone, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. helps escape.”

The idea of ​​food as medicine is not new. “Before we had drugs, food was the primary option,” says Kristi Alexon, clinical associate professor of nutrition at Arizona State University. “Obviously, there are some conditions that can only be addressed with food, but your normal everyday issues may be helped by food.”

The following “recipes” are all healthy foods that are part of a balanced diet, so it’s hard to go wrong. (If the problem persists, talk to your doctor to determine the cause and best course of action.)

Try: Tart cherry juice. Gout is caused by a build-up of uric acid in the blood, which causes crystals to form. These crystals can accumulate in the joints and tissues of the body, causing inflammation and pain. A small 2019 study of overweight people published in the journal Current Developments in Nutrition found that drinking 1 glass of tart cherry juice daily for four weeks reduced blood levels of uric acid and C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) by nearly 20%. percentage. “It contains a molecule similar to allopurinol, which is used to treat gout,” says Alexon. “Look for 100 percent juice, not the sweet kind.” Eating raw cherries can help reduce the risk of gout.

What to avoid: Alcohol, fatty meat, and sugary drinks can aggravate gout.

Try: Raspberries, artichokes and chia seeds. These are some of the best sources of fiber to help move stool through the bowels, says Alexon. Try a bowl of raspberries as a snack, add marinated artichoke hearts to a salad, or mix a tablespoon of chia seeds into a smoothie. “Dried fruits like prunes and apricots often help with chronic constipation because they are high in insoluble fiber and contain other chemical components that have their own laxative properties,” says Joel Mason, a gastroenterologist and professor of medicine and nutrition. at Tufts University in Boston. When you’re adding fiber-rich foods, be sure to increase your water intake, says Alexon: “If you don’t, it can make the problem worse.”

What to avoid: Cut back on fatty meats, dairy products, and refined carbohydrates, which can reduce your intake of nutritious, fiber-rich foods.

Try: Oats or kiwi. “Some studies have shown that eating certain complex carbohydrates before bed, such as oatmeal, increases levels of serotonin, a mood-regulating chemical that promotes sleep,” says Alexon.

Kiwis also contain serotonin, and this may be one reason why people in a small study (sponsored by a kiwi vendor) downed two kiwis an hour before bed more easily. They are also rich in folic acid and B vitamins. Low folate levels have been linked to insomnia.

Overall, eating a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, healthy fats and lean protein is linked to better sleep quality, according to a 2020 study published in the journal Nutrients.

What to avoid: Drinking or eating caffeinated foods before bed can leave you staring at the ceiling, especially in the afternoon or evening. Alcohol can disrupt your sleep in the middle of the night, and eating heavy meals too close to bed can cause stomach upset or heartburn or heartburn, which can also disrupt your sleep.

Try: Pumpkin seeds. These green seeds contain compounds called sterols. Researchers believe it can help improve urination problems associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which occurs when the prostate gland is enlarged. A 2014 German study of nearly 1,500 BPH patients found that those who ate the equivalent of about 2 tablespoons of pumpkin seeds per day had better prostate symptoms than those who took a placebo or pumpkin seed extract capsules.

What to avoid: Diets high in fat and red meat increase the risk of BPH. Alcohol and caffeine can stimulate urination.

Try: Salmon, tuna, trout and sardines. These cold-water fish are rich in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), an omega-3 fatty acid known for its anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective benefits. A 2019 study published in the journal Translational Psychiatry found that consuming omega-3s (up to 1,000 mg per day), especially those containing mostly EPA, helped improve depression. A 3-ounce serving of herring contains approximately 770 mg of EPA, a 3-ounce serving of salmon contains 590 mg, and a 3-ounce serving of rainbow trout contains 400 mg. Try to eat at least two servings of fish per week.

What to avoid: A diet high in processed, refined foods and lacking in nutritious and fiber-rich vegetables and whole grains can be detrimental to gut health. Studies have shown that the gut has its own mini nervous system connected to the brain. When there are digestive problems, the gut can send signals to the brain that can trigger or worsen feelings of anxiety and depression.

Copyright 2022, Consumer Reports Inc.

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