Healthy Eating

A healthy diet helps pave the way to a healthy heart and blood vessels, strong bones and muscles, a sharp mind, and so much more.

Confused about what constitutes a healthy diet? You aren't alone. Over the years, what seemed to be flip flops from medical research combined with the flood of diet books and diet plans based on little or no science have muddied the water. But a consensus has emerged about the basics, which are really pretty simple.

An important take-home message is to focus on the types of foods you eat and your overall dietary pattern, instead of on individual nutrients such as fat, dietary cholesterol, or specific vitamins. There are no single nutrients or vitamins that can make you healthy. Instead, there is a short list of key food types that together can dramatically reduce your risk for heart disease.

Eat more of these foods: fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish and seafood, vegetable oils, beans, nuts, and seeds.

Eat less of these foods: whole milk and other full-fat dairy foods, red meat, processed meats, highly refined and processed grains and sugars, and sugary drinks.

Healthy Eating Articles

Ask the Doctor: Are artificial sweeteners a good alternative to sugar?

Question: More and more nutrition advice seems to be anti-sugar these days. So are artificial sweeteners a good alternative? Answer: Sugar in all its forms may be the single most important dietary cause of obesity and heart disease in the American diet today. Stripped of fiber and antioxidants, table sugar (sucrose) and high fructose corn syrup cause big jumps in blood glucose and insulin. They also that raise levels of triglycerides, lead to inflammation, and create free oxygen radicals. In addition, the fructose found in most types of sugar may damage the liver and cause insulin resistance. Artificial sweeteners include: (Locked) More »

Microwaving food in plastic: Dangerous or not?

Let's cover the original misinformation first: The earliest missives warned that microwaved plastic releases cancer-causing chemicals called dioxins into food. The problem with that warning is that plastics don't contain dioxins. They are created when garbage, plastics, metals, wood, and other materials are burned. As long as you don't burn your food in a microwave, you aren't exposing yourself to dioxins. There's no single substance called "plastic." That term covers many materials made from an array of organic and inorganic compounds. Substances are often added to plastic to help shape or stabilize it. Two of these plasticizers are BPA and phthalates are believed to be "endocrine disrupters." These are substances that mimic human hormones, and not for the good. More »

Abdominal fat and what to do about it

Though the term might sound dated, "middle-age spread" is a greater concern than ever. As people go through their middle years, their proportion of fat to body weight tends to increase — more so in women than men. Extra pounds tend to park themselves around the midsection. At one time, we might have accepted these changes as an inevitable fact of aging. But we've now been put on notice that as our waistlines grow, so do our health risks. Abdominal, or visceral, fat is of particular concern because it's a key player in a variety of health problems — much more so than subcutaneous fat, the kind you can grasp with your hand. Visceral fat, on the other hand, lies out of reach, deep within the abdominal cavity, where it pads the spaces between our abdominal organs. Visceral fat has been linked to metabolic disturbances and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. In women, it is also associated with breast cancer and the need for gallbladder surgery. More »

Microwaving vegetables

A study in the November 2003 Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture caused a stir because it found that microwaved broccoli loses much of its nutritional punch. The researchers steamed, pressure-cooked, boiled, and microwaved about 2 cups of the vegetable with 10 tablespoons of water and then compared the flavonoid content by cooking method. Flavonoids are substances in fruits and vegetables with antioxidant properties that may lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. Steamed broccoli lost 11% of its flavonoids; pressure-cooked, 53%; boiled, 81%; and microwaved, a whopping 97%. Heat from any sort of cooking lowers the levels of some vitamins. But water exposure is another major factor. Many nutrients dissolve in it, so when vegetables are prepared in water, some of the healthful elements leach out and get thrown away with the (veggie) bath water. That's probably why steamed broccoli, which didn't come into direct contact with water, came out on top. But you don't have to microwave broccoli in 10 tablespoons of water, as the researchers in this study did. Just a couple will do — and frozen vegetables don't need any extra water. You can have your microwave and get most of your veggie nutrients, too. More »

Drinking Tea Benefits Heart and Bones

In the first study, published in Circulation, researchers questioned 1,900 patients hospitalized for heart attacks about the amount of caffeinated tea they drank in the past year. After adjusting for age, gender, and other variables, researchers found that those who drank 14 or more cups of tea per week were 39% less likely to die of cardiovascular disease in the 3.8 years following their heart attack than non-tea drinkers. Patients who consumed 1–14 cups of tea per week were 31% less likely to die from cardiovascular causes during that period than non-tea drinkers. When researchers further looked into subjects' caffeine intake, they found that caffeine from sources other than tea did not affect death rates. In the second study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers surveyed 1,037 men and women age 30 and older about their tea consumption. Subjects who drank tea at least once a week for the preceding six months were labeled "habitual tea drinkers." This group was asked about their tea-drinking history, the kind of tea they drank, how often they drank it, and how much they drank in each sitting. More »

Healthy Diet Eradicates Need for Trendy Supplements in Elderly

Health experts, however, stress that a well-balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables is just as effective and probably safer. But many older adults skip meals and eat small amounts of fruits and vegetables, citing reasons ranging from rotten teeth to unhappiness with eating alone. While doctors acknowledge that nutritional shakes and energy bars are helpful for seniors who need to gain weight or have trouble chewing or swallowing, those who eat a balanced diet or stay active do not need them. In spite of what the experts have said, the savvy advertisements are convincing millions of seniors that they need these expensive supplements, some of which have not even been proven safe. More »