Eat to Live: Best Diets to Prevent Disease

bowl-of-fruitThe best diet for a woman, or anyone for that matter, is one that becomes a new way of life and a new way of thinking about food. Listed below are some basic guidelines about eating that apply to everyone. Forming the habits listed below is important for good digestion, absorption of nutrients and elimination, which in turn, improves energy, focus and stamina.

The diets discussed below include, the Mediterranean, Paleo and Anti-inflammatory diets. Each of these diets may work for different people and have slightly different benefits. These diets were chosen based on the latest research in nutrition that indicates certain diets help to reduce risk of chronic disease more than others. The days of low-fat diets and sugar-free, processed foods are over, so find out what changes you can make to improve your health and prevent disease.

Basic Rules

  • Divide your plate into thirds. one-third vegetable, one-third protein and one-third whole grain/fruit/starchy vegetables.
  • Eat breakfast everyday!
  • Eat protein and healthy fats at each meal to feel full longer.
  • Stay hydrated throughout the day. Sometimes dehydration can feel like hunger.

Set the Scene

  • Eat sitting down in a calm, relaxed environment without electronics distracting you.
  • Chew your food thoroughly- 11 times is a good rule of thumb.
  • Avoid drinking fluids with meals (it dilutes stomach acid needed to properly break down food). Ideally, drink 20 minutes before or after meals.
  • Use smaller plates for better portion control.

Food Choices

  • Choose fresh, organic and in-season produce as often as possible.
  • Make homemade meals from scratch; avoiding packaged food
  • Make a plan for the week. Cook several dishes on Sunday if you are strapped for time during the week or put ingredients into a Ziploc bag and freeze it to cook later in the week.
  • Have fun cooking and trying new foods!

Eating Plans

paleo-pyramid-21The Paleo Diet = Caveman Diet = Stone Age Diet = Hunter-Gatherer Diet

The basic premise is that we should eat foods that we are genetically programmed to consume. The diet is based on the hunter-gatherer’s diets from the Paleolithic era before agriculture. Research shows that this way of eating prevents obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and possibly cardiovascular disease. This diet is low in dairy products, so it may not be appropriate for individuals with low calcium.

Foods to eat:

  • Fresh meats (preferably grass-fed or free-range beef, pork, lamb, poultry, and game)
  • Fish and other seafood
  • Fresh fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Healthy oils (olive, coconut, avocado, macadamia, walnut and flax seed)

*Dairy products, cereal grains, legumes, refined sugars and processed foods were not part of our ancestral menu.

Information adapted from:  http://thepaleodiet.com

Mediterranean Diet

Layout 1The diet endemic to the Mediterranean region has been well studied for many years. Research shows that following this diet protects against heart disease, obesity, type 2 Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and some cancers. Note that the health benefits of this diet are attributed to the food choices, but lifestyle is incorporated as well.

Foods to eat:

  • Plant-based meals, with small amounts of meat & chicken, when they are used
  • Increased servings of grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, and legumes
  • Naturally high fiber foods
  • Fish and other seafood at least 2 times/ month, weekly is preferable.
  • Olive oil as the main source of fat used to flavor and prepare foods
  • Food that is prepared and seasoned simply, without sauces and gravies
  • Fresh, seasonal, whole foods with little to no processed foods.

Foods eaten in small amounts:

  • Red meat eaten a few times per month
  • Sweets and dessert
  • Eggs
  • Butter

Others aspects of this diet are leisurely eating, plenty of exercise and red wine in moderation.

Adapted from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/patientinstructions/000110.htm

Anti-inflammatory Diet

anti-inflammatory-food-pyramidThe idea behind this diet is that chronic inflammation is the basis for many diseases, from cancer to heart disease to arthritis. The goal of this diet is to reduce overall inflammation, thus reducing risk for chronic diseases. One the most well known advocates for this diet is, Dr. Weil, who created the following food guide pyramid to reflect this eating plan.

From:  http://www.drweil.com/drw/ecs/pyramid/press-foodpyramid.html

Which diet is best for you?

To find out which diet you will benefit from the most, consult which a qualified heath care provider who can help you figure out your unique dietary needs.  To find a Naturopathic doctor or other specialist near you, check out our provider locator tool http://providers.womeninbalance.org/

Evaluations of the latest diets

http://www.webmd.com/diet/evaluate-latest-diets

For more information on nutrition check out these websites.

http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/basics/nutrition-basics/hlv-20049477

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/

References

  1. Klonoff, D.C. (2009). The Beneficial Effects of a Paleolithic Diet on Type 2 Diabetes and Other Factors for Cardiovascular Disease. Diabetes Sci Technol. November, 3(6): 1229-1232.
  2. Sofi, F., Cesari, F., Abbate, R., Gensini, G.F., Casini, A. (2008). Adherence to Mediterranean Diet and Health Status: meta-analysis. BMJ. 337:a1344. DOI: 10.1136/bmj.a1344.

By: Amy LaRue, ND 4th year medical student edited by Elise Schroeder ND