Readers often ask us:
“If I were an otherwise healthy person and free of any chronic diseases–what could I change in my diet that would make me healthier for the long-term?”
Yes, it’s a common question but it is a very good one. This is how we typically answer:
“Well, the first thing to do is to improve the quality of your diet.”
In other words, the important first step is to improve the quality of your diet by choosing better types of foods and incorporating them into your diet on a regular basis.
An example would be to switch from eating red meats to eating more oily fish, like salmon and sardines. Another example would be to eat less bread products in lieu of more whole grain products, so try brown rice instead of fluffy white sandwich bread. Finally, choose extra virgin olive oil instead of corn oil for your stir-fries.
These are tangible examples of improving the quality of your diet by eating more of a certain food and perhaps eating less of another food. Similarly your diet quality could also be improved by adding foods that you really never considered eating before.
What about trying some avocado with balsamic vinegar or fresh mangoes? Or, how about eating vegetables like kohlrabi and Swiss chard?
These improvements to your diet can be an important factor in establishing continued good health as you age.
Consider the following evidence.
New research from the Harvard School of Public Health has shown that in healthy people without any signs of disease, improving the quality of their diet by eating more whole grains, fruits and vegetables could reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 20% over time—a significant drop. Findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association in San Francisco in June.
Researchers measured the quality of participants’ diets using a 100-point health index based on U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) daily eating recommendations. Men and women who eat more than the recommended 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit a day, for example, score five out of five on that portion of the health index. Study participants who improved their health index score by 10% after the four-year follow-up lowered their risk for type 2 diabetes by 20%, no matter what their eating habits were when the study began.
The results of this study also indicated a very important finding. The quality of the participant’s diet and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes were consistent regardless of other factors such as their weight or levels of physical activity. Even if they didn’t exercise or lose any weight, their risk still dropped significantly.
The important take-home message here? It is never too late to improve your health status by changing your diet. Put these points on your to-eat list, and reference them when you’re planning your meals and grocery shopping for the week. Prep and plan, prep and plan!
Eat more fruits and vegetables every day.
Eat more whole grains like brown rice and oatmeal every day.
Eat more nuts and seeds like almonds and flax every day.
Eat more health fats like olive oil, nuts and avocados every day.
Eat more legumes like black beans, soy and black-eyed peas every day.
Eat more oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring three to four times per week.
My experience has shown that the poorer the quality of diet a person has, the more impact that changing their diet will have upon their health regardless of their current health status. Make some positive changes and you’ll get results.
Nainggolan, L., “Improve Your Diet, Drop Your Diabetes Risk, and Vice Versa,” Medscape website, June 14, 2014; www.medscape.com/viewarticle/826760.
Ley, S.H., et al., “Changes in Overall Diet Quality, Lifestyle, and Subsequent Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: Three Cohorts of U.S. Men and Women,” OASIS Abstract Management website, June 14, 2014; http://www.abstractsonline.com/Plan/ViewAbstract.aspx?sKey=d591ad48-38d7-4f66-8e19-e28e2711d0fc&cKey=942c623b-aeea-4d64-91b0-fe1a72ae2995&mKey=%7b40FC5C61-819A-4D1B-AABA-3705F7D0EA76%7d.