Healthy diet suggestions and recommendations
Is it possible to reverse disease, lower high blood pressure, get rid of unwanted weight, drop your cholesterol levels, reduce the risk for heart disease and cancer, and improve your health all without relying on drugs?
January 4 2017
by Ray Sahelian, M.D.

Many studies have shown that people who keep a healthy weight, exercise regularly and eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables have a lower risk not only of cancer, but heart disease and even Alzheimer's disease. Adults with a poor education are also likely to have poor health, therefore improving education in our country can improve overall healthy habits. Adopting a healthy diet rich in whole grains, vegetables and fiber while cutting back on red meat, sugar and trans fats reduces the risk of developing diabetes.

The United States is falling behind its economic peers in most measures of health, despite making gains in the past two decades, according to a sweeping 2013 study of data from 34 countries.

The Western dietary pattern of intake common to many Americans is high in fat, refined carbohydrates, sodium, and phosphorus, all of which are associated with processed food consumption and higher risk of life-threatening chronic diseases.

How Healthy People Stay Healthy
Having treated thousands of patients for more than a decade, I have determined some of the reasons why some patients remain healthy and age slower while others have a rapid deterioration of their physical and mental health. Although genetics plays a role in how we age, we cannot discount the significant importance of diet and lifestyle habits.

People who stay healthy and age gracefully share the following common characteristics:
They maintain heart healthy diet habits with a good balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrate. Most of their carbohydrate in their diet comes from complex sources such as whole grains, soy and other legumes. They include a few servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. Most eat fish at least once or twice a week (1). Their intake of fried foods, fast foods, margarine, and baked goods is minimal. Although refined foods, sweets, pastries, ice cream, and other high sugar and high fat foods are unhealthy, their complete avoidance is not necessary. Most of us have a sweet tooth and it's okay to occasionally indulge and satisfy our craving as long as the rest of our diet is healthy.

Varying one's food intake is crucial in order to obtain the variety of nutrients, vitamins, and plant chemicals our bodies require. Attempt, on a regular basis, to consume citrus fruits, berries, apricots, grapes, and other colored fruits. Your vegetable intake should include garlic, onions, green leafy vegetables, yellow- or orange-colored vegetables, tomatoes, beets, and others. Drink a variety of herbal teas instead of just regular tea or coffee. Each morning have a different type of tea such as ginger, bilberry, green tea, licorice, peppermint, lemon grass, etc. Drink one or two large glasses of water when you wake up in the morning to help empty the colon. Vegetarians can stay very healthy but have to be careful in making sure the protein intake in their diet is adequate.

Healthy diet choices - Ideas for smart selections
Add fiber to your food. Some good fiber choices include psyllium powder, chia seeds and flax seeds.
For a healthy diet regarding bread, include whole-grain bread or whole multi-grain bread, or sprouted multi-grain bread rather than white bread.
If you eat regular eggs from the grocery store, choose instead organic eggs by chickens who roam cage-free.
Use extra virgin olive rather than a creamy dressing
Use mustard, soy sauce, and salsa rather than ketchup and mayonnaise.
Choose organic fat-free milk or low fat milk to whole milk.
Drink healthy fruits juices such as goji juice, acai juice, grape juice, pomegranate or cranberry juice rather than sugary fruit drinks.
Have a healthy diet by eating sweet potatoes rather than white potatoes.
Bison meat has a lower atherogenic risk than beef in healthy men. Nutr Res. 2013.

Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2014. Impact of fatty acids on brain circulation, structure and function. The use of dietary intervention has evolved into a promising approach to prevent the onset and progression of brain diseases. The positive relationship between intake of omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (ω3-LCPUFAs) and decreased onset of disease- and aging-related deterioration of brain health is increasingly endorsed across epidemiological and diet-interventional studies. Promising results are found regarding to the protection of proper brain circulation, structure and functionality in healthy and diseased humans and animal models. These include enhanced cerebral blood flow , white and gray matter integrity, and improved cognitive functioning, and are possibly mediated through increased neurovascular coupling, neuroprotection and neuronal plasticity, respectively. Contrary, studies investigating diets high in saturated fats provide opposite results, which may eventually lead to irreversible damage.

Healthy diet and physical activity work together
I'm not aware of any people who maintain optimal health without doing some kind of physical activity, even if it is as brief as a walk around the neighborhood a few minutes a day. Muscles need to be exercises otherwise they become flaccid. If you've reached middle age-or passed it-and never exercised regularly, it's not too late to start. Maintaining the exercise habit, or taking up light to moderate physical activity later in life, reduces overall mortality. Physical activity also improves mental function. Exercise induces the growth of capillaries (tiny blood vessels) in the brain. This is important since the aging process leads to a decrease in blood supply to the brain.

Exercise will definitely give you a deeper sleep. Best times to work out are in the late afternoon or early evening. Exercise may delay sleep if performed within three or so hours before bedtime due to arousal and increase in body heat.

Keeping our brain young involves mental exercises. Learning is an art that improves with time. Brain cells, just like muscle cells, need constant stimulation in order to maintain their healthy structure. Healthy people are able to keep their brain young by constantly reading, learning, studying, keeping curious, meeting new people, asking questions, and maintaining their excitement about this wonderful world.

Even creativity can be improved. "The barriers are not erected," wrote Ludwig van Beethoven, the German composer, "which shall say to aspiring talent, "thus far and no farther." Supplement takers do better. As a rule, I find patients who take appropriate supplements are less prone to infections or illness. One's supplement list does not need to take up multiple pages. I recommend to most patients to include at least one or two times the RDA for vitamins, and at least 50 percent of the RDA for minerals. In addition, it's beneficial to take between 100 to 300 mg of vitamin C, and 30 to 100 units of natural vitamin E. Vegetarians may need to supplement with a few additional nutrients that are mostly found in meats. For instance, CoQ10, carnitine, and creatine are found only in small amounts in vegetarian diets. Hence, it would be appropriate to supplement with 10 to 30 mg of CoQ10, 100 to 250 mg of carnitine, and one gram of creatine most days. Those whose fish intake is low would do well supplementing with fish oils capsules that contain at least one gram of the fatty acids EPA and DHA.

The Deep sleep
Nothing seems to improve memory, mood, and overall mental health as well as regular, deep sleep.

There are many tips on how to have good sleep patterns. I recommend that patients expose themselves to morning light for at least ten to twenty minutes by either taking a walk or driving to work. Morning light exposure helps reset our daily clock and will provide you with a deeper sleep that evening. Mental activity should be stopped at least one hour before bed and the mind allowed to switch to fun reading, watching a comedy film or TV show. You could tape your favorite prime time sitcom and then watch it before bed.

Try one or more relaxation techniques. When you are in bed lying on your back, shake and loosen a leg and foot. Take a few, slow, deep breaths by expanding your belly. Proceed to shake and loosen the other leg and foot and then return to your abdomen for a few more relaxed breaths. Proceed with this relaxation to your arms, shoulders, and neck. Now relax your facial muscles--especially the muscles around the eyes and mouth. Remember to return to your breath after relaxing each muscle group. Before you know it you'll be drifting into your adventure-filled unconscious.

Life is always challenging us with obstacles. There can be deaths in the family, sickness, financial crises, and relationship problems. People who maintain their health throughout difficult periods have learned to become resilient (7). They do everything they can to minimize any problems or obstacles, but realize that sometimes these will occur in spite of our best efforts. Hence, resiliency and proper attitude become key survival factors (8). Healthy people avoid being excessively angry, spiteful, jealous, or bitter. Just like the stock market is on a continual rise, with occasional dips and recessions, our lives can be seen the same way. We should try to maintain our balance through the bear markets.

Whether physical (intense athletic competition, illness) or psychological (relationship difficulties, financial worries), stress has definite harmful biological effects. Our immune system responds quickly to our thoughts and emotions (9). There are receptors on the surface of white blood cells to which hormones and neurotransmitters attach. When under stress, substances released by the brain attach to the cells of the immune system and disturb their proper functioning. Positive thoughts and emotions are in some instances believed to enhance the immune system. The immune system can in turn send substances back to the brain altering the release of neurotransmitters, thus influencing mood and cognition.

Luckily we can do something about stress. Much of it is self-induced or self-aggravated. While stuck in traffic, we may boil with frustration or turn on the radio and hum along with the songs. Most of our daily stress is not necessarily due to external circumstances. Rather it is due to our underdeveloped coping skills. Often, how we handle stress-our personality and coping style-is more important that the nature of the stress. A downturn of the stock market may be shrugged off by one investor while causing a coronary in another. How do you react to unpleasant circumstances? Does every little thing throughout the day that doesn't go according to your plans upset you, or do you calmly adapt to unplanned situations?

Mental health also requires that the constant stream of bad news in the press doesn't overly influence us. It's important to take vacations or breaks and find places of solitude, away from the hustle and bustle. These times provide us with the ability to see things from a fresh perspective. As the well-known manuscript Desiderata says, " Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence."

There are many ways to relieve stress: vacations, playing with pets, improving sleep and physical health, finding satisfying work, establishing financial security, and participating in exercise, sports, yoga, and meditation.

Healthy diet includes these healthy foods
Salmon or cold water fish to supply omega-3 fatty acids.
Berries to supply carotenoids; anthocyanins; ellagic acid (a polyphenol); vitamin C; folate; calcium, magnesium; potassium; fiber.
Tea in various forms to supply catechins and flavonols.
Flaxseed to supply fiber and phytoestrogens.
Beans to supply fiber, B-complex vitamins.
Nuts to supply vitamin E; magnesium; fiber; heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats.
Red wine to supply catechins and Resveratrol (flavonoids).
Tofu or soy milk without sugar to supply isoflavones, calcium; magnesium; potassium.
Spinach to supply lutein (a carotenoid); B-complex vitamins; folate; magnesium; potassium; calcium; fiber.
Broccoli to supply anti-cancer compounds.
Oranges and citrus fruits to supply beta-cryptoxanthin, beta- and alpha-carotene, lutein (carotenoids) and flavones (flavonoids); vitamin C; potassium; folate; fiber.
Tomatoes to supply beta- and alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein (carotenoids); vitamin C; potassium; folate; fiber.
Dark chocolate with little sugar to supply flavonoids.

1. Simopoulos, A., and J. Robinson The Omega Plan. Harper Collins, New York, NY. 1998.
6. Sheard NF. Fish consumption and risk of sudden cardiac death. Nutr Rev 1998 June.
8. Musselman DL, Evans DL, Nemeroff CB. The relationship of depression to cardiovascular disease: epidemiology, biology, and treatment. Arch Gen
Psychiatry, 1998.

Healthy Diet Research studies
Researchers may have come up with another reason to eat well. A new study suggests diets rich in fruits, vegetables and dairy foods can prevent the disabilities that often come with age. The study, which followed 9,404 middle-aged Americans for nine years, found that a healthy diet seemed particularly beneficial among African-American women, who are generally at greater risk than white women of developing physical limitations as they age. Researchers found that African American women who ate the most fruits and vegetables on a daily basis were about one-third to one-half less likely than those with the lowest intakes to develop problems with activities such as walking, climbing stairs and doing household chores. High intakes of dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt showed an even stronger protective effect. Similar benefits were found among white women -- at least when it came to fruit and vegetable intake -- though the protective effect was not as great. The findings are published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Healthy living
Adults eat twice as many fruits and vegetables as they did when they were children and take in less fat and sugar, according to a new study.  Parents, partners and children were some of the biggest influences on people's diets, nutritionists at the University of Newcastle found.

Diet healthy living suggestions can be found in numerous articles in magazines.
Diet influences a healthy heart by keeping arteries open and improving blood flow.

People who live in Scotland have poor health habits
Almost the entire adult population of Scotland are likely to be either cigarette smokers, heavy drinkers, physically inactive, overweight or have a poor diet. Researchers from Glasgow studied data from more than 6,500 people who took part in a 2003 Scottish Health Survey and concluded that 97 percent of adults have habits or lifestyles that are dangerous to health. BMC Public Health, online June 11, 2010.

Questions sent by email
I was reading a book I from 20 yr ago called Fit For Life and they talk about combinations of foods, for example, it's bad to eat different proteins together and bad to combine proteins and starches, ie meat and potatoes because the body digests them differently. Is this good science?
    I have seen no reliable studies that support the view proposed by the book Fit for Life that such foods should not be consumed together.