6 Disease-Preventing Diet Changes

Original article by Bahar Brocken, Registered Dietician at Copeman Health Clinic

When dietary “trends” come and go like last season’s fashion line-ups, making sense of it all can get a little overwhelming.

As many of us know, diet plays a very important role in disease prevention. Among U.S. adults, more than 90 percent of type 2 diabetes, 80 percent of coronary artery disease, 70 percent of stroke, and 70 percent of colon cancer cases are potentially preventable by following a healthy diet (when combined with other healthful lifestyle habits, such as not smoking and regular physical activity).

Unfortunately, implementing a healthy diet is not as easy as it looks, due to the seemingly endless information floating around about what you should or should not be eating. Try these six simple, evidence-based, dietary changes that will clear up the confusion and help you prevent disease.

1. Eat less red meat

The recommendation is for not more than two servings of red meat a week. What’s a serving? A piece the size of the palm of your hand (3 oz or 75g). This means that five nights a week, you should try other options.

Choose fish, bean/legumes, soy, chicken or turkey instead. Use the internet to find plant-based, healthy recipes – or consult your registered dietitian.

2. Add more fruits and vegetables

There is strong evidence that a high intake of fruits and vegetables will reduce the risk of coronary artery disease and stroke.; Fruits and vegetables are not only a source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, but are also high in fibre – a key component of good bowel health, weight management, blood glucose control, and lower blood fat levels.

A great way to implement this change is to have fruit with breakfast and as dessert, and always eat veggies with both lunch and supper.

3. Choose whole grain

Consumption of fibre from grain products has consistently been associated with lower risks of coronary artery disease and type 2 diabetes. Try to limit processed, white grains like white bread, pasta, rice, and desserts. In other words, “if it’s white, do not bite”.

4. Limit sugar

Added sugars have no nutritional value and contribute to dietary glycemic load, which promotes metabolic syndrome, a condition that is related to the risk of diabetes and coronary artery disease.

Choose naturally sweetened foods (like fruits) and drink water, herbal tea, or low fat milk in place of pop or juice.

5. Stop overeating

Listen to your body and stop eating when you feel the sensation of fullness coming. That might mean putting down your fork in between bites, chewing well, and taking the time to savour your food. Practicing mindful eating will help with this.

6. Cut sodium intake

The principal justification for limiting sodium is its effect on blood pressure, a major risk factor for stroke and coronary disease. When purchasing food products, look at the nutrition label and choose those foods that have the lowest percentage of your recommended sodium allowance for the day (aim for five percent per serving).

Putting into practice

It’s one thing to read these tips – but how do we put them into practice? A great place to start would be to determine what truly motivates us, which means looking beyond just the physical (ie: size, shape, and weight).

Perhaps you want to eat better in order to be around longer for your children or grandchildren, or to have more energy and feel better about yourself. Perhaps you would like to have the health to continue to be of service through your work/volunteer activities. Deciding what drives you could be as easy as pausing to take a few moments to zero in on what matters most to you. The key is to recognize the motivation coming from within as you work towards a healthy and vibrant life.