By Anne Keckler | February 5, 2008
I’ve been meaning to write about “good” foods vs. “bad” foods ever since I wrote my long post about The Benefits of Exercise. Today at the Get Fit Slowly blog, J.D. reviewed an article in the March, 2008, issue of Consumer Reports on Nine Ways to a Longer Life.
I’m going to nitpick for just a moment.
The Nine Ways are as follows:
- Eat whole grains.
Whole grains are certainly good for you, but some people will experience unpleasant consequences if they suddenly add a lot of whole grain foods into their diet. Symptoms could include flatulence, bloating, abdominal pain, and constipation or diarrhea. If you don’t currently eat a lot of whole grains, start out slowly, and drink plenty of water. If you still experience unpleasant side effects, consider the possibility of a food allergy or intolerance. It is estimated that up to one percent of the U.S. population suffers from Celiac Disease, for example. Try eating brown rice and oats, which do not contain gluten and are much less likely to cause these unpleasant symptoms, as long as you drink enough water to prevent constipation.
- Consider vitamin D.
Vitamin D is a very important nutrient, and one you may be missing out on. The government reminds us that the best and most important source of vitamin D is sunlight. Vitamin D is necessary for strong bones, a healthy immune system, and it may decrease susceptibility to several chronic diseases. When you cannot get enough sunlight, you can get your vitamin D from cod liver oil, or in a healthy diet that includes salmon, tuna, catfish, whole grains, and fortified milk. Remember that the synthetic vitamin D found in supplements or fortified foods may not be as easily absorbed by the body as the natural form found in foods and sunshine. Obese individuals and those living in northern latitudes during the winter may require larger amounts of vitamin D than the rest of the population.
- Limit time in the sun.
So the best source of vitamin D is sunlight, but we are told to avoid the sun because it causes cancer. Ironically, vitamin D deficiency may lead to cancer! The use of sunscreen can inhibit the body’s production of vitamin D by up to 95%. What this tells us is that, while it’s good to limit the time in the sun, it’s probably not a good idea to avoid the sun altogether. A few minutes a day, every day, can keep us healthier and feeling better. Under no circumstances should you stay in the sun long enough to burn, ever. The best defense against sunburn is a base tan, developed by gradual exposure to the sun.
- Eat colorful produce.
Colorful produce is full of vitamins and minerals which have been proven to reduce your risk of cancer, and increase longevity.
At least one study has found that people who exercise regularly can live up to four years longer than those who don’t.
- Get enough sleep.
We all know that we need to get enough sleep, but it’s equally important to get quality sleep. Things such as caffeine, alcohol, or stress can interfere with our sleep patterns and leave us feeling less than refreshed in the mornings.
- Don’t smoke.
Do I really need to say more about this? Smoking leads to cancer, emphysema, and other health problems. It will not only reduce your life expectancy, but it will also reduce your quality of life.
- Eat fat
Fat is a necessary component of a healthy diet. In general, the American diet is too high in Omega 6 fatty acids, and too low in Omega 3 fatty acids. But what about saturated fat, which we are repeatedly told to avoid? It turns out that saturated fats are vital to our health! Personally, I eat fish and take fish oil supplements, but I don’t eschew foods with saturated fat. Just be aware that all fats have nine calories per gram, compared to the four calories per gram in carbohydrates and protein, and plan accordingly.
- Chill out.
Learning to relax, to “chill out,” can be one of the most important exercises you ever undertake. Meditation, yoga, a warm bath, or whatever you do to relax is just as important as anything else you do for your health, and perhaps moreso. I use progressive muscle relaxation, followed by a nap (when possible) as my preferred method of relaxation. What do you like to do to relax?
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