Eating Right May Help Prevent Cancer and Heart Disease
More than half of all heart disease occurrences can be attributed to eating habits. What you eat not only determines whether you will become obese but also if you will develop high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure.
1. Eat foods that are low in fat and cholesterol. Since your body can make most of the fat it needs, the food in your diet only needs to supply a small amount of it. Fatty Acids (fats made of strings of carbon items) form three types: Saturated, Monosaturated and Polyunsaturated
- Saturated Fatty Acids: Every available spot on the carbon chain is taken by a hydrogen atom to form these. You'll find saturated fatty acids in meat and other animal products (dairy foods) as well as a few plant oils such as coconut, cocoa butter, palm and palm kernel.
- Monounsaturated Fatty Acids: Two carbon atoms in the chain are hooked in a double bond at one spot on the carbon skeleton to make monounsaturated fatty acids. A way to remember that these guys are good for you is monounsaturated fats are "Mo" or More better for you! You'll bump into various proportions of them in avocados and vegetable oils like olive and canola (rapeseed) oil.
- Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: The carbon atoms are double-bonded at two or more spots on the skeleton of polyunsaturated fatty acids so many hydrogen atoms are missing. You'll find them in most vegetable oils such as safflower, sunflower, soybean and corn. The two basic types are Omega-6 (safflower, corn, sesame, soybean, cottonseed and sunflower) and Omega-3 Fatty Acids (fish oils, walnut, canola and linseed/flax oils).
**Both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may help lower blood cholesterol levels if you use them in place of saturated fats.**
2. Eat more high fiber foods. The cell walls of vegetables contain fiber. When eaten regularly in a low-fat nutrition plan, soluble fiber (fiber that dissolves in water and is frequently found in fruit) can help lower blood cholesterol, particularly LDL cholesterol. Fiber may also reduce the amount of dietary fat and cholesterol that your body absorbs. Finally, fiber appears to increase the loss of cholesterol breakdown products (bile acids) in bowel movement. Both of these outcomes may encourage the removal of LDL from the bloodstream and into the liver.
Source: American Heart Association and American Cancer Society. Living Well, Staying Well: Big Health Rewards from Small Lifestyle Changes. Times Books, Random House, 1996. Print.
* Disclaimer: The information presented in this piece is in no way intended as a substitute for medical counseling or physician's advice.
Liz is a Seattle University senior majoring in Sports and Exercise. She is interested in nutrition, strength and conditioning and cardiac health. "She says, "I believe that a healthy lifestyle is the best medicine for a healthy body!" Liz has interned at RHF since January 2014.