What are true health-promoting and disease-promoting foods?

To truly consume a healthy diet, the vast majority of the diet must be composed of health-promoting foods, and disease-promoting foods must be avoided. To define health-promoting and disease-promoting foods, we can turn to science to learn which foods are consistently shown to be protective against chronic disease (or associated with disease risk), which foods are associated with longevity (or mortality), and which foods contain known anti-cancer substances (and which contain cancer-promoting substances).

True health-promoting foods – these foods have the power to protect, to heal and prolong human lifespan:

Green vegetables. Many green vegetables (such as bok choy, broccoli, and kale) belong to the cruciferous family, vegetables that contain potent anti-cancer compounds called isothiocyanates (ITCs).1 Green leaves are perhaps the most powerful longevity-inducing foods of all.

Onions and mushrooms also have well-documented cancer-protective properties. Onions and their Allium family members contain chemoprotective organosulfur compounds2, and consuming mushrooms regularly has been shown to decrease risk of breast cancer by over 60%.3

Fruits, especially berries and pomegranate. Blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries are true super foods. They are full of antioxidants and have been linked to reduced risk of diabetes, cancers and cognitive decline.4 Pomegranate has multiple cardiovascular health benefits, for example reducing LDL cholesterol and blood pressure. 

Beans are an excellent, nutrient-dense weight-loss food - they have a stabilizing effect on blood sugar, which promotes satiety and helps to prevent food cravings. Plus they contain substances that lower cholesterol, and regular bean consumption is associated with decreased cancer risk.5

Nuts and seeds. Nuts contain a spectrum of beneficial nutrients including healthy fats , LDL-lowering phytosterols, circulation-promoting arginine, minerals, and antioxidants. Countless studies have demonstrated the cardiovascular benefits of nuts, and including nuts in the diet has been shown to aid in weight control.6 Seeds have even a richer micronutrient profile, abundant in trace minerals, and each kind of seed is nutritionally unique. Flaxseeds provide abundant omega-3 fats, pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc and iron, and sesame seeds are high in calcium and multiple vitamin E fractions.

 

True disease-promoting foods – harmful foods that should be avoided:

Cheese, butter, and ice cream. These are dangerous foods that are loaded with saturated fat, that contribute to elevated cholesterol levels and several cancers.7 Dairy products are also associated with prostate cancer in men.8 

Potato chips and French fries. High heat cooking produces acrylamides, dangerous cancer-promoting substances. Acrylamides have been shown to cause genetic mutations in animal studies leading to several cancers. Fried starchy foods, like potato chips and fries, are especially high in acrylamides and other toxic compounds. Baked starchy foods like breakfast cereals and crackers also contain these dangerous substances.

Refined carbohydrates. Sugar and white flour products are not nutritionally inert, simply adding a few extra calories to the diet – they are harmful. Devoid of fiber and stripped of vital nutrients, these refined foods promote diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.9

Salt. The dangers of salt are increasingly recognized, with government agencies finally considering salt reduction programs. Excess salt intake contributes not only to high blood pressure, but also to kidney disease, heart disease, osteoporosis, stroke, ulcers, and stomach cancer. Salt consumption becomes the leading contributor to a premature death in a individual eating an otherwise health-supporting diet.

Pickled, smoked, barbecued, or processed meats. Processed meats have been strongly and consistently linked to colorectal cancer, and have also been linked to prostate cancer. Processed meats contain carcinogenic substances called heterocyclic amines.10 In fact, any type of meat cooked at a high temperature will also contain these substances – for example, grilled or fried chicken was found to have the highest level of heterocyclic amines.11 High processed meat intake is also associated with increased rates of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.12

 


References:

1. Higdon JV et al. Cruciferous Vegetables and Human Cancer Risk: Epidemiologic Evidence and Mechanistic Basis. Pharmacol Res. 2007 March ; 55(3): 224–236

2. Powolny AA, Singh SV. Multitargeted prevention and therapy of cancer by diallyl trisulfide and related Allium vegetable-derived organosulfur compounds. Cancer Lett. 2008 Oct 8;269(2):305-14.

3. Zhang M, et al. Dietary intakes of mushrooms and green tea combine to reduce the risk of breast cancer in Chinese women. Int J Cancer. 2009;124:1404-1408

4. Bazzano LA, Li TY, Joshipura KJ, Hu FB. Intake of fruit, vegetables, and fruit juices and risk of diabetes in women. Diabetes Care. 2008 Jul;31(7):1311-7.

Hannum SM. Potential impact of strawberries on human health: a review of the science. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2004;44(1):1-17.

Joseph JA, Shukitt-Hale B, Willis LM. Grape juice, berries, and walnuts affect brain aging and behavior. J Nutr. 2009 Sep;139(9):1813S-7S.

Stoner GD, Wang LS, Casto BC. Laboratory and clinical studies of cancer chemoprevention by antioxidants in berries. Carcinogenesis. 2008 Sep;29(9):1665-74.

5. Bazzano LA, Thompson AM, Tees MT, et al. Non-soy legume consumption lowers cholesterol levels: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2009 Nov 23. [Epub ahead of print]

Aune D, De Stefani E, Ronco A, et al. Legume intake and the risk of cancer: a multisite case-control study in Uruguay. Cancer Causes Control. 2009 Nov;20(9):1605-15.

6. Sabaté J, Ang Y. Nuts and health outcomes: new epidemiologic evidence. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 May;89(5):1643S-1648S. Epub 2009 Mar 25.

Mattes RD et al. Impact of peanuts and tree nuts on body weight and healthy weight loss in adults. J Nutr. 2008 Sep;138(9):1741S-1745S.

7. Kesteloot H, Lesaffre E, Joossens JV. Dairy fat, saturated animal fat, and cancer risk. Prev Med. 1991 Mar;20(2):226-36.

Genkinger JM, Hunter DJ, Spiegelman D, et al. Dairy products and ovarian cancer: a pooled analysis of 12 cohort studies. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2006 Feb;15(2):364-72.

Keszei AP, Schouten LJ, Goldbohm RA, et al. Dairy Intake and the Risk of Bladder Cancer in the Netherlands Cohort Study on Diet and Cancer. Am J Epidemiol. 2009 Dec 30. [Epub ahead of print]

Denke MA. Dietary fats, fatty acids, and their effects on lipoproteins. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2006 Nov;8(6):466-71.

8. Ma RW, Chapman K. A systematic review of the effect of diet in prostate cancer

prevention and treatment. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2009 Jun;22(3):187-99; quiz 200-2.

Kurahashi N, Inoue M, Iwasaki M. Japan Public Health Center-Based Prospective Study Group. Dairy product, saturated fatty acid, and calcium intake and prostate cancer in a prospective cohort of Japanese men. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2008 Apr;17(4):930-7.

Allen NE, Key TJ, Appleby PN, et al. Animal foods, protein, calcium and prostate cancer risk: the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. Br J Cancer. 2008 May 6;98(9):1574-81. Epub 2008 Apr 1.

Ahn J, Albanes D, Peters U et al. Dairy products, calcium intake, and risk of prostate cancer in the prostate, lung, colorectal, and ovarian cancer screening trial. Cancer

Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2007 Dec;16(12):2623-30.

Qin LQ, Xu JY, Wang PY, et al. Milk consumption is a risk factor for prostate cancer in Western countries: evidence from cohort studies. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2007;16(3):467-76.

 Chan JM, Stampfer MJ, Ma J, et al. Dairy products, calcium, and prostate cancer risk in the Physicians Health Study. Presenta- tion, American Association for Cancer Research, San Francisco, April 2000.

 Bosetti C, Tzonou A, Lagiou P, et al. Fraction of prostate cancer attributed to diet in Athens, Greece. Eur J Cancer Prev 2000;9(2):119-23.

9. Barclay AW, Petocz P, McMillan-Price J, et al. Glycemic index, glycemic load, and chronic disease risk--a meta-analysis of observational studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Mar;87(3):627-37.

Sieri S, Krogh V, Berrino F, et al. Dietary glycemic load and index and risk of coronary heart disease in a large italian cohort: the EPICOR study. Arch Intern Med. 2010 Apr 12;170(7):640-7.

Pisani P. Hyper-insulinaemia and cancer, meta-analyses of epidemiological studies. Arch Physiol Biochem. 2008 Feb;114(1):63-70.

10. Zheng W, Lee S. Well-done Meat Intake, Heterocyclic Amine Exposure, and Cancer

Risk. Nutr Cancer. 2009 ; 61(4): 437–446.

11. Thomson B. Heterocyclic amine levels in cooked meat and the implication for New Zealanders. Eur J Cancer Prev 1999;8(3):201-06.

12. Sinha R, Cross AJ, Graubard BI, et al. Meat Intake and Mortality: A Prospective Study of Over Half a Million People. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(6):562-571.

Dr. Fuhrman's thoughts on Emily's 'Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution' post

Wow, all those comments on the Jamie Oliver post are great.  That’s what makes this so much fun, I appreciate everyone posting.  Clearly there are some positive aspects to Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution: and certainly he is bringing attention to the deplorable school food situation in this country.

He also genuinely wants to improve health of our country’s children, and he aims to teach people how to cook for themselves.  Jamie Oliver’s passion for healthy eating is admirable, but his recommendations on healthy eating are not scientifically sound.  ‘Made from scratch’ does not mean ‘health-promoting' and the missed opportunity for significant change is enormous.

The science of nutrition unfortunately is not common knowledge.  In order to make meaningful dietary changes, people need to be educated.  They need to be given accurate information, not a diluted version designed to keep them in their comfort zone to avoid making them uncomfortable. When people are given the accurate information, they can make an educated decision, and many will be inspired to make significant dietary changes, excited about the prospect of excellent health.  Others will never be convinced or at least not until their lives are in immediate danger.  Unfortunately moderate dietary changes do not remove food addictions, prevent overeating and do little to nothing to lower rates of heart disease and cancer.   We are not talking about veganism here, but there is both an opportunity and a responsibility when you have a public voice advocating a healthful diet to really advocate something that is healthy.  Large changes do not have to happen overnight, but with the right information, people will know what their eventual goals are and overall many more people could be positively affected. .

Many of the comments on this post call Jamie’s show a “step in the right direction” – but does the show actually represent Jamie’s recommendations as only the first step?  Similar to the U.S. government’s recommendation to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, Jamie’s recommendations are simply not enough to prevent or reverse disease or to result in significant weight loss.  This information misleads people into thinking that the first step is actually the whole journey.  So many people think they already eat healthy diets when they don’t – and it is in part because half measures and baby steps are portrayed as the real thing.

It is not enough to simply switch from very harmful foods to freshly prepared and somewhat less harmful foods.  Moderate changes most often don’t even bring moderate benefits, they bring no benefits.  Complacency in moderate changes will not prevent heart attacks and cancers and people will continue to suffer and die needlessly.  If people do not want to eat healthfully, that is their right, but let’s make it clear, Jamie is well-intentioned, but he is not teaching anything close to a health-supporting diet.  

 

 

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

picture of Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver’s televised Food Revolution is an American sensation. I’m totally blown away and appreciative of his passion, genuine concern, overwhelming commitment, and sacrifice beyond-the-call-of-duty to see America (and beyond) get healthy; however, I’m concerned that zeal without accurate knowledge is potentially leading vulnerable people down a dangerous path.

Yes, Jamie is getting many, especially children, to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, and that is a noble task. Most certainly he’s leading a renaissance of cooking again; getting both Americans and Europeans back into their kitchens to make food from scratch instead of filling freezers with frozen pizzas and chicken nuggets. We applaud him for accomplishing that wonderful feat!

However, and a big however, just because foods are made from scratch, using fresh ingredients, are they necessarily healthy? They may be healthier than processed foods, but are they truly health promoting? There’s a big difference.   

What struck me recently was watching the tears fall down Brittany’s cheeks, the obese teen from the Cabell County, West Virginia school corporation who only has five to seven more years to live due to complications from obesity. Will merely increasing fruits and vegetables in Brittany’s diet, removing flavored milk, and making food from scratch prevent her from dying an early death? Will it prevent any of us from needing dangerous drugs that have serious side effects such as insulin and diuretics?

I browsed through Jamie’s Food Revolution cookbook1, and some of his recipes call for for sugar, white flour, heavy cream, butter, eggs, bacon, and cheeses. Are they truly healthy for the heart, pancreas and waistline? Will the following recipes free us from toxic hunger that propels food addiction, the root cause of obesity?

Perfect Pot Roast
Bacon Omelet
Grilled Filet Mignon
Parmesan Chicken Breasts with Crispy Posh Ham
Grilled Lamb Chops
Pork Kabobs
Pan Fried Glazed Pork Chops
Spanish Style Grilled Steak
Baked Creamy Leeks
Braised Bacon Cabbage
Cauliflower Cheese Soup
Dumplings
Bacon and Mushroom Cream Sauce
Macaroni and Cauliflower Cheese Bake (serves 4-6:  8oz cheddar cheese, 4oz parmesan cheese, sea salt, 1 c. sour cream, 1/2 head of cauliflower)
Pastas
Pancakes
Mega Chocolate Fudge Cake (2/3 c. brown sugar, 4 eggs, flour)
Vanilla Cheesecake with Raspberry Topping (serves eight: 13 Tablespoons of butter, 24 oz of cream cheese, ¾ c. sugar, and 1 ¼ c. heavy cream) 
Sponge Cake (made with 2 1/2 c. of heavy cream)
Pudding Cake
Cookies
Fruit Scones
Chocolate Fruit Nut Tart

Jamie OliverSalads are doused with oily dressings; three parts oil to one part vinegar or lemon, with the addition of pepper, sea salt, mustard, and sometimes yogurt. 

Among Jamie’s list of essential ingredients to have stocked in the kitchen cupboard are: olive oil, vegetable oil, all purpose flour, super fine sugar, brown sugar, confectioner’s sugar, dry pasta, egg noodles, honey, maple syrup, mayonnaise; plus, ready made pie crusts and puff pastries for the freezer.  

If meals are made from scratch, using fresh and even organic ingredients, at home or in the school kitchen, versus processed through a factory assembly line then they’re health promoting, right?   

You be the judge. 

Jamie's a great guy. I admire his bravery, passion and zeal; but is he truly saving the sinking ship, or is this just more noise adding to the confusion?

       sinking titanic                            

 

 

image credits:  rhinestonesandtelephones.com; celebrifi.com; geography-site.co.uk  

1.  Oliver, Jamie (2009). Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution; New York: Hyperion Publishing

Walnuts keep your blood flowing

It’s no secret that nuts are good for your heart. We know that consuming nuts can dramatically reduce cardiovascular disease risk, but scientists are just beginning to figure out how this works.  We recently learned that almonds have a potent antioxidant effect, leading to decreases in circulating oxidized LDL, helping to keep the arteries clear of atherosclerotic plaque.

Like all nuts, walnuts are rich in fiber, minerals, micronutrients, phytosterols, antioxidants, and monounsaturated fats, but walnuts stand out because of their distinctively high levels of ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid and precursor to EPA and DHA.

Researchers at Yale University wondered whether walnuts would have beneficial effects on blood vessel function in individuals at risk for cardiovascular disease – those with type 2 diabetes.

Twenty-four subjects with type 2 diabetes were included in the study.  Half were assigned to supplement their diets with 2 ounces of walnuts per day for 8 weeks

The researchers tested flow-mediated dilatation (FMD), which is a measure of how well the endothelial cells, the cells that line all blood vessels, are working to keep blood pressure in a favorable range.  One of the endothelial cells’ most important jobs is to produce nitric oxide, which regulates blood pressure by relaxing the muscle in the walls of the arteries.

After 8 weeks of daily walnut consumption, flow-mediated dilatation was improved – the blood vessels were able to dilate more in the subjects who ate walnuts.1  This is good news for overall cardiovascular disease risk since loss of endothelial function is one of the initiating events in atherosclerotic plaque development.

Want another reason to eat some walnuts?  They may also protect against breast cancer and prostate cancer2, according to animal studies. Fascinatingly, nuts and seeds also promote weight loss.  Research on the issue shows when an equal number of carbohydrate calories are replaced with nuts and seeds weight loss increases. Scientists from Purdue University did a thorough review of all the research studies that looked at nut intake and weight loss. Not only did they find nuts were a rich source of nutrients and protect the heart and blood vessels, but they found a surprising inverse association between nut intake and Body Mass Index. Most studies explained this as being due to the appetite suppressing effect of nuts, but like beans all the calories may not be bio-accessible, meaning that not all of the calories in nuts are absorbed. Plus, they enhance the absorbtion of nutrients in vegetables when consumed in the same meal. 3

We can apply this information by following Dr. Fuhrman’s recommendations to include a variety of nuts and seeds in our diets. As time goes on, we can be sure that scientists will continue to reveal many more health-promoting properties of nuts and seeds. 


 

References:

1. Ma Y, Njike VY, Millet J, et al. Effects of walnut consumption on endothelial function in type 2 diabetic subjects: a randomized controlled crossover trial. Diabetes Care. 2010 Feb;33(2):227-32. Epub 2009 Oct 30.

 

Medscape Medical News: Walnuts Shown to Improve Endothelial Function in Diabetics

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/717343?sssdmh=dm1.597249&src=confwrap&uac=74561DY

2. Eurekalert! Walnuts slow prostate tumors in mice: UC Davis research shows walnuts affect genes related to tumor growth

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-03/uoc--wsp032210.php

3. Mattes RD et al. Impact of peanuts and tree nuts on body weight and healthy weight loss in adults. J Nutr. 2008 Sep;138(9):1741S-1745S.