The Gourmand’s Dilemma

By Ken Babal, CN Originally Published In DRUM! Magazine's March 2010 Issue

The research is conclusive: If you want to improve your long-term health prospect, you must follow a diet that is low in animal fat, sugar, salt, and calories. But that’s not the whole picture. It’s not just about what you exclude from your diet, but also what you include.

Most of us don’t obtain the minimum recommendation of five servings a day of vegetables and fruits. In a recent survey, it was found that 42 percent of Americans eat less than two servings a day. Moreover, the vegetable serving was often French fries or something else not associated with reduced disease risk. Only about 50 percent of fruits and 25 percent of vegetables commonly eaten have been associated with disease reduction.

Variety is the spice of life and ensures that you are receiving all necessary nutrients for optimal health. Sadly, surveys show that most people subsist on the same ten foods day in and day out.

Recently, I reviewed studies showing specific health benefits of certain foods and culinary herbs and spices. The benefits included cholesterol and blood pressure reduction, diabetes control, cancer prevention, and others. I quickly realized how few are in the average person’s diet. Forget about finding them in restaurants unless they are Japanese, Greek, Italian, or vegetarian.

Conventional medicine might have you swallowing a drug cocktail, sometimes referred to as a “polypill,” to manage your cardiovascular disease risk. But an article in a medical journal proposed the idea of a “polymeal” based on the ability of each of its ingredients to reduce the risk of heart disease. The polymeal consists of wine, fish (four times per week), dark chocolate, fruits, vegetables, almonds, and garlic. According to calculations, the polymeal would reduce cardiovascular events by 76 percent and increase total life expectancy of men by 6.6 years and that of women by 4.8 years.

Other foods are equally impressive and stand heads above others. Examples are broccoli, spinach, kale, sea vegetables (sea weed), cooked tomato products, brown rice, oats, yogurt, olive oil, curry, ginger, shiitake mushroom, and pomegranate. How many are a regular part of your diet?