How to eat smart and stay healthy, it sounds complicated but really isn’t. Today we will discuss food and health facts to help you make informed food decisions for better health.
Starting simply, good eating should include foods from all five food groups.
Milk/dairy Group (for calcium) 2-3 servings daily
Meat Group (for iron) 2-3 servings daily
Vegetable Group (for Vitamin A) 3-5 servings daily
Fruit Group (for Vitamin C) 2-4 servings daily
Grain Group (for Fiber) 6-11 servings daily
Eating a well balanced diet of all the food groups can help boost your immune system. Cancer fighting nutrients in foods are the antioxidants, Vitamins C, E and beta-carotene (a precursor of Vitamin A). These repair the cell damage done by free radicals. (A free radical is an unstable and reactive molecule.) These anti-cancer effects have only recently been discovered.
Fruits and vegetables are the richest sources of antioxidants. The top ten are blueberries, kale, strawberries, spinach, brussels sprouts, plums, broccoli, beets, oranges and red grapes. Other good sources are red bell peppers, onions, corn, eggplant, pink grapefruit, white grapes, potatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, leaf lettuce, bananas, apples, green beans, carrots, tomatoes and peas.
Did you know that fresh garlic contains a sulphur compound called Allacin that has antibiotic and antifungal properties? In animal studies, a component of garlic oil has been shown to inactivate carcinogens and suppress tumor growth. Garlic stimulates the production of an amino acid that is a powerful antioxidant and detoxifier.
When you come in contact with an antigen (anything that triggers an immune reaction), your body can’t make antibodies fast enough to fight back and you become ill. The next time that you are exposed, your body remembers these antigens and trigger the antibodies immediately.
Fruits and vegetables contain immune-boosting compounds for more potent white blood cells. Yogurt and garlic stimulate microphages (helper T-cells) and natural killer cells. Foods containing Zinc (oysters and bran) can help antibodies and T-cells. Fats can impair immunity and some fats actually attack the immune cells.
Knowing what to eat and what foods are most beneficial to good health, you may simply ask “Why not just take supplements”? Megadoses of vitamins and minerals can suppress normal immune functioning. According to Theresa McAndrew, Dietitian at Holyoke Hospital, “It is better to eat a variety of foods to derive the necessary nutrients you need each day.” Dietary supplements, when medically indicated, are most often given in conjunction with a balanced dietary program.
For some, nutritional needs run into economic barriers and supplemental food programs such as Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provide free food and nutritional information to help keep pregnant women, infants and children under 5 years old healthy. A nutritionist will help make a determination about the nutritional risks, present growth, low iron levels, dietary or other medical conditions. To participate, you must: live in Massachusetts; be a pregnant, post-partum or breast feeding woman, an infant or a child under 5; have a nutritional need; and have a household income within the guidelines. Fathers, guardians or foster parents may apply for WIC for their children.
The staff from WIC will provide counseling on better use of foods to improve health, immunization screening and referrals, discussions on food shopping, recipes, care of babies and good eating habits during pregnancy/breast feeding. They will also provide referrals for medical assistance, Mass Health, early intervention programs, daycare and fuel assistance.
To find out more information about the WIC programs in your area, call (800) WIC-1007 or (413) 593-8800.