Eat Your Way To Better
Health By Monique N. Gilbert, B.Sc
Making the right dietary choices can have a
profound impact on our health and longevity. As a society, we have the largest
assortments of foods in the world, both good and bad. However, this
availability can tempt us to eat unhealthy foods. Fortunately, overcoming these
temptations is easier than you think. A few simple changes in your diet can
make the difference between being healthy and unhealthy. So, you may ask, what
kind of diet do researchers recommend for promoting and maintaining good
According to the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR),
the smartest strategy to promoting good overall health is to eat a balanced,
predominantly plant-based and nutritionally dense diet. Most of your daily
calories should come from vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans.
Take advantage of our highly developed food distribution system, which
allows a vast array of fruits, vegetables and other plant foods to be available
throughout the year. Eat less fat and more fiber. Make plant-based foods the
largest part of every meal. Limit the amount of animal-based foods, such as
meat and dairy products, which are loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol.
Use olive oil or canola oil instead of butter or margarine to reduce your
intake of saturated fat and hydrogenated fat (trans fat). Moderate your
consumption of fried, salted and smoked foods. Eat portions to satisfy hunger,
not to clean the plate. The AICR recommends these steps to help protect against
several cancers, lower the risk of heart disease and promote good health.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) links one-third of all cancer
deaths to diet. They state that we can reduce the risk of cancer and other
chronic diseases through dietary means. Both the AICR and the NCI believe in
the benefits of eating a plant-based diet. They feel it is reasonable for most
of us to include products like tofu, soymilk, tempeh and textured soy protein
as part of a healthy diet. If nothing else, these foods can be excellent and
complete alternative protein sources when decreasing your consumption of meat
and dairy products.
However, researchers do not want people to consider
plant-based foods as a magic bullet to counteract bad eating habits. They don't
want people to rely on adding just one or two plant-based products to their
diets while continuing to eat foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Nor
do they advise people to consume large quantities of supplements to try to
achieve health benefits. Balance, moderation, and variety are the keys to a
healthy diet. Nothing should be excessively consumed. Loading up on any one
food or nutrient is never wise. Each food item provides a different chemical
composition. The best way to take advantage of the various beneficial nutrients
and compounds, is to adopt good eating habits which include a wide assortment
of nutritionally dense foods.
Many researchers advise looking at the
typical Asian diet and method of cooking for inspiration, which is high in
fruits, vegetables, rice, green tea and soy. They mainly derive protein from
plant-based sources such as beans, tofu, miso, soymilk, tempeh and other
plant-based products. This type of diet is low in meat, fat and dairy products,
with a moderate amount of fish. Meat is mainly used as a condiment than the
main course. The quick method of cooking, characteristic of Asian cuisine, also
plays an important role in the Asian diet. Steaming and stir-frying reduces the
amount of fat needed to prepare foods, and allows foods to retain much of their
In contrast, the average American or Western diet is high in
meat, dairy, starches, sugars, sodas, fast foods and junk foods. Beef, pork,
fish and poultry are the main sources of protein. This type of diet is
generally low in fiber and high in saturated fats and cholesterol. Deep-fried
foods, such as french fries, potato chips and onion rings, are popular but very
unhealthy. It causes foods to absorb a high amount of fat, and the oils used to
deep-fry are not always the best. Often vegetables are overcooked, causing them
to lose many of their nutrients. Fast foods and quick eating, characteristic of
American dinning, also play a detrimental role to our health. The convenience
of ready made and processed foods often provides a diet high in calories but
low in nutritional value.
Altering our way of cooking and eating is one
of the easiest ways to improve our health and increase our vitality. Making
choices based upon nutritional content is the best guide. Choose to eat foods
that have bright colors and are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and complex
carbohydrates; moderate in protein, and low in saturated fat, hydrogenated
(trans) fat and cholesterol. Adopting this way of eating will promote good
health and offer you protection against heart disease, stroke, cancer,
osteoporosis, diabetes and kidney disease.
Looking for a great
cholesterol-free recipe to start your day off on the right foot? Then try this
hearty nutritious and delicious breakfast item. It's high in fiber, iron,
potassium, phosphorus, vitamin C, thiamin and niacin, low in saturated fat with
a moderate amount of protein.
Potato Tofu Hash
ounces tofu - diced (1/3 of a 16-ounce block firm tofu)
3 cups potatoes -
diced (3 medium or 4 small potatoes)
1 cup onion - diced (1 large
1-1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black ground pepper
1. Dice tofu into 1/4 to 1/2 inch cubes. Peel and dice potatoes
into 1/2 inch cubes.
2. Heat 1 teaspoon canola oil, add diced tofu,
turmeric, 1/8 teaspoon salt and a dash of pepper. Stir until all cubes are
thoroughly coated and get a nice yellow color. Saute tofu until golden brown
and firm. Set aside.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil, add diced
potatoes, black ground pepper and 1/ teaspoon salt. Stir to coat all the potato
cubes with oil, salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and allow to steam for 3-5
minutes. Uncover for a minute before flipping potatoes over, this will prevent
any sticking. Then flip potatoes, cover and steam another 3-5 minutes. Uncover
and flip potatoes again. Keep flipping until all potatoes are golden brown.
4. When potatoes are golden brown, mix in tofu cubes and push to one
side of the pan. Add 1/2 teaspoon canola oil and diced onions to empty side of
pan. Stir and cook onions until translucent, then mix thoroughly with potatoes
and tofu. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with juice and toast.
This recipe is from Monique N. Gilbert's book "Virtues of Soy:
A Practical Health Guide and Cookbook" (Universal Publishers, 2001, pp. 86-87).
National Cancer Institute; www.cancer.org
American Institute of Cancer Research; www.aicr.org
© Monique N. Gilbert - All Rights Reserved.
Monique N. Gilbert,
B.Sc., is a Health Advocate, Certified Personal Trainer/Fitness Counselor,
Recipe Developer, Freelance Writer and Author of "Virtues of Soy: A Practical
Health Guide and Cookbook" (Universal Publishers, 2001). For more information,
visit the Virtues of Soy website at http://www.virtuesofsoy.com or E-mail:
Monique N. Gilbert has a Bachelor of Science degree, is a Certified
Personal Trainer/Fitness Counselor and Health Advocate. She began a low-fat,
whole grain, vegetable-rich diet in the mid-1970's. This introduced her to a
healthier way of eating and became the foundation of her dietary choices as an
adult. She became a full-fledged vegetarian on Earth Day 1990. Over the years
she has increased her knowledge and understanding about health and fitness, and
the important role diet plays in a person's strength, vitality and longevity.
Monique feels it is her mission to educate and enlighten everyone about the
benefits of healthy eating and living.