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Should We Pay Attention to Health Claims of Foods?

December 9, 2013, 11:38 am

The latest health claim to splash across the headlines was how healthy nuts are and how eating them regularly can reduce the risk of heart disease. Every month, it seems, a different study concludes that a certain food helps lower cholesterol, helps prevent diabetes, is good for the brain, helps with weight loss, and any number of other benefits. I always wonder if people who read this then decide to add that particular food to their diet but make no other changes. In other words, do they continue to eat a diet that consists mostly of processed, refined, sweetened and over-salted foods but include that one food that a study claimed would help them lose weight?

Here is a random sampling of health claims of specific foods found on the internet:

The biggest study yet into whether nuts can add years to your life shows that people who ate nuts every day were 20% less likely to die from heart disease, cancer or any other cause over 30 years than people who didn’t eat them. “The most obvious benefit was a reduction of 29% in deaths from heart disease

Steamed broccoli has cholesterol-lowering ability

Drinking apple juice could keep Alzheimer’s away and fight the effects of aging on the brain.

Study participants who drank two cups of cocoa daily for 30 days showed an 8.3 percent increase in blood flow to the brain, and they improved their scores on memory and thinking tests.

Sunflower Seeds
Eating sunflower seeds can help protect cells against the effects of free radicals and substances that oxidize and harm protein structure, the cell membranes, including DNA.

Drinking coffee is associated with a drastically reduced risk of type II diabetes. People who drink several cups per day are the least likely to become diabetic.

New evidence has found that buckwheat may be helpful in the management of diabetes according to Canadian researchers in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. With a glycemic index of 54, it lowers blood sugars more slowly than rice or wheat products.

A new study shows rats who ate a diet rich in blueberries lost abdominal fat, the kind of fat linked to heart disease and diabetes, as well as experienced other health benefits like lowered cholesterol and improved glucose control.

A recent study, which followed more than 5,000 Spanish university graduates for about two years, found a link between dairy intake and risk of high blood pressure. ''We observed a 50% reduction in the risk of developing high blood pressure among people eating 2-3 servings of dairy a day, compared with those without any intake,''

In a recent study, bean eaters weighed, on average, 7 pounds less and had slimmer waists than their bean-avoiding counterparts, yet they consumed 199 calories more per day if they were adults and an incredible 335 calories more if they were teenagers.

Red Meat
There is emerging evidence that nutrients currently found in red meat may play a role in supporting cognitive function, immune health and addressing iron deficiency, a study states.

What We Wish a Major Study Would Conclude

Some day perhaps there will be a big, splashy study with the headline:

A Whole Foods Diet is Shown to Prevent Heart Disease, Diabetes, Aid Weight Loss, etc, etc...

It all boils down to a diet that consists of the following elements:

  1. whole, fresh food, preferably organic, preferably local, including some raw
  2. food you cook yourself
  3. a variety of food from all the food groups (vegetarians/vegans may disagree)
  4. avoidance of processed and refined foods
  5. some food that is cultured/lactofermented
  6. food that's properly prepared, i.e. grains/beans soaked or sprouted

It really is as basic as that. Hippocrates said to let medicine be your food and your food be your medicine and that advice holds true today more than ever. If Americans decided to change their diets and stop buying junk food and started buying only whole foods, we would see a dramatic shift in public health. Bottom line...it's not necessary to focus on single foods for their health benefits. It is necessary to focus on a variety of whole foods to support and nourish the body and keep it healthy and vibrant.



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