How to Eat for Health in the New Year: A Diet to Fight Inflammatory Diseases and Cancer
Inflammation causes disease, and diet contributes to inflammation. Modern diets are making people sicker, but fortunately some relatively minor, painless adjustments can reverse the trends toward obesity, chronic inflammation and degenerative diseases, such as arthritis, Alzheimer’s and atherosclerosis.
Diet Changes to Avoid Chronic Inflammation
Most of the dietary changes that clinical studies have found to reduce chronic inflammation and disease are well known, but others are controversial, because they conflict with common dietary advice. The major changes that will lower chronic inflammation are:
- vitamin D: Sunshine and diet sources are not adequate, supplements are required.
- carbohydrates: Starchy foods rapidly raise blood sugar.
- polyunsaturated oils: Avoid vegetable oils, a major source of inflammatory omega-6 oils.
- saturated fats: Higher saturated fats in the diet lower disease risk.
- Omega-3 oils: Fish oil is a major source of DHA/EPA needed to reduce inflammation.
- vegetable antioxidants: Phytochemicals in leafy vegetables, herbs and spices reduce inflammation.
- probiotics: Health is controlled by bacteria in the gut and food controls the gut flora.
Sunlight Is Not Enough for Vitamin D Health
Shockingly, studies of vitamin D levels in people from Florida and California, who spent a large part of each day in the sun, showed that most were deficient in vitamin D. Chronic inflammation may further compromise solar production of vitamin D. Other studies revealed that patients identified and treated for vitamin D deficiencies, remained deficient in vitamin D. At the same time that pervasive deficiencies were discovered, vitamin D deficiencies were also associated with numerous allergies, autoimmune diseases, degenerative diseases and cancer.
Carbohydrates (Starch, Sugar, HFCS) Contribute to Chronic Inflammation
Starch, sugar and corn syrup rapidly produce high blood sugar, hyperglycemia. Rice, potatoes, pasta, cereal and oatmeal all produce elevated blood sugar. The more thoroughly cooked the starchy food, the more rapid the rise in blood sugar. Insulin increases with the rise of blood sugar and shunts the sugar into tissues where the added glucose can contribute to superoxide production, oxidative stress and inflammation, insulin resistance and metabolic disease. Elevated blood sugar, and not dietary fats, is the major trigger to triglyceride production, so lowering dietary starch can improve serum lipids. Starch also promotes the growth of Klebsiella pneumoniae, a bacterium implicated in several diseases and a supplier of hydrogen for the growth of pathogenic Helicobacter pylori. Many people have problems with gluten intolerance, so a low carbohydrate diet is uniformly beneficial.
Omega-3 oils and Saturated Fats Are Healthier than Vegetable Oil
Another dietary shocker is the falling medical favor of polyunsaturated omega-6 rich vegetable oils. The shift away from saturated fats to polyunsaturated fats was never supported by a large body of clinical evidence, but the medical community lined up against saturated fats because of fatty deposits observed in clogged arteries. Unsaturated fats are susceptible to peroxidation to produce inflammatory lipid peroxides, so excessive polyunsaturated fats (even fish oils) can contribute to inflammation. Saturated fats are used throughout the body, and especially the brain, as a major source of energy, and provide protection against oxidation damage. Saturated fats such as butter and grass-fed meat, are natural companions to Omega-3 fish oils in a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet. Avoid common vegetable oils and use olive oil instead.
Vegetables Are Anti-inflammatory
Plant-produced chemicals, phytochemicals, have long been used in the herbal treatment of disease. More recently phytochemicals, such as curcumin from turmeric, have been identified as being among the most potent inhibitors of cellular signaling to produce inflammation. Leafy vegetables have a large array of potent phytochemicals that are beneficial to health when mixed from many different sources. Leafy vegetables also contain Omega-3 oils, whereas, seeds such as corn, soy and sunflower are high in Omega-6 inflammatory oils. So, eat plenty of vegetables seasoned with herbs and spices.
Probiotics Contribute to Healthy Gut Bacteria
Healthy babies have healthy gut flora and it should come as no surprise that mother’s milk contains dozens of proteins and carbohydrates (prebiotics) that kill pathogenic viruses, bacteria and fungi, and permit only the growth of a single type of bacteria that is beneficial. Adults continue an intimate interaction between gut and gut bacteria, and health is determined by the gut. Probiotics, such as yogurts with living, fermenting bacteria, contribute to a healthy adult gut bacterial community.
Resolve to Be Healthy by Eating Healthy
The outline for a healthy diet guided by the biomedical literature is relatively simple. Reduce carbohydrates (starch, sugar, HFCS) and increase the use of saturated fats as the major source of dietary calories. Avoid vegetable oils and use olive oil and butter instead. Eat plenty of veggies, herbs and spices. Make sure that your gut bacteria are happy by eating fermented products with live bacteria. Finally, make sure that you have adequate vitamin D. Sensible eating can go a long way toward a revolution in improved health care.