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Need to get healthy? Here are two simple ways you can improve your diet – AOL

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June 6, 2024 at 5:02 AM

More than four decades ago I became a believer in “you are what you eat.”

Before age 35, my diet was predominantly meat and processed garbage, high in saturated fat, sugar, and salt. In other words, I consumed a typical American diet that in large part explains why we “live sicker and die quicker” than nearly every other advanced industrialized society.

Unfortunately, my diet was worse than usual because I consumed huge quantities to meet the high demands of my daily exercise routine. Symptom-free and dumb as a box of rocks, I assumed I was the epitome of health, as I confused being highly fit with being healthy. Wrong! I was sprinting toward disaster in the form of high serum cholesterol, especially LDL (“bad” cholesterol), and my arteries were progressively clogging up (atherosclerosis). This was later verified when my friend, preventive cardiologist Dr. Henry Sadlo, recommended that I have a coronary calcium scan.

Sure enough, the test showed that I had major calcified plaque buildup in my coronary arteries, and I shudder to think of my fate if I had stayed on my original path.

Heart disease is the number 1 killer in the United States in 2024. The American Heart Association finds that intermittent fasting increases chances of death from cardiovascular disease.Heart disease is the number 1 killer in the United States in 2024. The American Heart Association finds that intermittent fasting increases chances of death from cardiovascular disease.
Heart disease is the number 1 killer in the United States in 2024. The American Heart Association finds that intermittent fasting increases chances of death from cardiovascular disease.

I have written about my transformation many times, and my shift to at first being a vegan (absolutely no animal products), then softening a bit to being a fish-eating vegetarian.

Shifting to a healthy diet is challenging in this country because we are constantly bombarded with misinformation by the food industry. For example, breakfast cereals are a staple in the U.S., even though most cereals are nothing more than sugary treats. We also falsely believe a healthy dinner is a big slab of red meat for protein and calcium, when in fact its main dietary delivery load is fat, especially saturated fat.

And beyond our unhealthy meals, we load up on lethal snack foods pushed at us relentlessly in TV commercials.

So, what are some simple ways you can improve your diet?

How to make a smoothie blend packed with fruits and vegetables

You can make smoothies out of just about any fruit or veggies you want.You can make smoothies out of just about any fruit or veggies you want.
You can make smoothies out of just about any fruit or veggies you want.

Leafy dark greens are key to my diet, and to make sure I get adequate quantities regularly, they are a core ingredient in my daily smoothie blends, making it easier and more convenient to consume.

The first thing I do is fill my blender (a VitaMix) with at least half full of leafy dark greens (spinach, kale, collard greens, etc.), and press them down firmly. We buy these greens in large containers, and they are clean, mixed and ready to go. Next, I add a layer of raw walnuts. Sounds strange, I know, but once you add all the ingredients, they mix into a pretty tasty drink loaded with goodies.

Additional ingredients include an apple and an orange, a mix of frozen fruits, two large scoops of organic soy protein (chocolate flavored, adding flavoring overall), and whatever raw or frozen vegetables we have on hand. Then I addd water near the top of the blender and turn it on. I drink the blend slowly after my evening meal, topping off my food intake for the day.

Why are leafy greens good for you?

A field of romaine lettuce in Yuma County. Yuma grows 90% of the winter leafy greens in the U.S.A field of romaine lettuce in Yuma County. Yuma grows 90% of the winter leafy greens in the U.S.
A field of romaine lettuce in Yuma County. Yuma grows 90% of the winter leafy greens in the U.S.

Why are leafy greens good for you? They contribute to a healthy brain, something critically important to me at age 77. For example, studies show a diet loaded with leafy greens boosts memory substantially. They also contribute to healthy skin, two big issues as you get up in years. Another aging-related issue is the potential that leafy greens help delay the deterioration of telomeres, protective “caps” of DNA that progressively shorten with age. Once the cap is gone, the cell dies.

An interesting angle associated with leafy greens is bone health. Leafy greens are not as high in calcium as milk, but they may be much more accessible to the bones, and thus more effective for bone health.

There are many more health benefits, but I’ll mention one more, a big one. Inflammation is believed to be a major factor contributing to the major chronic diseases that plague us, including heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Leafy greens are believed to dampen inflammation.

Why you should add raw walnuts to your diet

Walnuts at Central Park on October 12, 2023Walnuts at Central Park on October 12, 2023
Walnuts at Central Park on October 12, 2023

Here are two big endorsements for raw walnuts. First, the American Heart Association says walnuts are a “heart-healthy” food. Second, walnuts are a traditional staple in Chinese medicine used to promote gut function and digestion, helping to detox the kidneys and promote the health of the blood. Recent research adds credence to the ancient Chinese practice of touting walnuts for many aspects of health.

Let me add a word of caution. Walnuts are high in calories, which means it’s best not to simply “add” walnuts to your diet because it could lead to weight gain. Instead, delete some items you “can and should” do without (you know what they are) and substitute walnuts instead.

Walnuts are high in antioxidants which battle free radicals that destroy cells. With aging, new cell production slows, and the faster you lose cells the further you are behind when it comes to replacement. Some research supports walnuts to reduce LDL (bad cholesterol that contributes to clogging arteries). In addition, walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which, like leafy greens, combat inflammation, further reducing heart disease risk.

Raw walnutsRaw walnuts
Raw walnuts

The list of good qualities associated with walnuts goes on and on. I’ll mention one more. Research on animals suggests that walnuts may block some hormone receptors in the body, helping to reduce the risk of hormone-related cancers, such as breast and prostate cancer. More research is needed on humans, but this is an exciting possibility.

Reach Bryant Stamford, a professor of kinesiology and integrative physiology at Hanover College, at [email protected].

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Simple ways to improve your diet: eat leafy greens, walnuts

This post was originally published on 3rd party site mentioned in the title of this site

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