Preventing Illness and Disease

  • Oats—Beta-glucan is the fiber in oats that helps eliminate cholesterol from the intestines before it gets absorbed and lowers blood pressure. Oats also contain vitamin E and antioxidants.

  • Fish—Fish, especially salmon, herring, anchovies, and sardines, contain omega-3s, the magic fatty acids that prevent clumping of the blood platelets, preventing heart disease, hypertension, and stroke. They also reduce triglycerides and LDLs, bad cholesterol. Additionally, omega-3s have been suggested to protect the brain cells from diseases of aging, prevent autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, and lessen depression and menstrual cramps.

  • Garlic—Allyl sulfides and phytochemicals in garlic protect the heart, reduce cholesterol, and prevent blood from clotting (a big reason for heart attacks and strokes).

  • Blueberries and other berries—Blueberries are noted to have the highest amount of antioxidants, including phytochemicals, which work against the free radicals that cause heart disease and cancer. Blueberries are also suggested to prevent memory loss and also prevent urinary tract infections in the same way cranberry juice does, by preventing bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall.

  • Wine and grape juice—Red wine has its beneficial effects from the polyphenols in the skins of the grapes, which increase HDL and prevent hardening of the arteries. Wine also contains alcohol, which in moderation (one drink a day, for women) prevents heart disease and more serious outcomes of heart failure and heart disease. (Note: Alcohol can increase breast cancer risk and should be avoided in pregnancy.)

  • Soy—Soy contains omega-3 fatty acids, which prevent heart disease and stroke. Soy also contains phytochemicals that prevent certain types of cancer. (Note: Soy should not be eaten in large amounts in women with certain types of breast cancer, and soy protein isolates at greater than 30 to 40 mg daily is not recommended.)

  • Water—Drinking at least eight, 8-ounces glasses of water a day is recommended to prevent colon cancer, urinary tract infections, kidney stones, bladder cancer, constipation, obesity, and complications of dehydration. In active athletic women, more is often required. Health Benefits of Proper Nutrition
    Benefit How Why
    Provide fuel Ultimately, all food is broken down into glucose, the energy source for all body cells. You need fuel to function.
    Lower cancer risk Antioxidants combat free radicals, which are linked to cancer. Studies suggest that women who eat a lot of fruits and vegetables have half the risk of cancer.
    Prevent heart disease, stroke, hypertension Antioxidants, fiber, and folate; omega-3 fatty acids The healthiest foods for the heart are fruits, vegetables, fish, and nuts.
    Cholesterol Appropriate levels reduce risk of heart attack and stroke. High-fiber, low-saturated fat and high monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat foods lower cholesterol.
    Diabetes prevention Low glycemic index foods Eating regular meals with minimal sugary foods can prevent adult-onset diabetes.
    Vision Fruits and vegetables can prevent macular degeneration and cataracts. Fruits and vegetables can help prevent vision problems.
    Healthy bones Adequate calcium and vitamin D Bone requires proper nutrients.
    Maintain stable mood Blood glucose supplies thebrain. Steady blood glucose levels steady mood.

    General dietary recommendations include eating a high-fiber, medium to low glycemic index diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy sources. Choosing monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and avoiding saturated and trans-fats is the best way to naturally prevent heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and many other diseases.

    << Previous: Beyond exercise

    From The Active Woman's Health and Fitness Handbook by Nadya Swedan. Copyright © 2003 by Nadya Swedan. Used by arrangement with Perigee, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

    To order this book visit Amazon.

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