What is a "healthy" food? Everyone has their own opinion! "We used to believe sugary cereals were fine, as long as they were fortified with certain vitamins and minerals [according to the Food & Drug Administration's definition]," I told Tom Costello, NBC Nightly News Correspondent on the NBC Nightly News on May 11.
But that definition was based on 30-year-old standards when "low fat" was the science of the day. And today, "some of the healthiest foods on the planet are high in fat," I told Costello on The Today Show on May 12.
The FDA sets standards for labels indicating the food's fat, saturated fat, sodium, cholesterol and nutrient content, and whether or not a food qualifies, and can be labeled as: "Healthy." Since nutrition is an evolving science, some of those standards have changed, and the FDA is in the process of revising them.
For instance, when a company produces a product, say, a granola or a snack which contains nuts - which we know today are healthy, but high in fat - the word "healthy" cannot be on the label, as the FDA guidelines have not caught up with today's science that some fats are actually good for you.
But that does not mean that we should trash everything we ever learned about. It is still important to balance our lives with fruits and vegetables, exercise, and keeping our calorie needs in mind. Healthy fats, such as those in nuts, avocadoes, olive oil, salmon, and certain fried foods and dressings, are important, but that isn't a license to binge, or ... to fear and abstain from any foods containing sugar - fruit, 100% fruit juice, sweet vegetables like carrots, milk, and yogurt (even with fruit on the bottom!).
Balance is everyting! Eating sugar-free is just as unhealthy as eating fat-free. Avoiding foods containing any hint of sugar, and even natural sugar, I believe, will be the next diet fad you'll want to avoid!
Some of the most interesting nutrition studies I've read have to do with the prenatal diet and subsequent effects in children. The subject is vast and the outcomes amazing. Did you know that when pregnant moms drink high amounts of carrot juice during pregnancy, their toddlers are more likely to choose carrots over other vegetables? Or, that the more varied a pregnant mom's diet, the more her child will choose and enjoy a wider variety of foods? All proven by science!
So it's no surprise that a new study published in The Lancet found that prenatal fruit consumption is correlated with superior cognition in the mothers' one-year-old infants - though there was no effect if fruit was only fed to the child during the year after birth. So, what may explain this finding?
Evolution may explain, in part, this advantage of fruit-eating. During the neolithic (stone age) period about 12,000 years ago and for thousands of years thereafter, we subsisted mainly on fruits and vegetables; which comprised about 65% of our calories, according to S. Boyd Eaton, from the department of Anthropology at Emory University in an interview and in his essay, "Evolution, Diet and Health." That may mean that brain development is still dependent on the same high level of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other positive nutrients that kind of diet would provide. And this could help explain why, even today, a high fruit diet is correlated with so many positive health benefits: reduced incidence of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, eye disease, and other conditions. Keep in mind, too, that the health-giving Mediterranean Diet had 12 to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and it's known as one of the healthiest diets on the planet.
Fruit is so easy to eat every day, and the local fruit season is just beginning to get exciting. I was most fortunate to receive one of the most delicious dishes I've ever eaten this weekend when my friend and neighbor, Mike Gardner, brought me his salad:
Old McDonald Had a Farm ... I'll never forget those tomatoes. They were soft, plump, sweet and deep red, still warm from the sun - the kind you only get fresh from the vine. And for us city folks, the kind we usually can only get at our local Farmers Markets.
I've encouraged my clients - individual and corporate - for many years to shop at Farmers Markets. It's been quite a successful strategy they have used to lose weight. The fruits and vegetables are so fresh and delicious, they can't help but eat them and find creative recipes for them. And science shows that's an easy way to lose weight. Not only that, reduce cancer and heart disease risk! How about YOU following me in The Georgetown Dish most Mondays with proven strategies to lose weight, improve your eating and health habits, or just increase your knowledge about nutrition? We can improve our habits together (yes, I'm still a work in progress!), share new recipes (I would love to publish some of yours!), and even share our ups and downs on our road to great health (and hot bodies?)!
Create new memories and experiences for yourself and your family by buying your fresh fruits and vegetables at our Farmers Markets and making eating healthfully a joy. One of my favorite childhood memories was the taste of my grandmother's vine-ripened tomatoes. It's funny how childhood experiences stay with us. Today, when I shop at the Wednesday Rose Park Farmers Market or the Sunday Dupont Circle Farmers Market (and soon, the new Georgetown Market at Wisconsin & P), I still revel in those feelings. Physically I'm in downtown Washington, D.C., but mentally and emotionally, I'm picking my grandmother's backyard tomatoes in the bright summer sun.
Another bonus of shopping at Farmers Markets is you're contributing to saving the environment. Local produce uses less energy, saves water and encourages a regions's unique varieties of fruits and vegetables; heirloom varieties passed down for generations is an example.
Bottom Line: Lose 36 pounds in a year. Fresh produce from a Farmers Market will make you hungry for a salad every day. Adding fruits, vetables, salads, new vegetable dishes - especially soups, to your daily meals and snacks will help you cut back on other more fattening foods - and science has proven for every meal you add a vegetable dish, you naturally eat about 100 calories fewer! You'll end up losing an impressive amount of weight - and that's without dieting!
Excerpted from "Diet Simple: 195 Mental Tricks, Substitutions, Habits & Inspirations" by Katherine Tallmadge (LifeLine Press)