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Super Disease Fighters: Fruits, Vegetables, and Whole Grains

Posted by Tara Burner 0 comments

Super Disease Fighters: Fruits, Vegetables, and Whole Grains
January 5, 2005

It’s tempting to just pop a few vitamin pills and consider yourself protected from disease, but the truth is that real foods, carefully prepared, and eaten with variety, offer the soundest protection against the most dramatic climb in disease in the last thirty years: Type 2 diabetes, plus the scourges of heart disease and hypertension. Estimates are that 75% of all deaths in the U.S. are attributed to high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease, plus type 2 diabetes and cancer.


Evidence is growing that certain cancers can be reduced with increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. The cancers noted are rectum and colon; stomach, esophagus and larynx, oral, pharynx, lung, and stomach.

The WHO (World Health Organization’s international agency for cancer research has estimated that low fruit an vegetable intake contributes from 5 to 12% of ALL cancers and up to 20 to 30% of upper gastrointestinal cancers. These are otherwise preventable, the agency asserts.

The reason fruits and vegetables help us fight cancers is because of their fiber. Fiber’s function is to help move food through the intestines easier and quicker, reduce the amount of time in the body where they could damage cells, thus contributing to cancer, and fiber also moves related carcinogens through the tract out of our bodies faster. Carcinogens are known to cause cancer.


A variety of hypotheses exist for why type 2 diabetes among both children and adults has reached epidemic proportions. One is the tremendous quantities of high fructose corn syrups found in packaged foods from veggie burgers to hot dogs; it is estimated that the average American consumes 47 pounds of corn sweeteners per year.

Switching from packaged foods to fresh or frozen vegetables, fresh or frozen fruits, and at least one salad a day will make a huge difference.

The other big change, as recommended by these new suggestions, is to switch from simple carbohydrates like white flour, white sugar, white breads or flour tortillas, and opt for whole wheat, rice, or multi-grained products plus adding brown rice instead of white.

A third suggestion is to increase those fruits and vegetables, particularly those with high amounts of fiber which slows down the absorption of food so your blood sugar is better controlled, a key to avoiding type 2 diabetes.

WHO and the American Dieabetes Association recommend whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat milk as part of a healthful diet that can prevent type 2 diabetes.


Doctors have been warning their patients for years about the danger of excess sodium and its relation to hypertension (high blood pressure) the absolute precursor to heart disease and stroke. In fact, reducing high blood pressure rates could reduce the incidence of stroke in this country by 27%, and coronary heart disease by 15%.

Alas, easier said than done with all the temptations of fast food, packaged foods, and convenience foods from the grocer which can sabotage even the most conscientious among us. In fact, a fast food hamburger, a cup of microwave soup, even a low-fat frozen dinner can easily contain half to four times the daily RDA for sodium. RDA records indicate that one in three Americans already have high blood pressure, and that blood pressure is directely related to the balance of sodium and potassium in the blood. Processed foods account for 75% of the amount of sodium in the diet over most Americans compared to 5 to 10% from the salt shaker!

Healthy blood pressure levels benefit from diets rich in potassium, even if your sodium intake is high, so increase those potassium-rich foods like spinach, cantaloupe, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, bananas, oranges, grapefruit, and potatoes.

What can you do? Adopting the RDA suggestion of making your diet 54% fruits and vegetables. But, how to do it, you ask? The first thing to do is eat one less prepared product a day and substitute that with a fresh salad, some home-cooked beans or legumes, or cooked vegetables. Keep on trading convenience foods for fresh ones and you’ll discover several changes: your blood pressure will reduce, you’ll feel “fuller” more often, and you will re-discover how great fresh food tastes over “fast”. You may even find you’re losing weight easier and more comfortably than you would ever imagine. Can you give up that daily burger? Skip that soft drink? Forget about the fast-food taco? You can probably give up one thing once a day. Try it; one day at a time.


Although most Americans can expect to experience high blood pressure during their mid-years, and as they age, the RDA recommendation for daily exercise is the one proven element outside of diet that helps delay or reduce this condition. Whether all you can do is a stretch routine from a wheelchair or a brisk twenty-minute walk a day, do it! If you can move up to tennis, swimming or bicycling, great. And, if you can alternate with weight bearing exercises or some form of aerobics or calisthenics, go for it! You’ll live better, with more vigor, and burn up your calories much more effectively.


Exercise is also beneficial in reducing weight. Because two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, fruits and vegetables have the wonderful advantage of helping you feel fuller on fewer calories because they are high in fiber, high in water content, yet lower in calories when compared to their volume. Low fat diets with unlimited fruits and vegetables also help to reduce weight by giving us the feeling of real satisfaction that foods with empty calories cannot. No matter what you eat today, or how much, eat fruits or vegetables with each meal and eat them before anything else on the plate. It’s an easy, simple way to get that RDA of 54%!

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