Nutritious Resolutions for 2003

By Anita Romaniw

At the beginning of each year I hear about all the "bad" things people resolve to eat less of…like less fat, less meat, less ice cream and chocolate. By February or March, however, these good intentions are often forgotten, likely because they never became habit-forming lifestyle changes. So this year, instead of promoting restriction, let's focus on what we can do MORE of in the name of good health. I firmly believe we don't break old habits, but replace them with new ones. Following are my five personal best nutrition recommendations for 2003.

1) Color Your World

While all fruits and vegetables have some nutrition, those naturally bright in color are highest in antioxidants, which help prevent many diseases of aging. Filling your plate with green, red, orange, yellow, purple or blue fruits and vegetables is a great habit to get into for long-term health benefits. If you currently eat only one color of produce a day, increase it to two.

In a month or so, add another color to a daily meal until you make it a habit of eating three or more colors per day. While eating enough fruits and vegetables is the most challenging food group for many people to get enough of, it is also the most protective. If you're willing to do only one thing to boost your nutritional health this year, increasing your consumption of colorful fruits and vegetables is a great start.

2) Make Your Carbs Count - Remember "Brown and Heavy"

With all the hype over high-protein diets, one of the most common questions these days is, "Are carbs really fattening?" The short answer is no - IF you're eating quality (whole-grain) carbohydrates in moderate amounts. It's the dietary fiber in unrefined carbohydrates that makes them dark brown in colour and heavy to hold. When fiber is removed during the processing of breads, cereals, pasta, rice and crackers, the end result is lighter, whiter and less nutritious. Just compare the weight of an equal-sized loaf of white bread to a dark brown bread the next time you shop; the dark brown bread feels much heavier. You can double-check your bread for fiber by reading the label to make sure that whole grains are listed as the first ingredient.

There are lots of health benefits to choosing brown, heavy carbs. Fiber is so important because it keeps your insides clean, helping prevent and manage intestinal disease. Fiber also helps lower cholesterol and helps balance blood sugars, helping you feeling fuller over the day. This ultimately helps you lose weight and control diabetes if you have it. I suggests you use the 80/20 rule when it comes to carbs: eat brown, heavy grains 80 % of the time and enjoy the light, white, puffy types less often.

3) Get to Know Soy

The soy protein in tofu, soy milk, soybeans and soy burgers contain plant estrogens that not only help prevent heart disease, but may also help prevent some cancers. If you have no desire to cultivate a taste for tofu, work your way into the world of soy slowly by enjoying a homemade smoothie. In your blender, mix up flavored soymilk with frozen fruit, orange juice, yogourt and whatever else you have on hand for added flavor. Many "anti-tofu types" have been converted to soy with this simple smoothie recipe. Aim for one cup of liquid soy or ½ cup solid soy protein per day.

4) Fiddle with Flaxseed

Ground flaxseeds and flax flours contain plant estrogens called lignans, which thought to help protect against breast, prostate and colon cancers. Flaxseed's essential fatty acids also help lower cholesterol and have anti-inflammatory effects, helping reduce pain from conditions like arthritis and lupus.

There's lots of variety of flax breads and bagels in grocery stores and bakeries. You can buy your own flaxseed in bulk, grind it up in a coffee grinder and add it to hot cereal, smoothies, home-made bread, pancakes, muffins or cookies. Aim for one to two tablespoons per day. You must grind flaxseed in order to actually absorb the lignans; eating the flaxseeds whole will just pass through you. You can keep ground flaxseed in the fridge for up to 90 days. Please note that flaxseed oil does not contain the all-important lignans.

5) Get Moving

This is the time of year when gym memberships abound…which would be wonderful if we remained devoted to exercise year-round. But come February, gym attendance plummets, indicating once again that good intentions minus action equals squat! In an era when anti-aging is so "in," the message needs to be clear: Exercise keeps you young! And staying young enables you to keep doing the things you love to do in life.

So pay heed to recommendations by health experts that you get active doing something you enjoy for at least 30-60 minutes a day. Given that childhood obesity and weight-related diabetes are on the rise, a family resolution to exercise not only encourages quality time, but it's a fabulous way to ring in the New Year.


Anita Romaniw is a Community Nutritionist with the Fraser Health Authority, Fraser East, in British Columbia, Canada.



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