Diet Review: Foods for Thought
Focused on Health - April 2011
by Adelina Espat and Ashley Davis
Are you trying to lose weight? Do you need a nutrition makeover?
Our nutrition expert is here to help.
“Losing weight can help lower your chances for cancer if you’re overweight or obese,” says Daxaben Amin, a senior clinical dietitian in MD Anderson’s Department of Clinical Nutrition.
“But beware: not just any weight-loss plan will give your body the nutrients it needs to fight off diseases like cancer.”
Below, Amin separate out the good from the bad among popular diets.
Good nutrition is not a fast fix
“Diets that make our ‘good list’ encourage long-term change,” Amin says. “They also give you a variety of options from all food groups.”
The Mediterranean-style diet makes our ‘good’ list because it encourages people to make a life-long commitment to good nutrition.
This diet also meets many of the dietary guidelines used for preventing cancer and heart disease. These include:
- Making fruits, vegetables, nuts and other plant-based foods a big part of every meal
- Choosing healthy fats, like olive and canola oils, instead of butter
- Flavoring foods with herbs and spices instead of salt
- Limiting red meat and alcohol intake
- Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
The Whole-Body Approach
This type of diet focuses on eating six to seven small meals each day, instead of the standard three large meals. It makes our ‘good’ list because it offers the cancer prevention benefits below:
- Adding fruits, vegetables and whole grains into at least half of your daily meals
- Encouraging eating lean protein
- Limiting foods high in fat
- Including daily physical activity
Crash diets lead to crash endings
“Trendy” usually means the latest fad, and fads are temporary. So, if you hear a diet described as “trendy,” that’s usually a red flag.
That’s because “trendy” diets usually don’t provide the nutrients your body needs on a daily basis.
Gluten is a protein found in most whole grain foods, like wheat, rye, barley and oats. Gluten-free diets are becoming a popular trend. When you go gluten-free, you stop eating foods containing whole grains. But, unless you have celiac disease, you shouldn’t go gluten-free.
Yes, crash diets promise rapid results. But, rapid results don’t promise long-term health. In fact, losing more than two pounds a week can damage your body. That’s because crash diets cause you to lose muscle mass first instead of fat.
Don’t follow diet plans that tell you to completely “cut the carbs.” Sure, you should limit your carbohydrates to maintain a healthy weight. But, if you completely cut them out, you also cut out your body’s primary energy source.
Even worse: you deprive your body of some important cancer-fighting carbohydrates — vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans.
Instead of going carb-free, choose your carbohydrates wisely. Pick whole grains rather than cakes, cookies and other foods made with processed or refined grains and sugars.
Moderation is the secret to success
“Maintaining a healthy weight requires a life-long commitment,” Amin says. “And, the secret to long-term success is moderation.”
So, talk to your doctor about a nutrition plan that works for you. And, find ways to fit in at least 30 minutes of activity every day.
Then, stick to it! Your body will thank you.