Food for Thought

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14 Jan 2015


A recent study caught my attention. The study evaluated how people in the United States are doing in regard to making improvements in their dietary habits. And improvements there are, however we still have a ways to go. Scientists looked at data over an 11-year period starting in 1999. They evaluated the quality of the American diet.

I found this interesting primarily because when we deal with the dietary aspects, we almost always concentrate on what not to eat, but sometime we forget that there are things we really must eat in order to stay healthy, have energy and ward off disease. The study found the following improvements:

What areas need a lot more improvement?

Although it’s highly beneficial to avoid trans-fats, heavily processed foods and too much alcohol, what is it that we need to eat in order to have a healthy life and good quality of life through old age?

Let us first look at food quality. Approaching it from the standpoint of what we need to eat will help us with good health and longer life. Number one is quite simple: lots of vegetables and fruits, and a wide variety of both. We do know from scores of studies that any society (unlike the United States) which incorporates an abundance of vegetables and fruits into its diet has fewer instances of heart disease and cancer, as well as deaths from these and the other “western” diseases. Five to six portions of vegetables and three portions of fruits on a daily basis are crucial. Again, variety is very important, as different fruits and vegetables contain different vitamins and minerals and different types of antioxidants and flavonoids. It also keeps your eating varied and more enjoyable.

In addition to fruits and vegetables, another essential dietary change one can make is to reduce, or even eliminate completely, refined grains (white flour and the like) and to stick  with whole grain products.

Why in the world would someone take whole wheat grain, crack the grain, pulverize it with rollers, and separate the endosperm from the dark, fibrous bran and the wheat embryo? Why would they take out important nutrients, vitamins, unsaturated fats, fiber and magnesium? And if intact grains are so healthy, why did we stop eating them and shift to highly refined grains?

White flour was a novelty for the upper classes. The fact that you could take this brown, grainy flour and “purify” it also helped make bread and cakes lighter, airier and fluffier. Buying white flour became a status symbol. White flour can also survive longer without refrigeration. But the damage we have done to ourselves in the process has been severe.

Processed meats are not good for you. According to a study in 2010, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) have found that eating processed meat, such as sausage or processed deli meats, was associated with a 42% higher risk of heart disease and a 19% higher risk of type 2 diabetes. So what should we eat for protein? White meat chicken without the skin and fish are a better choice, and if you do want some meat from time to time, try to get unprocessed meat and preferably from free-grazing cows. Of course, vegetable proteins are a great choice, like tofu, quinoa, beans, and lentils.

And let’s not forget to drink enough water. Ten cups per day is a minimum requirement. In the hot summer, more is better and if you are exercising, make sure to add water before and after your workouts. According to the guidelines issued by the American Council on Exercise, one should drink two cups of water within an hour before exercising, consume about a cup for every 10-15 minutes during the workout, and consume 2 or 3 cups of fluid at the conclusion of the workout.

When we emphasize what we need to eat as opposed to what we want to eat, we will begin steering away from the foods that cause us harm. And let’s not forget the other component to good health and quality of life—EXERCISE!

Focusing on the sources of nutrition that we need for good health will “add hours to your day, days to your year, and years to your life.”



Alan Freishtat is an A.C.E. CERTIFIED PERSONAL TRAINER and a BEHAVIORAL CHANGE and WELLNESS COACH with over 19 years of professional experience. Alan is the creator and director of the “10 Weeks to Health” program for weight loss. He is available for private coaching sessions, consultations, assessments and personalized workout programs both in his office and by telephone and skype. Alan also lectures and gives seminars and workshops. He can be reached at 02-651-8502 or 050-555-7175, or by email at Check out the his web site – US Line: 516-568-5027.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.