by Jane Quincannon Stanchich

Virtually each day, television, newspapers, magazines, and Internet sources provide critical nutritional studies and discoveries. In this column, “Vital Signs”, I will bring you current, as well as time-tested information, along with sometimes surprising data to whet your appetite for empowered awareness about the foods and beverages you choose or choose not to eat. Read these tasty tidbits of information, share and savor them with friends and family, as you do a new recipe. Cook up a conversation, begin a healthy debate, digest the facts, and enjoy these morsels as you mix the cerebral with the culinary. In this new year, may we resolve to select our foods with greater intelligence, safety, consciousness, and serious fun.

Eat Your Veggies!
Famed Cardiologist William Castelli, M.D. has conducted the longest running clinical study in medical history and states the following educated opinion about the best diet for health and disease prevention: “Vegetarians have the best diet. They have the lowest rates of coronary disease of any group in the country they have a fraction of our heart attack rate, and they have only 40 percent of our cancer rate.” Mom was right again.

This Man Knew Energy
Albert Einstein, the world’s preeminent scientist and Time Magazine’s Person of the Century, expressed his strong philosophy about the need of society to eat healthy foods when he states, “Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances of survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”

Tea: The Healer/Warrior
Tea for two? Tea for you! Black, green, and white tea act as protectors against heart disease, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and some cancers, researchers at the University of Wisconsin have discovered. Containing abundant antioxidants, flavonoids, and polyphenols, tea also delivers energy boosters, helps cells detoxify and destroys bacteria associated with pneumonia, according to reports presented at the American Society of Microbiology. This soothing and stimulating beverage, beloved worldwide, also is shown to fight tooth decay. In addition, Dr. Andrew Weil agrees, stating that tea is healthier for our bones than high caffeine coffee. Honest-tea! Pass the Darjeeling, Darling.

Whole Grains for Whole Health
Walk down the commercial cereal section of any supermarket these days and you will now see two new words added onto the colorful boxes: “Whole Grains.” Those of us who appreciate whole grains, such as those who practice the macrobiotic diet, are thrilled that major American food corporations are finally wising up and adding whole grains to their products, (though the other ingredients can usually be healthier!) From General Mills cereals to Lean Cuisine, look around. You will see new, large print ads and television commercials promoting whole grains such as brown rice, barley, oats, millet, buckwheat (kasha), and quinoa. These healthy complex carbohydrates are high in essential minerals, fiber and natural energy. Refined grains, such as white rice and white bread, are stripped of vital valuable nutrients and fiber. Newsweek reported that eating white rice is equalivant to eating white sugar. A 1999 Harvard Medical School study of 75,000 women found that those who ate three servings of whole grains a day had a 30 percent lower risk of heart disease than those who ate only one daily serving of whole grains. So go with the grains, delicious whole grains at each meal and go to a “whole” new level of wellbeing.

Trans Fats: A Slippery Slope
We need fat in our diet healthy fat. Yet, over 40,000 of America’s convenience foods, from cakes and cookies to popcorn and chips are high in dangerous “trans fats,” also known as hydrogenated or “partially” hydrogenated vegetable oils that make fast foods and packaged foods crunchy and crispy, creamy or preserved. Read food labels! Stick margarines are high in trans fats, recently found by scientists to be very harmful, even more risky than saturated fats from animal foods. Manufactured in chemical laboratories, hydrogenated “trans fats” are unnatural and indigestible. They deposit on arteries a “plastic-like” plaque and cholesterol, proven to contribute to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. In the 1980’s, the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital conducted a large-scale study that found women who ate the most trans fats had 27 percent greater risk of heart disease than women who ate the least amount of trans fats. Now that the word is out, food companies are rapidly scrambling to remove trans fats from their products. America’s health will benefit. We can add beneficial, pure natural vegetable and seed oils to our home cooked meals in our dressings, sautés, and stir-fried dishes. Transition from trans fats and transform your diet to real foods.

Water, Water Everywhere
We are often advised to drink eight, ten or even twelve 8-ounce glasses per day. (Gulp!) News Flash! A recent report published by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, Washington, D.C., found that Americans get ample water from normally consumed foods, especially vegetables and fruits, and a typical variety of beverages. Michael Sawka, physiologist with the Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine and board member of the study states, “We’re saying that there’s no need to count glasses of water. So don’t sweat it: You’re probably well hydrated.” Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, Marion Nestle, supports these findings. “Most people know when they are thirsty and drink enough.” However, Nestle cautions that in hot weather, strenuous exercise, and high altitude, we should drink water before we become thirsty. Selecting natural spring or pure well water are always good choices.

Sauerkraut: The New-Old Super Food
Peer into the kitchens and basements worldwide, over the past thousands of years, and you will find jars and barrels of healthful pickles. Fermented vegetables are true traditional miracle foods proven to strengthen digestion and vitality. Current research touts non-pasteurized pickles, especially sauerkraut, for the prevention of acid reflux, improved athletic performance, cancer prevention, and even as a cure for bird flu! Cancer specialists and researchers have found that lactic-acid fermentation of naturally prepared pickles detoxify, aid digestion, as well as increase vitamin B production and cell metabolism. Fermenting cancer-fighting cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage produces even more benefits. Amy Culbertson of the Star-Telegram reports that scientists in Seoul, Koreaexamined the fermented cabbage called kimchi, a staple of the Korean diet, and its ability to treat birds with avian flu. Eleven of the thirteen infected fowl survived. Lactic acid bacteria, created during sauerkraut fermentation, were shown to be the flu-fighting agent. And another recent study, conducted by U.S. scientists jointly with scientists from Poland, suggested that a diet high in sauerkraut and raw cabbage might be the reason for the lower breast-cancer rate observed in Polish immigrants to this country. Learn to make your own simple sauerkraut or purchase organic non-pasteurized naturally fermented sauerkraut and pickles to enjoy daily.

A Stroke of Genius
Close to one third of American adults have high blood pressure. This year, over 700,00 of these people will suffer a debilitating stroke, according to the American Stroke Association. Non-drug remedies and treatments for high blood pressure and hypertension, a more advanced condition, include a high-fiber, plant-based diet, according to reports published in Environmental Nutrition. Deriving protein from grains and legumes is ideal. Beans such as lentils, chickpeas, aduki, and kidney beans, along with bean products such as tofu, tempeh, and natto are healthier in reducing high blood pressure than protein from animal sources. Whole grains, green vegetables, sea vegetables, nuts, and fruits also contain high levels of potassium, found to prevent and reduce high blood pressure. Plant foods are also high in other life-giving nutrients such as fiber, anti-oxidents, phyto-nutrients, and minerals proven to promote greater health and prevent disease. By the way, Japanese and US studies show that blood pressure and strokes sharply increase on Monday mornings, the time we begin our workweek. So take the pressure off. Eat more plant-based foods, exercise daily, find work that you truly love, and you’ll sing these new lyrics, “Rainy days and Mondays always get me up!” and “Take this job and love it!”

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