Resolving in 2018 to eat more nutritious foods, exercise and generally make your life healthier?
You are among about twenty percent of Americans vowing to do so. To help you be one of the nine percent of people who actually achieve their resolutions, scientists at the NC Research Campus share three of the top reasons you should follow through.
- A healthy life starts with healthy cells
A diet high in fruits and vegetables is important because health-promoting compounds called phytochemicals (i.e. polyphenols, flavonoids, etc.) that are in plants can help prevent cell damage, which is linked to inflammation and oxidative stress in the body. Those two conditions are connected to the aging process and the occurrence of chronic diseases, and phytochemicals can help prevent chronic diseases.
How do scientists know this? One way is that they measure the amount of an acid called HODE (Hydroxy-octadecadienoic acid) in the body to quantify levels of inflammation and oxidative stress. Fruits and vegetables have been proven over and over again to reduce the levels of HODE by protecting cells. So having healthy cells is a big step towards leading a healthy life.
- Healthy eating (and drinking) is easier than you think
A researcher at the NC Research Campus compiled a list of the top 40 polyphenol-filled foods. Since polyphenols are only found in plants, these foods are also high in dietary fiber and other essential vitamins and minerals but low in fat and sugar: all the cornerstones of a healthy diet. We bet you eat or drink many of them already.
Don’t forget whole grains. They are your one-stop shop for dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, and phytochemicals. Research shows that phytochemicals in whole grains can combat colorectal cancer, lower blood sugar, reduce glucose intolerance and insulin resistance, lower “bad” cholesterol, and lower blood pressure. Read more about how whole grains can prevent chronic diseases in more ways than one.
- Set a good example for your family (and start early)
Expecting a new addition to the family this year? The right diet and lifestyle choices can support prenatal development. By early, we mean before your child is even born. One important component of a mother’s diet is the essential nutrient choline. Eggs, milk, and fatty foods are good sources of choline, which is required by the body to build protective membranes around cells and to make a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Read more.
Another important component of a mother’s diet that affects prenatal development is iron. For example, a mother’s iron consumption directly impacts development of the fetal brain. Additionally, research shows that alcohol consumption during pregnancy affects how a fetus uses iron. Iron also prevents anemia, low birth weight, and premature delivery, and iron levels can be increased by eating more beef, poultry, shellfish, lentils, beans, and spinach, or by taking supplements. Read more about iron and alcohol during pregnancy.
Working hard to make a lifestyle change that includes eating healthier foods is well worth the effort, and at the NC Research Campus, scientists are making new discoveries all the time about how fruits and vegetables and the healthy phytochemicals they uniquely contain help prevent disease, naturally!