To Your Health: Dietary Tricks For A Healthier Life

Dr. Alan Safdi is a world-renowned internist and gastroenterologist with encyclopedic knowledge of mind-body wellness and preventative medicine. He posts on Telluride Inside… and Out under the banner of “To Your Health, his blogs featuring the most current information in his field: health, wellness, and longevity.

This summer, Dr. Alan returns with his popular Live Longer Retreat wellness intensives. The dates so far are July 21 – July 29; Aug. 11 – Aug. 17; and Sept. 15 – Sept. 21, 2019. For further information, email telluridecme@gmail.com. or go to Safdi’s Telluride Longevity Institute website.

This week, Dr. Alan talks the small changes you can make to your diet to help you on the road to a healthier you.

Making small changes to your diet can sometimes be enough to get you on the road to a healthier you. These little swaps aren’t hard to effect or stick to. They won’t test your resolve daily. And they won’t break the bank or require a total refrigerator/pantry overhaul.

With dedication and persistence, these small changes can add up to gradual, big changes in your overall health and may even increase your willingness to more consistently make healthier eating choices.

Below are some simple swaps to try when you are just not up to making sweeping lifestyle changes, but want to move like the tortoise, slowly but surely towards positive changes in your overall wellbeing.

For those of you in a rush in the morning avoid a sugary doughnut, breakfast pastry, or sugar-laden cereal, try drinking a healthy smoothie for breakfast.

It is easy to control what you put in the smoothie, just make sure the ingredients are not only healthy and protein-rich, but also ones that you love to consume. Consider adding chia seeds, flax, or greens for some added nutrients; peanut or almond butter for a little boost of protein; and berries, apples, mangoes, or pineapples for some sweetness and more vitamins. I almost always add Greek yogurt to my smoothies.

Remember blending is fine, but do not juice your foods. We want all the beneficial phytochemicals , which are located in the part of the fruit juicing removes. Chia and flax seeds are high in alpha linoleic acid that converts into the beneficial omega 3s (DHA and EPA). They also contain plant protein and fiber.

I also have steel cut oats with cinnamon, chia seeds, ground flax, and fruit almost every morning. The dish is extremely filling and keeps you feeling full for hours.

If one is to eat conventional meat, fish, and eggs make sure they are optimally sourced.

Opt for beef, chicken, pork, and eggs that is pasture-raised, grass-fed, and free of antibiotics, hormones, or pesticides. For any fish, choose the ones that are smaller, wild-caught, or sustainably farmed, rather than farm-raised. As we have discussed before I would limit consumption of four- legged animals and opt for more plant-based protein, healthy fish, and some two-legged animals (chicken and turkey).

Why limit consumption of four-legged animals? There is a large body of evidence showing that higher red meat consumption, especially processed red meat, is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, including colorectal cancer, and mortality.

Consumption of processed red meat (e.g., bacon, hot dogs, and sausages) has been associated with additional health outcomes, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart failure, and hypertension.

Components of red and processed meats such as proatherosclerotic lipids (e.g., saturated fat), potential carcinogens (e.g., polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), sodium, and preservatives can also contribute to adverse health outcomes.

Swap simple carbohydrates or starches for green veggies and complex carbs.

The starchy carbohydrates found in the typical “white” side dishes such as rice, pasta, and potatoes, all have high glycemic indices and can contribute to high serum sugar levels. Choosing green vegetables—like broccoli instead of risotto for example— gives you as much flavor, plus a big dose of fiber to keep you feeling full.

Vegetables like broccoli, spinach, collard greens, and kale are naturally low in carbs and are full of minerals and nutrients, not to mention vitamins K, A, and C. Eating green veggies can help lower your cholesterol levels; they have anti-inflammatory benefits as well.

We have recently been eating fantastic organic lentil pasta, which is dense in plant-based protein, has a low glycemic index, lots of fiber, only one ingredient. It is also delicious. Lentil pasta has 25gs of plant-based protein and 44% of your daily fiber.

Also consider using some of the ancient grains or grains that are largely unchanged over the last several hundred years or more. A few of them are teff, millet, quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat.

A staple food of the Aztecs, amaranth comes from an herb plant. The tiny yellow spheres are high in protein and have a mellow peppery flavor. Amaranth is jam-packed with calcium and is also high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Many ancient grains thrive with lower levels of pesticides, fertilizers, and irrigation. Each whole grain has something very different to offer (from the calcium in teff, to the soluble fiber in barley) so do not play favorites. Get a variety.

Swap bad oils for good ones. It is a good idea to use extra virgin olive whenever possible. Get rid of those bottles of corn, soybean, or sunflower oil, which contain inflammatory omega-6 fats. Replace them with extra virgin olive oil, which has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties thanks to the polyphenols it contains.

Swap unhealthy fats for healthy ones. Pro-inflammatory fats—like the naturally occurring transfats found in some packaged foods and meat products, and the artificial transfats found in many snacks—fill the average American’s diet. Replacing these with anti-inflammatory fats such as those found in avocados, wild-caught salmon, nut butters (think almond butter), and extra virgin olive oil is just plain healthy.

Swap sugary or salty snacks for unsalted nuts. Nuts are chock-full of protein, fiber, minerals, and good fats. They also contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats. The best nuts to reach for include unsalted pecans, walnuts, almonds, macadamias, and hazelnuts. Because it’s easy to overdo nuts—they’re just so crunchy and delicious, but also high in calories—try eating only a handful (10-12 nuts). Luckily it appears that not all the calories are absorbed from most whole nuts. Don’t forget there are simple things like hummus on celery, carrots, or a whole-grain cracker that make healthy, easy, and tasty snacks.

Swap soda for coffee, water, or green tea. Filled with antioxidants, coffee and tea are much healthier than sugary, carbonated beverages. One to three cups of green tea per day, for example, gives you a healthy dose of antioxidants, which may lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risks of heart disease and stroke.

Swap deserts and pastries for a bowl full of berries and a small square of dark chocolate.

It is no secret the ingredients that make up sweet treats like cakes and pastries so delicious—butter, sugar, and white flour—are absolutely horrible for your health. When the mood strikes, satisfy your sweet tooth with fruits and dark chocolate instead. Consider a small amount of cinnamon on your fruit desert for taste There is some evidence that is also good for your brain. When buying dark chocolate look for 72 percent dark and above. Remember if you buy 50 percent dark chocolate, you are also getting 50 percent sugar. The cocoa in dark chocolate contains flavonols, which can lower your blood pressure levels, potentially improve brain health, and improve vascular function. When eating out and a dessert is a must, make sure you think about splitting it with your dinner companions.

Never forget small changes can get big results!

Dr. Alan Safdi, more:

Dr. Alan Safdi is board-certified in Internal Medicine and in Gastroenterology and is a Fellow of the American College of Gastroenterology. A proven leader in the healthcare arena, he has been featured on the national program “Medical Crossfire” and authored or co-authored numerous medical articles and abstracts. Safdi has been involved in grant-based and clinical research for 30+ years and is passionate about disease prevention and wellness, not just fixing what has gone wrong. He is an international lecturer on the subjects of wellness, nutrition, and gastroenterology.

And back by popular demand, this summer, in partnership with the Peaks’ Spa, Dr. Safdi returns with his three, week-long wellness intensives titled “Live Longer Retreat.”

Again, using an evidence-based, scientific approach to health and longevity and featuring an experienced staff of medical professionals, personal trainers, Pilates and yoga instructors, dietitians, and chefs, the focus is on your unique wellness profile. Each Live Longer Retreat is one-of-kind in the U.S. The intensives, limited to only 10 – 15 participants, will include personal consultations, hiking, spinning, yoga, Pilates, talks and demonstrations related to nutrition, cooking classes, and more.

Go here to read a review of the experience by one very satisfied participant.

Feel free to sign up now to participate in a Live Longer Retreat – or call 1-877-448-5416 for further information.

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