Simple Tips for Longer Living
Understanding the human body and food’s effects on it over long periods of time is hard. Counting, by contrast, is easy. This, at least, is the premise behind the Nurses Health Study, a multi-decade project by Harvard to gather empirical information about nutrition. The idea behind the study is simple: collect a reasonably large group of people all in a rather similar situation (nurses) and have them fill out a yearly survey with two questions: “what did you eat?” and “are you dead yet?” They’ve been doing this since 1976.
Then you simply punch the information into a computer and figure out what foods kill people. The results, as described in the associated book Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy provide some simple tips for living longer.
Replace white bread with whole wheat. White bread is simply whole wheat bread shorn of all its nutritional value. Whole wheat has more nutrients, more protein, etc. Plus, white bread is metabolized quickly by your body so it leads to huge spikes in blood sugar which have unhealthy effects on your body and make you hungry after you crash; whole wheat bread is digested more evenly.
Replace burgers with chicken. Dark meat when grilled can lead to potential carcinogens, whereas white meat is overall healthier. Chicken contains less saturated (bad) fat while dark meat may give you too much iron.
Replace soft drinks with water. These results are from the same study but weren’t featured in the book. Drinking a soda makes you 85% more likely to develop diabetes and can cause you to gain up to ten pounds. “It’s probably that high amounts of sugar in the bloodstream put an increased demand for insulin on the pancreas,” the study’s author explains.
I’m about the fussiest eater I know and even I can handle these changes. Whole wheat bread even tastes better than white.
Disclaimer: I know nothing about nutrition, this is simply what I took away from reading one book.
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July 31, 2006
Taking a top-down view of this issue sounds like an excellent idea. Generalization is a necessity in deciding what to eat.
According to Amazon’s review, Willett stresses the following overarching advice:
- eat complex carbohydrates (though potatoes don’t count)
- eat more vegetables
- emphasize healthy fats (nuts/seeds/fish?)
- eat small amounts of a tremendous variety of food
That sounds like excellent starting advice.
posted by Scott Teresi
on July 31, 2006 #
“Replace soft drinks with water. These results are from the same study but weren’t featured in the book. Drinking a soda makes you 85% more likely to develop diabetes and can cause you to gain up to ten pounds. “It’s probably that high amounts of sugar in the bloodstream put an increased demand for insulin on the pancreas,” the study’s author explains.”
But what about diet drinks such as Pepsi Max, which contains no sugar? Do you think they still cause the diabetes effects?
posted by Duck
on August 1, 2006 #
Far too few surveys include the important “are you dead yet?” question.
posted by Scott Reynen
on August 1, 2006 #
Chicken is healthier mostly because it has less fat - burgers are pretty high in fat, and also in added sugar. But lean red meat can also be healthy in moderation.
To answer Duck, soda without sugar doesn’t directly lead to diabetes. But my experience is that it reinforces the desire for sweetness in general.
posted by Eric Gunnerson
on August 1, 2006 #
“Dark meat when grilled can lead to potential carcinogens.” Huh? Grilling any food leads to carcinogens, so I don’t know what that statement means. Cooking processes in general introduce far more carcinogens into your diet than pesticides and artificial additives ever will.
BTW: it occurs to me that people who express concern about extending their lives tend not to be at the end of their lives that actually gets extended.
posted by Mike Sierra
on August 3, 2006 #
Bit late, but just found last week, somewhere in the Wall St Journal, that now researchers are finding without oil/fat/grease (not a lot) our digestive organs won’t absorb any of key nutrients from veges and fruits.
Back in my original country, it is known that boiled carrot or raw carrot is useless thing to eat: You got to add some oil or fat to it and cook minimumly (stir-fry is best and boil is next) - raw carrot eating is a stupid modern thing to do. Might look healthy, but you are not getting key nutient such as carotene in. Without getting that melted? out into oil, your body won’t be able to absorb it at all. (That goes with, I suspect, some Herbal/Chinese medicine stuff too. They say take this bitter Chinese boiled herbs tea after the meal. But what if the patients are really cuting fat and grease off from their diets? - under the influence of some, say American diet fad. )
So now Western?/American researchers are coming to see the vailidy of this common knowledge.
And this hits a question. Why humans got to eat so much kind of food, usually processed somehow together? Why we evolved out to be this way? We got a digestive system which requires oil and heat to be added to even veges or fruits. How this requiring character of our body - can be explained from the perspective of evolution theory…?
I wish we already had a website like that.
posted by a.kusaka
on August 17, 2006 #
Re: softdrinks. Nothing is more true! I’ve dropped fifteen pounds by quitting drinking non-diet beverages (which is not just soda, though, many other beverages have lots of sugar) over a course of rather short time.
on September 4, 2006 #
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