Gear Patrol guys are always looking for the best, and fellas, that has to include the best possible diet. Single men tend to eat restaurant and processed food more than others, especially single guys in big cities, and this obviously has a downside for overall health (but small-town and/or married guys are not off the hook). If we want to be there when the grandkids graduate from college, then we have to take a serious look at what is going down the hatch. After the jump, we’re going to tackle three major nutritional problem areas to help you get (back) on track.
Three Nutritional Problem Areas
1. SALT: We have a high blood pressure epidemic in the U.S. Excessive levels of salt in the diet raise blood pressure, which in turn increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. The recommended daily sodium intake is 1,500mg, yet the average American slugs down over 4,000mg per day. And its no wonder, as many processed foods and restaurant offerings are loaded with it. For instance, a 14oz Reuben sandwich has over 3000mg of sodium; a slice of Sbarro Supreme Pizza has 1,580mg.; a quart-size take-out container of pork lo mein has 2,032mg. It is possible to get your sodium intake down to a reasonable level, but it means making some serious dietary changes such as eating more fresh, unprocessed foods, and eating out less. The effects of sodium can also be combated with a diet rich in potassium (4,700mg per day is what the experts recommend). Foods high in potassium include potatoes, sweet potatoes, bananas, spinach, halibut, and salmon.
2. SATURATED FAT: The typical American diet is loaded with fat and cholesterol, and it has been proven that they both boost the risk of heart attacks. Food groups that contribute the most saturated fat to the average diet are cheese (13.1%), beef (11.7%), and milk (7.8%), so luckily there are plenty of substitutes and alternative products for these categories, e.g. skim milk, low fat cheese, and, in the case of beef, you can reduce your consumption by switching to fish and poultry. Guidelines for saturated fat intake are to keep it less than 10% of total calories (2,000 calorie diet should have 20 grams or less of saturated fat), and less than 300mg per day for cholesterol. Red meat and processed meats such as hot dogs, bacon, and sausage are also linked to colorectal cancer.
3. SUGAR: Processed sweeteners such as white sugar and high fructose corn syrup are ubiquitous; they are hard to avoid in processed foods, desserts, and snacks. But even worse are soft drinks. Calories that are consumed in liquid form are more likely to show up on the waistline. Processed sugar contains empty calories, i.e., it has no nutritional value, yet it can pack on the lbs. With sugary snacks and drinks available on every street corner, the incidence obesity is on the rise, which in turn may be linked to increasing levels of diabetes.
Health Boosting Suggestions
Low Fat Options - When eating out (or anywhere), look for low fat options, ask the chef to leave off extra salt, skip the cheese. Drink water or unsweetened tea or coffee (or use a sucralose-based artificial sweetener that studies show to be safe).
Say No to Empty Calories. Say Yes to Superfoods - Replace empty calorie foods with “superfoods ” – foods packed with antioxidants and phytochemicals (chemical compounds found in plants that may have positive effects on our health). These include the leafy greens: kale, chard, spinach, and turnip and collard greens – all of which are full of lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that look promising in the reduction of cataracts and macular degeneration. Other potent vegetables are broccoli, sweet potato, brussel sprouts, carrots, and tomatoes. Berries are also quite powerful – blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries. Recent research suggests that blueberries also increase cognitive function.
Beans, Beans, They’re Good For Your Heart - Include beans in your diet – they are loaded with antioxidants and fiber, which makes us feel satiated.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids - Research indicates that DHA and EPA found in fish oil (omega 3 fatty acids) can reduce risk of heart attacks. Eat fish high in these nutrients (yet low in mercury) at least twice per week, which include salmon, rainbow trout, sardines, and flounder. Supplements are also an option, but check with your physician.
Get Plenty of Vitamin D - Many MDs feel that we don’t get enough of this very important nutrient that increases bone strength, boosts the immune system, and helps regulate blood sugar. Good sources are milk, yogurt, and fish such as herring, salmon, sardines, and catfish – of course, outdoor activity also works. Many researchers feel that the 400 IU RDA amount is inadequate, but again, check with you doctor for proper supplementation levels.
Let’s continue the conversation. Have any tips, suggestions, or comments on personal nutrition? Let us know in the comments below.