Saturday, January 28, 2012

Why the Same Diet May Be Killing You

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It’s grilled fish, mashed potatoes and steamed green beans and carrots for dinner again.

Lunch was the usual � a chicken salad sandwich from your favourite deli while, for breakfast, you ate the low-fat, iron-enriched muesli you eat every day.

For snacks, you’ve packed a banana and, if you buy juices or coffee, it will be orange or apple and decaf latte.

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Sounds healthy, right? And it is, unless you’ve fallen into a food rut.

Sure, you may think your diet is healthy because you always buy the “right” foods like lean meat or fish, fruit, veges and wholegrains. But always buying the same things, from the same deli, the same supermarket, or even the same fish shop or butcher means you’re increasing your risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies as well as increasing your likelihood of being exposed to certain chemicals and toxins, says nutritionist Jane Barnes, of Foodsense.

“Variety, in what you buy and even where you shop, is the key to good health,” she says.

In fact it’s now widely believed that people who eat at least 0 different biological food types every week tend to be healthier than those with a less varied diet.

It seems vitality depends to a large part on a careful balance of at least 50 nutrients including 1 known vitamins, 15 minerals, 4 amino acids and two essential fatty acids and the best way to get all of these is to eat as many different fruit, veges, wholegrains and lean proteins as possible.

Dr Mark Wahlqvist, Professor of Medicine at Monash University and co-author of AgeFit (PanMacmillan) says the Japanese, who eat on average about 0 different foods each day including seafood, rice and vegetables, have the longest life expectancy in the world.

But, in Australia, he says, there would be many adults who would not consume the same level of food variety in a week as the Japanese do in a day.

Barnes suggests that you start to increase the different types of foods you eat by varying the type of protein you use. For example meals for the week could include lean lamb, pork and beef, fish and shellfish, tofu, chickpeas and so on.

When you’re thinking about grains and cereals, don’t just think of wheat or oats. Think of semolina, burghul, rice, bran, maize, polenta, barley, buckwheat and so on.

If you’re a big green vege fan remember that as well as beans, or cabbage there’s silverbeet, marrow, cucumber, chives, okra, snowpeas, asparagus, bean sprouts, cress and more to choose from. And don’t forget about delicious root veges like beetroot, artichoke, swede and yam and cruciferous veges including kale, kohlrabi, bok choy and brussel sprouts.

Thinking outside the square with fruit will also pay health benefits. Apples, bananas and berries are great but what about guavas, jackfruit, loquat, lychees, rambutans or tamarillos?

Besides what you eat, consider where you buy from, says Barnes.

While purchasing organic produce is likely to increase the amount of vitamins and minerals you get in your food as well as decrease the level of toxins, even varying where you buy non-organic produce is a smart idea.

Because stores rely on regular suppliers for their produce, buying from the same shop time after time means any vitamin or mineral inadequacies, or toxins, that are peculiar to that produce will be magnified, says Barnes.

So shop at a different supermarket, pick up foods at markets, or go to a different caf� or deli for lunch.

Finally, start shopping and eating with the seasons.

Food is at its cheapest and most abundant in season and has not been exposed to high levels of fertilisers and pesticides, says Joshua Gold, NSW produce manager for

“There is this expectation that we should be able to get something we like, such as mangoes or grapes, all year round,” he says.

“But buying grapes out of season, for example, means you’re buying produce that may have had sulphur dioxide pads placed around it to help slowing down gassing and this can cause symptoms such as nausea.”

Food in season is also likely to contain higher levels of essential vitamins and minerals, according to

Queensland Fruit & Vegetable Growers.


Score one point for each food category eaten in the past week.

1. Wheat

. Rice

. Oats

4. Corn

5. Rye

6. Barley

7. Stone fruit

8. Citrus

. Apples

10. Bananas

11. Berries

1. Grapes

1. Melons

14. Pears

15. Tropical fruit

16. Kiwifruit

17. Passionfruit

18. Dates

1. Fig

0. Root veges

1. Cruciferous veges

. Green leafy veges

. Marrow

4. Stalks/stems e.g celery

5. Bulbs e.g. garlic, onion

6. Pods

7. Capsicum

8. Shoots

. Tomatoes

0. Seaweed

1. Dried beans

. Soy

. Nuts

4. Beef, lamb, veal

5. Pork

6. Poultry

7. Gamebirds

8. Game animals e.g. venison or kangaroo

. Liver

40. Brain

41. Other organs

4. Crustaceans e.g. prawns

4. Shellfish/Molluscs e.g. mussels, octopus

44. Fatty fish e.g. salmon, anchovies

45. Fresh water e.g. perch, trout

46. Salt water e.g. founder, garfish, snapper

47. Roe

48. Dairy

4. Dairy with live cultures

50. Eggs

51. Water

5. Non-alcoholic beverages e.g. coffee, tea

5. Alcoholic beverages

54. Herbs/spices

55. Yeast e.g. vegemite

56. Mushrooms

57. Table sugar

58. Honey

5. Hard fats and oils eg nut spreads, butter

60. Soft oils e.g. olive oil

61. Miso, soya sauce etc

6. Sauerkraut or pickles

6. Other fermented foods e.g. buttermilk, sourdough bread

Scores 0 or more a week very good, 5 � a week good, 0-4 a week fair; less than 0 per week poor, less than 10 a week very poor

Credit AgeFit Fitness and Nurtition for an Independent Future, by Dr Gayle Savige, Dr Mark Wahlqvist, Dr Daniel Lee and Brett Snelson PanMacmillan

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