Picking the perfect plants

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From the beginning, way back in 1980, the various editions of the Guidelines have recommended that you build your diet on a base of plant foods. Why? Because plant foods

1 Add plenty of bulk but few calories to your diet, so you feel full without adding weight

1 Are usually low in fat and have no cholesterol, which means they reduce your risk of heart disease

1 Are high in fiber, which reduces the risk of heart disease; prevents constipation; reduces the risk of developing hemorrhoids (or at least makes existing ones less painful); moves food quickly through your digestive tract, thus reducing the risk of diverticular disease (inflammation caused by food getting caught in the folds of your intestines and causing tiny out-pouchings of the weakened gut wall); and may lower your risk of some gastrointestinal cancers.

l Are rich in beneficial substances called phytochemicals, which may reduce your risk of heart disease and some forms of cancer (for more, see Chapter 12)

For all these reasons, the Guidelines recommend that a basic 2,000 calorie daily diet include i 2 cups of fruit l 2.5 cups of vegetables (include dark green, orange, and starchy veggies, plus beans)

l 3 or more 1-ounce servings of whole grain products

To protect your bones, the Guidelines advise washing down your plants with 3 daily cups of low-fat milk (349 milligrams calcium) or fat-free milk (306 milligrams calcium) or the equivalent amount of milk products such as cheddar cheese, which has 204 milligrams calcium per ounce. For more on calcium, mark this page and flip to Chapter 11.

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