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How not to die

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How not to die

 

The above is the title of a book by Michael Greger, a well-known American medical doctor, and nutritionist, writing mainly for his American audience. Greger argues that the vast majority of premature deaths among Americans can be prevented through simple changes in diet and lifestyle.

He examines the fifteen top causes of death in America—heart disease, various cancers, diabetes, Parkinson’s, high blood pressure, and more—and explains how nutritional and lifestyle interventions can sometimes do better than prescription pills and other pharmaceutical and surgical approaches, freeing people to live healthier lives.

The simple truth is that most doctors are good at treating acute illnesses but bad at preventing chronic disease. According to him, the 15 leading causes of death claim the lives of 1.6 million Americans annually. For him, this doesn’t have to be the case and can be avoided. Using wide sources of research materials, all of it backed up by peer-reviewed scientific evidence, Greter suggests which foods to eat and which lifestyle changes to make to make his readers live longer.

In Nigeria, the leading causes of death through diseases are cancers, diabetes, high blood pressure, malaria and kidney diseases, among others. This is not an official list please, so don’t take it to the bank.

Do you have a history of prostate cancer in your family? Why not put down that glass of milk and add bitter leaf to your diet. Do you have high blood pressure? Hibiscus tea can work better than many hypertensive drugs—and without the side effects. What about liver disease? Drinking tea made from orange leaves and lemon grass can reduce liver inflammation. Are you battling breast cancer? Consuming soy and coconut oil is associated with prolonged survival. Worried about heart disease? Switch to a whole-food, plant-based diet, which has repeatedly been shown not just to help prevent the disease, but arrests and even reverse it.

Plant-based diet means incorporating more plant products and plant proteins into your daily diet without completely eliminating animal products. Basically, plant-based can mean increasing your vegetable intake and reducing your intake of animal products or removing certain types of animal products from your diet completely.

Eating more plants and cutting back on meat is almost always a good thing, as research tells us consuming a plant-based diet can help reduce our risk of developing chronic conditions like diabetes, obesity and heart diseases.

Diets centred on a wide variety of plant foods offer affordable, tasty and nutritious options. Plant-based diets are rich in beans, nuts, seeds, fruit, and vegetables. They also include essential fats, protein, vitamins, minerals and plenty of fibre.

Well, balanced plant-based diets, that are also low in saturated fat can help you manage your weight and may reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers. However, as with any diet, plant-based nutrition needs to be planned. Most nutrients are abundantly available in plant-based diets, but if you are avoiding all or minimising your consumption of animal-derived foods, there are a few nutrients that you need to pay attention to.

Calcium is essential for bone health, along with weightbearing exercise and a healthy diet. An adult requires approximately 700mg per day. Dairy foods are rich in calcium but if you are not eating these make sure you obtain calcium from other sources like fortified plant based dairy alternatives, dried fruit, e.g. figs, nuts such as almonds, leafy green vegetables, cowpeas, and plantain.

Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to be important for health and are commonly found in oily fish. However, if you are not eating fish, plant sources of omega 3 include walnuts, flax (linseed) and soya beans. Vitamin D is needed to keep bones, teeth, and muscles healthy and is made in our bodies when our skin is exposed to appropriate sunlight. Plant-based sources of vitamin D include sun-exposed mushrooms and vegetables such as waterleaf and bitter leaf.

Vitamin B12 is very important for optimal health. We need vitamin B12 for many reasons. Too little can result in fatigue, anaemia and nerve damage and increase homocysteine levels leading to cardiovascular disease.

Most people get vitamin B12 by eating animal products such as kidney, liver, intestines of goat, chicken, lamb, and cow. To make sure you get enough vitamin B12, either eat fortified foods at least twice a day, aiming for 3mcg of vitamin B12 a day or take a supplement, 10mcg daily or at least 2000mcg weekly.

Iron and protein are vital for our health. Plant sources of iron include dried fruits, wholegrains, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and seeds. The form of iron in plant foods is absorbed far less efficiently compared to iron from animal derived sources such as meat and eggs. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C to help the iron to be absorbed, e.g. citrus fruits, strawberries, green leafy vegetables, and peppers. Plant-based sources of protein include lentils, beans, eggs, chickpeas, seeds, and nuts.

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