Athletes Eating for Fitnes: Oats, Soybeans, Tomatoes Lead the Nutritional Top Ten Food List Cut Cholesterol, Reduce Heart Disease and Cancer Risks by Eating These Foods

Do you feel tired all the time? Do you need a candy bar each afternoon to help you make it through the rest of the day? Is your cholesterol too high? Do you cringe when you look at yourself in the mirror?

If you truly desire to look and feel more healthy and crave the energy to live a more fully engaged day-to-day life, the best place to start is with what you're eating, says Pamela Smith, R.D., a nationally known nutritionist, energy coach, culinary expert and author of the recently released "Energy Edge," and the bestseller "Eat Well, Live Well."

According to Smith, a balanced diet is critical to reclaiming a healthy lifestyle. But within the framework of a sound diet, Smith says there are some foods that are better than others -- what she calls her Nutritional Top Ten. What's more, she adds, the mere mention of such foods as oatmeal, broccoli or soy, does not necessarily have to elicit an automatic "turn off" response. Today, many of these wholesome, healthy foods are being marketed in forms that taste great and are easy to prepare.

Nutritional Top Ten

Within the past couple years, most Americans have learned that incorporating oats into one's diet can significantly reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugars. Smith and many other nutritionists and doctors say it's a great food to include in your diet. But, it's not the only one. According to Smith, there are nine other essential foods that can enhance one's energy and reduce one's risk to a number of leading diseases and ailments.

Smith's Nutritional Top Ten, in order, includes: 1) oats; 2) soybeans; 3) tomatoes; 4) coldwater seafood, such as salmon or cod; 5) flaxseed; 6) garlic; 7) hot peppers; 8) sweet potatoes; 9) grapes; and 10) cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.

"Studies have shown that certain foods pack a more powerful punch than others when it comes to wellness," Smith says. "If you're just eating to lose weight, gain weight or because it's dinnertime, you're missing an important element of eating. Some foods are loaded with nutritional components. In other words, food can be medicine, assisting your body with its natural healing process, enhancing your moods and boosting your energy levels."

For example, tomatoes, Smith points out, which many North Americans consume on a daily basis through salads, spaghetti, pizza sauce and ketchup, are an excellent source of lycopene. A powerful antioxidant, lycopene is a carotenoid that fights the uncontrolled growth of cells into tumors. It fights cancer of the colon, bladder, pancreas and prostate.

Another important, easy-to-access food is hot peppers, which are often used in Mexican, Tex-Mex, Thai, Indian and Chinese cooking. Hot peppers contain capsaicin, a vital immune-booster that's important in cutting the risk of stomach cancer.

Soy in the News

Interestingly, one food on Smith's Top Ten list that's gaining a great deal of interest lately is soybeans.

In late October, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an announcement that food containing soy protein included in a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol helps reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering blood cholesterol levels. Scientific studies show that 25 grams of soy protein daily significantly lowers cholesterol.

In fact, in a recent study conducted by the Wake Forest University School of Medicine and reported in the September 27, 1999 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, people who consumed soy products with the greatest amounts of plant estrogens or isoflavones displayed substantial drops in low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol and total cholesterol.

According to Smith, soy impacts health in many other ways as well. "The bioactive ingredients in soy products suppress the formation of blood vessels that feed cancer cells," she says. "Soy helps stabilize hormone levels in women, as well as decrease the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and ovarian, breast and prostate cancers."

However, unlike some of the other foods on Smith's Top Ten, when most people think soy, they don't always relate it to good taste.

And, according to a study by HealthFocus, Inc., a firm based in Des Moines, Iowa, that specializes in consumer health trends, nearly half of all people surveyed said they would not give up good taste for health reasons.

"Just because it's good for you doesn't mean people will eat or drink it," says Steve Demos, president of White Wave, a Boulder, Colo. company that has been making soy-based food products for more than 22 years. "We know that to some people, the mere mention of the word soy produces a 'yucky' face reaction. That's why, over the years, we've created products like our Silk soymilk that taste great and are easy to incorporate into your diet."

Silk soymilk is available in three flavors, including plain, vanilla and chocolate, Demos notes, and is readily available nationwide at more than 8,000 supermarkets, including natural food stores and leading grocery chains such as Albertson's, Kroger and Cub Foods. Demos says Silk soymilk, unlike other brands of soymilk, is not sold in the health food aisle, but rather, in the refrigerated dairy case alongside regular milk.

Demos says soymilk can be consumed in a number of ways, from simply drinking it, pouring it on cereal, or using it in recipes for smoothies, puddings and pie fillings. Consumers can request two free recipe brochures by calling (303) 443-3470. White Wave also has published a 92-page, softcover book, Soyfood Recipes for the American Table, which is packed with soy recipes. The book is available for $9.95 (tax and shipping not included) through the company's Web site, www.whitewave.com.

Balance is the Key

For healthier living, balance is the key, says Smith. It's not good to consume too much of any one food. Rather, it's best to cut back or eliminate foods and beverages that are not good for you and gradually substitute them with foods on Smith's Nutritional Top Ten.

"Most people can't sustain an overnight change in their diet," says Smith, "that's why many 'fad' diets come and go."

Instead of drinking four cups of coffee in the morning, Smith suggests trading one of those cups for a glass of tomato juice. Rather than pouring milk on your sugar-coated cereal, consider trying vanilla-flavored soy milk on a bowl of oat cereal. Or, replace a strawberry milkshake with a fresh fruit smoothie.

In addition, Smith adds, it's important to balance healthy eating with moderate exercise, plenty of sleep, and stress reducing activities.

"Take it step by step and you'll start to notice the difference," says Smith. "Your waistline will start to shrink. You'll feel more awake. Less stressed out. Simply more alive. And that's what it's all about."

The Nutritional Top Ten

1. Oats: The b-glucan in whole oats reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. The soluble fiber is instrumental in lowering cholesterol and stabilizing blood sugars.

2. Soybeans: The bioactive ingredients in soy protein products suppress the formation of blood vessels that feed cancer cells. Soy helps stabilize hormone levels in women, as well as decrease the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and ovarian, breast, and prostate cancers.

3. Tomatoes: Lycopene, a potent antioxidant is a carotenoid that fights the uncontrolled growth of cells into tumors. It fights cancer of the colon, bladder, pancreas, and prostate. Men who eat ten servings of tomatoes per week have been shown to decrease their prostate cancer risk by 66 percent.

4. Coldwater Seafood: Healthy EPA/omega-3 oils are shown to decrease risk of coronary artery disease, stabilize blood sugars, increase brain power, and reduce the inflammatory response. Seafood reduces LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, while raising levels of HDL cholesterol.

5. Flaxseed: A unique source of lignans, powerful antioxidants that are believed to stop cells from turning cancerous. Flaxseed also contains alpha-linolenic acid, the plant version of the omega-3s found in fish oils; it makes a great, healthy option for people who won't eat fish.

6. Garlic: Rich in allicin, which boosts immune function and reduces cancer risk. Garlic also has strong anti-viral effects and has been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

7. Hot Peppers: A source of capsaicin, a vital immune-booster with powerful anti-viral effects. Capsaicin is linked to decreased risk of stomach cancer due to its ability to neutralize nitrosamines, a cancer-causing compound formed in the body when cured or charred meats are consumed. Capsaicin also kills bacteria believed to cause stomach ulcers.

8. Sweet Potatoes: A rival of carrots as a potent source of beta-carotene and other carotenoids, which help prevent cataracts and protect the body from free radicals and cancer -- particularly cancer of the larynx, esophagus, and lungs.

9. Grapes: Grape skins contain a high concentration of resveratrol, which appears to block the formation of coronary artery plaque, as well as tumor formation and growth. Red grape juice or red wine is considered a better source of resveratrol than white, which is made without the grape skins.

10. Cruciferous Vegetables: Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts contain indoles, sulforaphane, and isothiocyanates, which protect cells from damage by carcinogens, block tumor formation, and help the liver to inactivate hormone-like compounds that may promote cancer.

Source: "The Energy Edge," Pamela Smith, R.D.

You Never Knew Soy Could Taste So Good

Here are some yummy recipes.

Silk Chocolate Pudding and Pie Filling

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 5-10 minutes

Serves: 6-8

- 1/3 cup cocoa

- 3/4 cup sugar

- 1/4 teaspoon salt

- 1/4 cup cornstarch (use 1/3 cup for pie filling)

- 3 cups White Wave Silk Plain soymilk (try Chocolate Silk for a richer chocolate flavor or Vanilla Silk for a more vanilla taste)

- 3 tablespoons butter (or margarine)

- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Combine cocoa, sugar, salt and cornstarch, mixing well. Add Silk soymilk, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil over medium heat, still whisking, then lower heat and cover. Boil gently for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla. Pour into serving cups or prepared pie shell. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled and set.

Banana-Berry Smoothie

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Serves: 1

Soymilk turns this fabulous classic smoothie into a creamy treat. Adding soy powder boosts the protein to 23 grams.

- 1 medium banana, sliced and frozen

- 6 strawberries, frozen (or try a similar amount of another berry, like blueberry, raspberry or cherry)

- 2 tablespoons of frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed

- 1 cup White Wave Silk Vanilla Soymilk

In blender, combine banana, strawberries and orange juice concentrate. Add White Wave Silk Vanilla Soymilk and blend until smooth and creamy. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 170 calories; 5 grams protein; 2 grams total fat (0 grams saturated fat); 36 carbohydrates; 0 cholesterol; 45 milligrams sodium; 3 grams fiber

High protein variation: Follow the recipe, but increase White Wave Silk Vanilla soymilk to 1 1/2 cups and add 1 cup White Wave Silk Strawberry soy yogurt and 2 tablespoons of soy protein powder.

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