Foods to Avoid and to Choose

17 Dec

Our basic premise is that your body is amazing. You get a do over. It doesn’t take that long, and it isn’t that hard if you know what to do. In these notes, we give you a short course in what to do so it becomes easy for you, and for you to teach others. We want you to know how much control you have over both the quality and length of your life.

This month, let’s talk about choices you make that may slow down your brain and choices that can help you stay sharp.

We’ve long known artery-clogging saturated and trans fats and inflammation-producing added sugars and syrups damage your cardiovascular and immune systems. Now it’s clear the sugar- and fat-laden diet of most North Americans slams the brakes on cognitive flexibility—that’s the ability to adapt to changing circumstance and think on your feet. And there’s more: The high-sugar/high-saturated fat diet also dims short- and long-term memory.

Why are added sugars and unhealthy fats so brain-dulling? The research shows they alter the way your gut bacteria communicate with your brain! Healthy, happy gut bacteria release compounds that act as neurotransmitters, stimulate sensory nerves, and enhance other biological functions. But they can’t run smoothly if there’s a lot of sugar and saturated fat disrupting their fuel lines. In lab-based research, it took just four weeks for saturated fat- and sugar-eating mice to become dim-witted.

So stay sharp. Avoid life-shortening sugars and fats in processed foods as well as saturated fats in red and processed meats. ‘Cause as Lloyd says to Harry in the 1994 movie Dumb and Dumber: “Life’s a fragile thing, Harr. One minute you’re chewin’ on a burger, and the next minute you’re dead meat.”

On to the great news… Researchers found two choices that help make you smarter, even if you cannot pronounce one of them…

For me, some words are always hard to pronounce… the Irish girl’s name Siobhan (Shivone) as in Siobhan Dervan, 4-time Irish National Road Race Champion; Worcestershire (worster-sheer) sauce, which left New Jersey chef Pasquale Sciarappa tongue-tied in a cooking video viewed more than 1 million times on YouTube; and the latest trendy pseudo-grain, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah).

But no matter how you say it, quinoa’s nutritional virtues are clear. Rutgers University researchers (and international partners) report that quinoa contains health-beneficial phytochemicals, including healthful amino acids, fiber, polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, (and say these next ones correctly) phytoecdysteroids, phenolics, and glycine betaine. Plus, they cite four clinical studies that indicate supplementing your diet with quinoa “exerts significant, positive effects on metabolic, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal health…”

  • Protein: It’s got more than barley, oat, rice, and maize and delivers more than 180% of the daily recommended intake of 10 essential amino acids.
  • Fiber: It’s 10% dietary fiber, and fiber boosts your digestive health, lowers lousy LDL cholesterol, and helps control your appetite.
  • Healthy Fats: Quinoa delivers anti-inflammatory omega-3 and omega-6 in a good ratio.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: You’ll get a good dose of A, Bs, C, and E. Plus more minerals, such as calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc, than in rice or wheat.
  • Odd Stuff: Contains phytoecdysteroids that may help build muscle; phenolics that have anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antidiabetic, anti-obesity and cardio-protective effects; glycine betaine, an amino acid, helps manage diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.

Did you know Roald Dahl, the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was buried with a good supply of chocolate and red wine—along with snooker cues, pencils, and a power saw? Apparently, he knew chocolate and red wine are two healthful choices. (We’re not sure what to make of the other supplies!)

Red wine–in moderation –has long been touted as heart-friendly. Now, a vast new study in the journal Heart reveals that regularly enjoying chocolate is associated with a lower waist-to-hip ratio and a 23% lower risk of stroke. Plus, it helps cool inflammatory CRP proteins and reduces the risk for diabetes. And compared with folks in a study population who didn’t eat chocolate, higher chocolate intake was linked to a 25% lower risk of cardiovascular-associated death.

That’s because chocolate’s polyphenols help reduce your blood pressure, decreasing your risk for heart attack and stroke.

How can you get chocolate into your diet without falling for candy bars laced with sugar, palm oil, corn syrup, and artificial flavors and colors? We recommend having one ounce a day of 70% cacao dark chocolate after dinner (Dr. Mike grabs 3 Featherss 22 calorie chocolates a day– see or try unsweetened cocoa powder added to black beans seasoned with cinnamon and hot sauce. You can also grate it and sprinkle it over your morning oatmeal with unsweetened almond milk.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to send questions—to, and some of them we may know enough to answer (we’ll try to get answers for you if we do not know).


Young Dr Mike Roizen (aka, The Enforcer)

NOTE: You should NOT take this as medical advice. This article is of the opinion of its author. Before you do anything, please consult with your doctor.

You can follow Dr Roizen on twitter @YoungDrMike (and get updates on the latest and most important medical stories of the week). The YOU docs have tow newly revised books: The patron saint “book” of this column YOU Staying Young—revised and YOU: The Owner’s Manual…revised —yes a revision of the book that started Dr Oz to being Dr Oz. These makes great gifts—so do YOU: ON a Diet and YOU: The Owner’s Manual for teens. And, the new book by Dr Mike Roizen: This is YOUR Do-Over

Michael F. Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. His radio show streams live on Saturdays from 5-7 p.m. He is the co-author of 4 #1 NY Times Best Sellers including: YOU Staying Young.

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