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Living Well For Longer – Good Nutrition For Longevity and Good Health
In the United States, the average life expectancy is 78; the global life expectancy is slightly lower at 67. However, in Okinawa the life expectancy is 81 and higher. Research shows that the reason for this is quite simple: they eat a better diet. In another location, this time the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama, high blood pressure and heart disease are very rare (9 in 100,000 compared to 83 per 100,000 in mainland Panama) (Source: Jaret).
The difference between the residents of Okinawans and the San Blas Islands is not genetic or some special medical treatment, it is their diet that keeps them healthier and stronger for much longer than their peers. In the United States, the same benefit can be seen in Seventh-day Adventists who typically eat a vegetarian diet and live an average of four to seven years longer than those in the same community.
The foods most commonly eaten by those who live longer are low in saturated fat and high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Most of these diets are high in fruits and vegetables, and get most of their protein from vegetarian sources rather than meat. While there are some healthy, low-fat animal proteins, the typical American diet has far too much emphasis on red meat, which is loaded with saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories that can clog arteries, cause massive weight gain, and lead to higher risk of obesity. high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and certain cancers.
Some of the foods suggested by these so-called “longevity diets” may come as a shock, while others are quite obvious. Of course, fruits and vegetables of all kinds should be eaten; however, there are also other suggestions. This includes:
Whole grains, especially in place of processed and too easily digestible simple carbohydrates. According to studies, you can cut your risk of heart disease in half if you include a lot or whole grains in your diet. Eating whole grains also protects against Type II Diabetes, which also reduces the risk of heart disease. When youarechoosingyourwholegrainfood,makesurethatyoureadthelabel The first ingredient listed should be the whole grain. If the first word is “enriched”, then it is nothing more than white flour with a little color or molasses for flavor and color. The fiber content for these foods should also be quite high. A warning about whole grains, especially bread: some of them can have quite high calories per serving, so again, carefully reading labels and knowing what your personal dietary needs are the key.
Nuts are a surprising thing to find on a list of foods you should eat, but they are surprisingly beneficial for good overall health, especially the heart. However, they are high in calories, so the serving size you need to consume is very small, but for every few nuts you eat, you get heart-healthy fats and extra fiber. They are also surprisingly high in other nutrients, including Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, magnesium, protein, fiber, potassium, plant sterols, vitamin B6 and arginine. There are several different types of nuts that have been proven to be very beneficial, including walnuts (highest in overall antioxidants), almonds (best nut source of vitamin E and with more protein than a large egg, long considered the perfect protein source) and pistachios (highest in dietary fiber per serving and most nuts per one ounce serving size) (Source: Pratt and Matthews, 2004).
If youare thinking that you can only have bland and blah food if you eat healthy, without snacks or treats, you are wrong. In fact, dark chocolate has polyphenols that are thought to both lower blood pressure and improve the flexibility of the blood vessels themselves. A study with dark chocolate and subjects who already had high blood pressure showed an improvement in their blood pressure readings and their insulin sensitivity after only fifteen days of eating dark chocolate every day.
While most fruits and vegetables are suggested by these healthy foods, blueberries may be the king, according to a number of studies. They are high in antioxidants and have been proven to protect against the age-related changes in the brain that can lead to serious memory loss and dementia. Blueberries are considered one of the “super foods” and have been mentioned several times in books and diet plans as such. They are so beneficial that in a book called Super Foods RX, the authors suggest trying to eat as much as one to two cups of these and other members of the family, including grapes, cherries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, berries and other berries every day. Blueberries and the others in this category can be fresh or frozen. Another benefit of blueberries: they relieve both diarrhea and constipation because they are high in pectin and are also good for urinary tract health (like cranberries) (Source: Pratt and Matthews, 2004).
Everyone knows that the Okinawa diet, like other heart-healthy diets like the Mediterranean diet, is high in fish, especially fish that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats protect the heart, including from irregular heart rhythms that can potentially cause heart failure. Fatty acids, including DHA and EPA, in fish oil may also protect against depression and age-related memory loss. ALA, another fatty acid, is found in flaxseed and can also have the same benefit. However, people should only get marine-based Omega-3 fatty acids because the other sources can lead to an increased risk of developing prostate cancer.
Some of the best fish sources for these fatty acids are salmon, canned albacore tuna, sardines, Alaskan halibut, herring, sea bass, trout, oysters and mussels. The recommendation is to eat fish two to four times a week, however there are certain groups that may be limited in how much fish they eat, especially certain types. The concern with some types of fish is the increased level of mercury, which can lead to mercury poisoning.
The debate about coffee has gone back and forth a million times. It’s bad for you; it makes you nervous, jumpy or jittery. It’s good for you, especially for a workout. The latest information suggests that coffee may protect against both type 2 diabetes and age-related mental decline.
Protein is also important in the diet, especially plant-based protein such as soy and soy products. However, Americans are busy people and protein supplements are often the way they get most of their protein intake.
Peter Jarrett. Eat for Longevity: Foods to Keep Your Heart, Brain, and Bones Healthy WebMD
Steven Pratt, MD and Kathy Matthews Super Foods RX: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life. Harper Collins Publishing, New York, New York 2004
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