Let food be your medicine

| Post published on February 28, 2014
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A large analysis of hundreds of studies set out to look at the health effects of many food groups and has confirmed that plant foods are more protective than animal foods against chronic diseases that are related to diet.

According to the study, fruit and vegetables are extremely protective, showing the ability to significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and obesity. The only negative effect – a higher risk of digestive cancers – possibly stems from increased consumption of pickled vegetables.

It also found that high consumption of wholegrains may significantly reduce the risks of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The opposite also applied – a high consumption of refined cereals can increase the risk of diabetes and obesity.

The frequent consumption of pulses was also associated with a significantly reduced risk of cancer, while the only possible negative effect was an increased risk of stomach cancer from a high intake of fermented soya foods, possibly due to combining with other foods). The analysis also revealed that diets rich in pulses improve blood sugar control and significantly reduce heart disease risk.

The highest consumption of nuts and seeds was shown to lead to weight gain – understandable due to their high fat – but overall, they can help improve blood sugar control and significantly cut the risk of heart disease.

If you build your diet on these four food groups, you can’t go wrong so to make sure you have a healthy diet, see our guide Nutrition in a Nutshell on www.viva.org.uk or call the office on 0117 944 1000 to order a paper copy (£1).

Fardet A & Boirie Y, 2014. Associations between food and beverage groups and major diet-related chronic diseases: an exhaustive review of pooled/meta-analyses and systematic reviews. Nutrition Reviews. 72 (12): 741-762.

About the author
Dr. Justine Butler
I joined Viva! as a health campaigner in 2005 after graduating from Bristol University with a PhD in molecular biology. My scientific training helped me research and write numerous reports, guides and fact sheets for Viva! including Meat the Truth, Fish-Free for Life, One in Nine (breast cancer and diet) and the substantial report on the detrimental health effects of consuming dairy; White Lies. This accompanied Viva!’s report The Dark Side of Dairy which spelt out the inherent cruelty of dairy farming. We were the first UK group to take on the dairy industry in this way, and many of our supporters go vegan after reading these reports.

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