Frito Lay’s potato chips tout a “heart healthy” label, due to the safflower oil using in frying. Cheerios claims to lower cholesterol. Grapefruit was thought to “melt away the pounds. Foods often get a reputation for providing good health, but rarely is a single food likely to provide that effect. However, classes of food do have a positive effect, providing key nutrients a la nature. But which foods do what?

An article in Nutrition Action (December 2011), summarizes the health goals, which foods are best, and which foods to avoid.

To lower cholesterol: best foods are oils, nuts, and fatty fish, which provide unsaturated fats. Beans, oats, and psyllium, which provide fiber, are also a good choice. Worst foods are meats, butter, cheese, cream, frosting, and pie crust (high in saturated or trans fats). Also, cut back or eliminate refined sugars and refined grains.

For healthy eyes: kale, collard greens, spinach, swiss chard, all contain high amounts of lutein. Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and herring are also a good choice. Soft drinks, sweets, white breads and pasta should be avoided. Vitamins C, E, and B, along with fish oil and lutein supplements have been shown to slow macular degeneration.

To prevent colon cancer: low-fat milk, whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruit. Avoid bacon, hot dogs, processed meats. Get exercise!

Bowel health: Wheat and oat bran, beans, prunes, psyllium, and other foods high in plant proteins. Iron supplements cause constipation. Vitamin C helps with constipation; peppermint oil works well for diarrhea.

Lowering blood pressure: vegetables, fruit, fish, beans, low-fat milk, yogurt, and all potassium-rich foods. Clams, beet greens, yellowfin tuna, halibut, swiss chard. squash, sweet potatoes, lima beans, edamame, spinach, tomatoes, bananas, avocados, and cantaloupe are excellent choices.

A vigorous bout of exercise can boost metabolism (burn calories) for 14 hours. Brisk walking, biking, jogging, swimming, rowing, or calisthenics fit the bill here. The reward is worth the effort, if you are one of those seeking to lose fat.

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.