These 10 foods may affect your risk for diseases


by Roger Khetan, MD

May 1, 2017

Your risk for certain diseases may be determined by just 10 foods, according to a recent study.

We’ve always known that what you eat can greatly affect your health, but now researchers have put together a handy list of exactly what to add to your plate — and what to take off of it — to make the greatest impact.

The list is based on national health surveys that show less than a dozen foods can be linked to almost 50 percent of deaths from heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes in the U.S. Risk of dying increased with a combination of overeating things like processed meats and sugary drinks, and under-eating healthy fats, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. Too much salt was the biggest problem, linked with nearly 10 percent of the deaths.

The list is based on national health surveys that show less than a dozen foods can be linked to almost 50 percent of deaths from heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes in the U.S.

This research reiterates the same advice we’ve heard on healthy eating in the past, but it really drills down to the risks and benefits of specific foods. Disease prevention is not just about avoiding certain “bad” foods — it’s also about adding in foods that can help protect your health.

Making these diet changes can be daunting for a lot of people. Red meat is a tough one, especially in Texas. Anyone who knows me knows I love my steak. But you see people in many restaurants ordering a 48-ounce porterhouse, and that’s not exactly great for you! You should aim for the 6-ounce portion.

Moderation is Key

Use the list below as a guide for improving your diet, and focus on one change at a time. Maybe start with adding a handful of nuts to your diet every day. Moderation is key. If you are overweight or have diabetes, you may need to make a big change. If you’re a healthy adult, you can start slowly and make changes over time.

Foods to eat more of:

Fruits: 3 average-sized fruits daily
Vegetables: 2 cups cooked or 4 cups raw vegetables daily
Nuts and seeds: 5 1-ounce servings per week — about 20 nuts per serving
Whole grains: 2 ½ daily servings
Polyunsaturated fats, found in many vegetable oils: 11 percent of daily calories
Seafood: about 8 ounces weekly

Foods to eat less of:

Red meat: 1 serving weekly — 1 medium steak or the equivalent
Processed meat: None recommended
Sugary drinks: None recommended
Salt: 2,000 milligrams daily — just under a teaspoon.

For more information on living a healthier lifestyle, find a wellness event or cooking demonstration at Baylor Scott & White Health. 

About the Author

Roger Khetan, MD, FACP, FHM is an internal medicine physician on the medical staff at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas. Dr. Khetan received his medical degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and completed his internship at the same institution. Dr. Khetan completed a residency in anesthesiology at Allegheny General Hospital and a residency in internal medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. He is a member of the American Medical Association, Dallas County Medical Society, American College of Physicians, Society of Hospital Medicine, Texas Club of Internists and the Texas Medical Association. Dr. Khetan is professionally interested in preventative health care, heart disease, geriatrics, asthma and chronic disease management. He also has interest in lobbying locally, statewide and nationally for patient and provider rights.

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