Vail Daily column: Change your diet to improve your health | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Change your diet to improve your health

February is Heart Health Month. To what extent would you go to prevent yourself from becoming afflicted by a heart attack, Alzheimer's or cancer? Sadly, most people take little action. When you get home tonight, look around at your family and consider this:

• One in three people will die from heart disease, (American Heart Association).

• One in nine people age 65 and older has Alzheimer's disease, (Alzheimer's Association).

• Two in five people will be diagnosed with cancer, (National Cancer Institute).

Unfortunately, the awareness that today's life choices will drastically harm us in the future isn't enough to make us change our ways. While we may want to make better health choices, change is difficult.

Regrettably, it takes more than a wake-up call, even a life-threatening one, to get people to change their unhealthful lifestyles.

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Let's not wait to be afflicted with life altering ailments. You don't wake up in your 50s, 60s and 70s with the sudden onset of a heart disease, Alzheimer's or cancer.

These diseases had an onset 20 or more years earlier. That's now for many people! Make a proactive choice to live a better quality of life.

Prevent Heart Disease

Last week, I attended a very thought-provoking meeting at the Vilar Center. A local nonprofit called Starting Hearts along with the Vail Valley Medical Center hosted Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. For over 35 years, Esselstyn has been a surgeon and researcher at the Cleveland Clinic. He spoke about his research and book titled "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease." While many people in the medical field have different viewpoints to heart health, few can dispute Esselstyn's results.

His book details a program whereby 23 men and one woman who suffered from advanced coronary disease overcame the disease. Hope of life for these people was dismal. Many had been forever disfigured from invasive surgeries and had been told by their cardiologists that nothing more could be done. End of story? Not so much.

Via a plant based diet, Esselstyn has given his patients an opportunity to continue living. The regimen in which he has his patients follow has proven to assist in the treatment and prevention of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. Further, it has the ability to help mitigate a number of cancers.

The book is a quick read and contains many tasty recipes.

Doesn't have to be difficult

Yes, Esselstyn has proven that a strict plant-based diet can remedy many ailments which afflict us. However, committing to a stringent long-term modification in one's eating habits is often a failing proposition. Most people cannot even commit to a short-term diet, let alone change one's entire life.

Learning how to eat healthy does not have to be one of the most difficult things you ever do. So how can we succeed in changing from our SAD diet (standard American diet) to a better lifestyle? The answer is by implementing a lifestyle change. Dieting is short-term. Conversely, lifestyle changes are long-term, transformative and evolutionary.

Any progress we can make to move from a standard American diet is substantial! It's hard though. When people consider steering away from a daily intake of meat, dairy, fat, sugar and processed foods, many wonder what options are left.

Could you integrate the follow meals into your daily diet?

Breakfast: Banana french toast, blueberry muffins, buckwheat blueberry pancakes, zucchini or banana bread, grape nut or shredded wheat cereal.

Lunch: Watermelon and cherry tomato salad, brown rice and corn salad, wheat pasta salad with veggies and mustard relish salad, black bean or miso barley soup.

Dinner: Pineapple stir-fry, Wild rice and mushroom pilaf, vegetable and chicken burrito, noodles with stir-fried asparagus and cashews, black bean tacos with avocado, roasted cauliflower or cauliflower prepared like mashed potatoes — less of a starch-bomb.

Other simple changes like roasting instead of frying, swapping junk food snacking for picking at nuts, seeds, legumes, berries and fresh fruits have proven beneficial. Keep a bowl of walnuts, almonds, raisins and cranberries at your desk while working. Pick at edamame and sugar snap peas.

Next week, I'll continue addressing heart health month and continue to stir the pot by addressing research from Harvard, World Health Organization and the International Agency for Research on Cancer demonstrating that meat, in particularly processed meat, increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.