Eat for Health

Family factors such as eating and exercise habits affect longevity. But though people whose parents suffer from heart disease or high blood pressure, for example, run an increased risk of suffering from these diseases themselves, the Harvard research holds out hope even in these cases. It shows that men and women can drastically reduce such “inherited” risk.

But perhaps the most encouraging conclusion to emerge from the Harvard study is that it is not necessary to take up marathon running or long-distance swimming to reap the health benefits of exercise. Paffenbarger found that the risk of heart disease or stroke can be halved by physical activity that uses up only an extra 2,000 calories a week. As Paffenbarger says: “We are not talking about an amount of exercise which is overwhelming.”

The couple in our strip cartoon shows how it can be done, but they do not need to be emulated exactly. Walking briskly for an hour, four days a week, together with some extra stair climbing and a little gardening should use up the required calories. Other possible ways are suggested in our first panel.

As people begin to feel the benefits of exercise on their body, they often become interested in discovering a healthy diet as well. Diet is just as important for health as exercise, although controversy rages over the details. There have now been dozens of expert reports in many countries and there is overall agreement; the amount of fat, sugar and salt in our everyday diet needs to be reduced. As foods are processed they lose natural flavor and manufacturers try to make them more palatable by adding extra salt or sugar. Our second panel summaries ways in which diet can most easily be improved.

There may be one more bonus from exercise. In Norway jogging is being used as a successful treatment for mental hospital patients suffering from severe depression. Exercise cannot, of course, solve all your problems; but it might help keep you sane while tackling them.

1. SEVEN WAYS TO BURN UP AN EXTRA 2000 CALORIES A WEEK One hour walk (310 cals), five days a week; one hour tennis (430 cals) Half hour walk (155 cals), six days a week; two hours vigorous disco dancing (800 cals); half hour swim (300 cals) Three mile run (300 cals), three days a week; one hour walk (310 cals); two hours heavy gardening (900 cals) Five mile run (500 cals), three days a week; two hours walking (620 cals) One hour cycling at 9.4 mph (390 cals), five days a week Two hours horse riding at trot (430 cals); four hours cricket (1,200 cals) Half hour squash (830 cals), two days a week; half hour swim (300 cals); three hours walking (930 cals).

2. HOW TO EAT YOUR WAY TO HEALTH EAT MORE: Vegetables and fruit – try to include fresh fruit or vegetables as a part of every meal. Aim to eat at least two fruit, and some salad, items every day. Fish – eat fish at least twice a week. Both white fish (eg cod or plaice) and oily fish (eg mackerel, sardines) are good for health. Whole meal bread or cereal – make sure you get plenty of fiber by making whole meal bread and whole meal cereal your staple. Oil – use corn oil, soya oil, olive oil or sunflower oil for cooking and salads.

EAT LESS: Fat – avoid sausages and processed meats, avoid cream and ice cream, cream biscuits, cakes and pastries. Cut fat off meat. Use skimmed milk and preferably choose low-fat dairy products. Use a margarine high in polyunsaturates. Sugar – eat fewer sweets, take fewer soft drinks, squashes, colas and blackcurrent drinks. Avoid sugared breakfast cereals and sweetened muesli, cakes, pastries and sweet biscuits. Salt – use less table salt, put less salt in cooking, and avoid stock cubes. Use pickles and bottled sauces sparingly. Use fresh meat rather than preserved, smoked or cured meats such as bacon. Avoid tinned vegetables and soups, salted nuts, crisps, savory nibbles, soda water. Use a non-sodium-containing raising agent in baking instead of baking powder.