All About Food: Our take on the healthy diet

To us, it seems that many dietary supplements are falling out of fashion in favor of real food.

For example, every day some new study says that multivitamins are no competition for a healthy diet. Some supplements even have a deleterious effect when taken in large doses.

We have been collecting bits and pieces of current information on what constitutes a healthy diet, and we want to share them with you.

Most people think that chicken is a healthy food, but here's a dramatic piece of news: Arsenic, which is a carcinogen, has been found in chickens. How did it get there? The poultry industry uses it in feed to kill parasites.

This is not a problem with organic chicken. Everyone knows that organic is healthier and, in most cases, it is. However, organic doesn't necessarily mean safe, because arsenic has recently been detected in organic baby food.

The new buzzwords are "anti-inflammatory," "glycemic index," "anti-oxidant" and "pro-biotic."

The anti-inflammatory dietis pretty much a newfangled way of referring to a Mediterranean diet. It may be helpful in preventing heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, arthritis and other diseases.

Acute inflammation is a natural response of the human body to injury and is part of the healing process, but chronic inflammation is not good.

The focus of the diet is: (1) foods with good fats such as avocados, nuts, ground flax seed and fish, and healthy oils like olive and grapeseed; (2) fresh fruits and berries, vegetables rich in polyphenols, especially dark, green, leafy and cruciferous; (3) fish, seafood, legumes, nuts and seeds.

Foods to avoid are sugar, hydrogenated fats, white bread and flour. Sugar has even been labeled toxic in Gary Taubes' new book.

To be on ananti-inflammatory dietdoes not mean you can't eat some inflammatory foods. The idea is to balance those on a daily basis withanti-inflammatory foodso that you always come out on the "anti" side, of course the more, the better.

A great site is It is an easy-to-use reference that will tell you the inflammatory index (both good and bad), the glycemic index, the calories and complete nutritional breakdown of every food you can name.

You may be surprised by what you find. We were when we discovered that steak is anti-inflammatory (although high in saturated fat) while chicken is mildly inflammatory. It's a complicated subject.

The glycemic index tells you how fast and how much glucose, produced from eating carbohydrates, is released into the blood. The slower the better, which will minimize insulin-related problems. Sugars are the biggest culprit.

Anti-oxidants abound in the supplement aisle but aren't recommended because they are not complex. They may contain one or even several anti-oxidants, but natural food contains thousands.

The Mayo Clinic suggests some of the highest anti-oxidant foods are berries, followed by apples with peel, avocados, cherries, pears, pineapple, kiwi and plums.

For veggies, try artichokes, spinach, red cabbage, sweet potatoes and broccoli. An interesting note is that one study showed cooking often increased anti-oxidant levels in selected vegetables.

Oats are the highest of all grains. The beans they like best are small red, kidney and black.

In the nut category, tops are walnuts, pistachios, pecans and almonds. The new kid on the block is chia seeds. Surprisingly, some easy-to-find herbs that pack a punch are ground cloves, cinnamon, dried oregano and turmeric.

In the dessert category, good ol' dark chocolate (72%-plus) comes out ahead. For beverages, drink green tea, coffee, red wine and fruit juices. Beware of added sugar in juices and remember no meal should include more than 15 grams (one tablespoon) of sugar.

We are big fans of Mother's Market & Kitchen and Whole Foods Market, where there is an abundance of fresh organic produce and proteins, as well as grocery items. The fast turnover in those stores guarantees products at their peak, while the big chain supermarkets have very meager choices for organic produce, which often languishes in the pitifully small section set aside for it.

We are happy to see that two gigantic new Whole Foods stores are coming to our area, one in Fashion Island and the other on Aliso Creek Road.

ELLE HARROW and TERRY MARKOWITZ were in the gourmet food and catering business for 20 years. They can be reached for comments or questions at

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