Diet and Common Sense

Gretchen Becker Health Guide
  • A recent research study suggested that a compound in broccoli could be useful in slowing the destruction of joints in osteoarthritis, which is common among us older folks.


    I wonder how long it will be before someone is selling breakfast cereal with a banner label saying, “Contains broccoli. Supports joint health.”


    I love broccoli and often eat it every day, sometimes three times a day (yes, I sometimes eat vegetables with breakfast). But I have osteoarthritis anyway. Of course it might be worse if I didn’t eat broccoli.


    Broccoli haters like George W Bush will be glad to know that it’s not only broccoli that is supposed to be beneficial. Other cruciferous vegetables contain the active compound, sulforaphane. But broccoli is supposed to contain the most.

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    Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, collards, and kale. In general they’re low in carbohydrate and high in nutrient value, good choices for people with diabetes.


    Should we be eating masses of broccoli every day, cooked for dinner and raw in salads for lunch? Well, no food is perfect. The cruciferous vegetables are also goitrogens. That means they can inhibit the uptake and incorporation of iodine into thyroid hormone, which is necessary for its activity, and hence cause thyroid problems and goiter if eaten in excess. This is especially true when you don’t get much iodine in your diet. Soybeans are also goitrogens.


    It turns out that cooking the cruciferous vegetables destroys their goitrogenic properties. Some people say boiling for 30 minutes destroys most of the goitrogens. Of course cooking destroys nutrients as well as the goitrogenic compounds, and who wants to eat broccoli that has been boiled for 30 minutes. Coleslaw wouldn’t be very tasty if made with cabbage that had been boiled for 30 minutes.


    So do we throw the cruciferous vegetables out to avoid thyroid problems or do we consume as much as possible to avoid osteoarthritis? One blogger says her family eats raw cruciferous vegetables only occasionally. I, on the other hand, plan to continue to eat coleslaw when cabbage is plentiful.


    I think this is an example in which common sense comes into play. In general, it’s not healthy to eat just one or two foods. Eating a variety of foods means that if there’s some toxin in a type of food, either natural or from a pesticide, you won’t get too much of that toxic substance if the other foods don’t have it too. The Japanese health eating guidelines mandate eating at least 30 different foods every day. A common American eating pattern of cereal, milk, orange juice, pizza, soda, pizza, and beer would not be approved by Japanese nutritionists!


    Common sense also dictates that we shouldn’t expect any one food to solve all our problems. The sellers of nutritional supplements hope to convince us that if we just buy Miracle Tablets (at $120 per month), we can pig out on pizza all day and stay slim and healthy. They capitalize on things like the broccoli news release and then concentrate the active compound into tablets and hope to convince us that their tablets will prevent arthritis.


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    No one food is likely to substitute for a varied, nutritious diet. No food, alas, will cure our arthritis . . . or our type 2 diabetes.


    Use common sense. Don’t be afraid to eat some food that people have been eating for generations just because some news story says it might contain something bad. Fish can contain mercury. But it also contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Swordfish (very apt to contain mercury) every night would be a bad idea. The occasional swordfish meal can be enjoyable and not terribly toxic.


    Use common sense. Don’t expect that eating one particular food will cure your diabetes. It may help to control blood glucose levels, but it can’t overcome other unhealthy habits.


    Use common sense. Read or listen to the latest food and health news stories with a critical eye. They may contain a grain of truth. But they’re unlikely to show the way to a cure.


    Enjoy your food without worrying about every vegetable you put into your mouth!


Published On: August 29, 2013