Everything Counts in Large Amounts

Dr. Cindy Haines Health Guide
  • In my last blog entry – entitled Poison In, Poison Out – I gave some thought to how the things we put into our bodies and minds, from food to entertainment, affect our behavior. Several items I’ve noticed in circulation recently have led me to think about other ways that our environment affects our health:

    • Recently, I reported on a study that found a link between sweetened beverages and depression. Even diet soda and diet iced tea were implicated. People consuming at least four cans or cups per day had a roughly 30-percent higher risk of a depression diagnosis over about a 10-year period.
    • Then I saw a nutrition quiz at my gym: True/false: Tea can help you lose weight. Answer: True. Green tea contains components that can boost metabolism among other health benefits, such as targeting and eliminating free radicals (combating these tiny rogue molecules can also improve your skin’s appearance!).

    So am I sabotaging my health by drinking my beloved Diet Coke? If I replace diet soda with decaf green tea, will this simple act add up to better mood and improved overall health?

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    • Finally, I received one of Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP newsletters, entitled “Superfoods", which read:

    "I asked my friend Dr. Frank Lipman about his list of superfoods so that I could incorporate them into my diet a bit more. If you are going to eat pasta, why not serve it with a walnut pesto (walnuts are on his list)?”

    A soda here. A cup of green tea there. A sprinkling of walnuts there. We could run ourselves ragged trying to keep track of all the ingredients around us that could bump up our health or detract from it a little. Should we?

    While I don’t advocate a lifestyle that scours away every last source of pleasure or forces you to make every possible healthy move you can, I do think a little proactive strategy can help us. With everyday choices, keep the big picture in mind. Make sure that over the long term, when your little choices have the opportunity to add up to large amounts – over a week, a month, a lifetime – you’re overall doing more healthy things than not and avoiding unhealthy choices more often than you do them.

    Use small choices to tweak the decisions you’re making: When you learn that foods can boost your mood or your health, add them to your meals (like walnuts) or switch them in for something that isn’t good for you (like unsweetened green tea in place of some of your diet sodas).

    Drinking one diet soda isn’t going to irreparably harm your mood. Eating walnuts one time won’t make you healthy. But make a handful of little decisions like these over and over for years, and they may make a big difference in your health.

    For even more tips on how to get better health and need the health care system less, check out: The New Prescription: How to Get the Best Health Care in a Broken System by Dr. Cynthia D. Haines, M.D. (Dr. Cindy Haines) and Eric Metcalf, M.P.H. This is a book about getting what you really want: better health on your own terms.

Published On: January 15, 2013