By Wendy Sarubbi | October 5, 2015 10:18 am

The grocery store has 20 different kinds of bread to choose from and the Internet’s crawling with miracle cures for losing weight and curing every calamity from gout to diabetes. What’s a health conscious consumer to do?

Dr. Christopher Smith, UCF Health’s new family and integrative medicine specialist, presented scientifically proven foods for better health at two recent seminars attended by almost 400 people. His advice isn’t based on fads or scare tactics, but on the foods that research has proven reduce chronic inflammation – the foundation of chronic diseases ranging from cancer to heart disease, arthritis to depression. On September 23, Dr. Smith presented “What to Eat for Health” to about 75 people at the Medical City location of UCF Health, the College of Medicine practice. On September 29, he spoke to about 300 members of the Learning Institute for Elders at UCF.

His overall health recommendations: – 1. Avoid refined, processed, and manufactured foods. 2. Make vegetables a predominant aspect of most meals, while making sure to eat all color varieties of vegetables. 3. Eat foods that are considered low on the glycemic index scale, which are whole foods that generally have adequate fiber. You can learn more about the glycemic index of foods at   4. Choose foods that contain adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids such as wild, low-food-chain fish, nuts and olive oil. 5. Choose foods that would make up the Mediterranean or traditional Japanese diets.

Here are more of Dr. Smith’s suggestions:

  • Fill up on veggies. Make sure the majority of your plate contains plant-based foods such as vegetables. Choose cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, bok choy and cauliflower. These vegetables have a strong scent when cut or cooked, which reflects their high levels of nutrients and anti-oxidants. Beans are a good source of protein with added fiber and nutrients so “use any excuse to add beans to your soups and other dishes,” Dr. Smith advised. Lightly cook veggies because the heat makes nutrients more easily absorbed. Asian mushrooms are great for their positive influence on the immune system. Include the entire spectrum of colors when selecting vegetables. Each color offers a different set of plant nutrients.
  • Eat temperate Fruits. The healthiest fruits are temperate, meaning they have grown through all four seasons. These include apples, peaches and berries. Tropical fruits like oranges have higher sugar content so eat them less commonly. Don’t rely on fruit juice. Even if you’re juicing fruits yourself, you’re removing the natural fiber – which the body needs to prevent rapid absorption of sugar. Better to put pieces of fruit in water for flavor.
  • Eat seafood that’s at the bottom of the food chain. Fish like wild salmon, sardines and black cod are considered lower on the food chain. These fish are less likely to have high doses of mercury and other toxins found in the environment. Avoid fish at the top of the food chain that eat other fish – species like shark, swordfish, tilefish, and (king) mackerel. These fish have eaten other fish and are likely to contain higher levels of mercury and other toxins. Generally, wild caught fish are healthier, but choose varieties that are sustainable so we don’t risk depleting certain fish populations. Fish and seafood are a good source of Omega 3 fatty acids and protein.
  • Choose whole soy products. Avoid modern, novel, processed soy-based foods like soy hot dogs, soy turkey products or soy protein shakes because they contain high levels of estrogen-like molecules that may contribute to higher incidences of cancer. Instead, choose soy products that have been around for centuries like tempeh, soy milk, miso, tofu and edamame.
  • Seek out the healthy fats. Select healthy fats such as olive oil, walnuts, almonds and avocados. The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in our daily diet should be roughly a 1:1 ratio if possible.
  • Cook your pasta al dente. Americans tend to overcook pasta, which causes it to have a higher in glycemic index. Prepare your pasta the way Italians do – al dente. That chewiness means your body has to work harder to metabolize the carbohydrates – meaning they won’t raise your blood sugars as fast.
  • Tea for health. Smith said he drinks tea every day because of its high antioxidant content. Additionally, the limited amount of caffeine can increase mental clarity without the high kick of coffee. White, green, and oolong teas have the highest antioxidant count so they are better choices than black tea. If you like sweetener in your tea, Dr. Smith advises a little honey. He strongly advises against any use of artificial sweeteners.

Overall, Dr. Smith told participants at UCF Health and LIFE@UCF that if it’s impossible to adhere to a healthy diet completely, then at least abide by the 80-20 rule. Try to eat healthfully 80 percent of the time. Make that steak or piece of chocolate cake a special occasion item, not a daily staple. “No one is perfect,” he said. “At the end of the day, do your best. Don’t drive yourself crazy.” In addition to a healthy diet, for optimum wellness, Dr. Smith advises all of us to also exercise, have healthy relationships, and contribute to society in a positive, constructive way.

Contact UCF Health at 407-266-3627 (DOCS) or

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