Q: What’s the best diet to stay healthy? It’s so confusing because so many diets are touted to be the best.
Dr. Nicole Apoliona, medical director, Kula Hospital: A healthy diet doesn’t have to be complicated. As the writer Michael Pollan put it simply: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Let’s break that down. It’s healthy to eat food as close to its original form as possible: whole vegetables and fruits, whole unprocessed grains and nuts, beans and legumes, low-fat dairy products, seafood, poultry, lean meats and eggs. It sounds simple, but in our snack-obsessed, fast-food oriented, dessert-friendly culture, it’s sometimes hard to do.
Sometimes people overlook the hidden calories in their beverages when trying to eat healthier. Water is always the best choice. Beverages should be calorie-free unless you’re drinking low-fat or nonfat dairy or fortified nut milks up to three servings a day. Healthy adults should limit alcohol to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. (In this case, a drink is equal to 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, 5 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer.)
One helpful resource to consider is choosemyplate.gov, which provides national guidelines for healthy plate portions and offers customized tools to help with meal planning. Half of your plate should be fruits and veggies (eat the rainbow), one quarter of your plate should be grains (preferably whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa and barley) and one quarter should be a low-fat protein (beans/legumes, tofu, eggs, poultry, seafood, lean meat). This website offers lots of simple, evidence-based resources to help you move to a healthier diet and increase your physical activity.
Following these dietary recommendations and maintaining a healthy weight have been shown to decrease the risk of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Food can truly be medicine!
Q: My doctors want me to take statins, but I’ve heard so many bad things about them. Why are they still recommended?
Colin Lee, interventional cardiologist: Statins are medications intended to reduce the levels of bad cholesterol in the bloodstream. In many people, bad cholesterol levels are too high as a result of genetic factors, no matter how good their diet, placing them at high risk for heart attacks and strokes. In patients with extremely high cholesterol or in patients who have already suffered a heart attack or stroke, lowering the bad cholesterol is of crucial importance in reducing the risk of a second, potentially crippling or life-shortening event.
Most of the “bad things” about which many people worry are really misunderstandings and misconceptions spread by people without adequate knowledge or understanding of the medications. As with all medications, there are potential side effects. The great majority of side effects for which statins are blamed really have nothing to do with the medication and have been shown in good studies to be just as likely to occur with sugar pills (placebos). Only a very small proportion of people will experience a true side effect of a statin, almost always mild, resolving quickly after discontinuation of the medication. If used as directed under the supervision of a doctor, statins are extremely safe, with potential benefits that greatly outweigh any risk. They are one of our most powerful tools in preventing heart attacks and strokes.
* Physicians, providers and administrative staff who practice at Maui Health System hospitals and clinics answer questions from the public in “Healthwise Maui,” which appears on Thursdays. Maui Health System operates Maui Memorial Medical Center, Maui Memorial Medical Center Outpatient Clinic, Kula Hospital & Clinic and Lana’i Community Hospital and accepts all patients. To submit a question, go to the website at mauihealthsystem.org/contact.