“He that takes medicine and neglects diet, wastes the skill of the physician.” ~Chinese Proverb
A question I am often asked by hepatitis C patients is, “What is the best diet for hepatitis C.” This may seem like a simple question, but telling someone what to eat is like telling them what religion to join. There is not a simple answer, and no single nutrition plan works for everyone. Also, there are quite a few opinions about what we should and shouldn’t eat, and treading on those opinions is risky.
Recently I thought it would be good to start posting quick and healthy recipes on my Google+ page. This was not as easy as I thought it would be as most of the recipes I found used processed food, sugar, and ingredients that I don’t use. To me they weren’t healthy, but to someone who is accustomed to a high-calorie, high-fat diet, these recipes may be leaps ahead. Eating a nutritious diet depends on where you are starting from, and it reflects your heritage, where you live, what is available, your income, and your lifestyle. For instance, someone who can’t cook or doesn’t have access to a kitchen has different needs than someone who likes to cook and can.
The bottom line for me is simplicity. I stock ingredients that I can transform in to a quick, delicious meal when I am short on time and big on hunger. On nearly any given moment, I can make a healthy omelet, frittata, polenta or quinoa dish, salad, or wrap. I always have whole grain ingredients, veggies, fruit, herbs, dried tomatoes, nuts, eggs and beans in my kitchen.
Although there is wide variation in nutrition advice, nearly all experts agree on foods to avoid or limit. These are:
- Sugar and unrefined carbohydrates
- Soda, many fruit drinks, and sweetened energy drinks and teas
- Most bakery goods such as pastries, donuts, cookies, white bread, white pasta
- Trans-fats, saturated fats, and high-fat foods
- Fried foods
- Butter, cream, and full-fat cheese
- Bacon, beef, ham, lamb, sausage, organ meats
- Trans fats are being phased out, but check ingredients for partially hydrogenated oil in foods such as microwave popcorn, frozen desserts, crackers, and stick margarine
- Processed food, frozen foods, canned foods, and deli-meats
- Snack foods with empty calories (potato chips, candy, etc.)
As to what to eat, here are the guidelines I follow:
- Eat vegetables—lots of them and in as many colors as possible.
- Consume fruit and whole grains in moderate amounts.
- Eat plant-based or lean protein choices, such as egg whites, nonfat yogurt or milk, beans, nuts, fish and poultry.
- Choose healthy fats, such as canola and olive oil.
- Eat a fiber-rich diet.
- Reduce sodium intake. Avoid processed foods, which are often high in sodium and other additives.
- Don’t overdo it. A serving of nuts is healthy; a can of nuts is not.
Someone told me that summer bodies are made in the winter. I’d expand that to, “The food you eat today determines tomorrow’s health.” Food tastes good in the moment, but the effects can be devastating. To me, most indulgences are not worth a lifetime of coronary artery diseases, fatty liver, diabetes, and so on. When I do indulge, I make it a small and savor it. I do this so I can also savor my health.
This post first appeared on Lucinda Porter’s blog at Every Day Health, Navigating Hepatitis C