June 27, 2006 at 05:20 AM EDT
Diet Pattern More Important than Specific Food Choices, Reports the Harvard Men's Health Watch

BOSTON, June 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Making changes to what you eat is difficult. Often the barrier to change is a preoccupation with specific choices: Can I have eggs for breakfast? Is oatmeal better than raisin bran? Individual choices are meaningful, but if they fit into a sound overall dietary pattern, there will be plenty of wiggle room, says the July issue of Harvard Men's Health Watch.

A report from Harvard's Health Professionals Follow-up Study examined the effect of dietary patterns, rather than individual foods, on men's health. The results: Men who ate a lot of red meat, processed meat, refined grains, and sweets were 64% more likely to develop heart disease than men with the most prudent diets.

The best diet features generous amounts of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, olive oil, and fish, says Harvard Men's Health Watch. A healthful diet is also low in saturated fat from meat and whole dairy products, trans fatty acids from fried foods and snack foods, salty foods, refined grains, and concentrated sweets. But that doesn't mean you have to eat spinach every day or turn down both hamburger and bun.

What should you do? Evaluate your current diet, then set goals based on the pattern that will keep you healthy, advises Harvard Men's Health Watch. Change slowly but steadily. By focusing on an overall pattern, you'll be able to find healthful foods you like. And you'll also be able to eat the less healthful foods that matter to you most -- as long as your portion sizes are reasonable and your overall dietary pattern is sound.

The bottom line: When it comes to diet, men who pay attention to the big picture can occasionally eat "bad" foods that they love.

    Also in this issue:
    * Treating metabolic syndrome
    * The importance of handwashing
    * A doctor discusses: Peyronie's disease and crooked erections

Harvard Men's Health Watch is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $24 per year. Subscribe at http://www.health.harvard.edu/men or by calling 1-877-649-9457 (toll free).

Source: Harvard Health Publications

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