On Tuesday evening, December 6, the Navigating the Medical System Lecture Series presented a virtual lecture on nutrition with Anna Delapaz, MS, RD, nutritionist for NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital Queens.

Dr. Mel Breite, Founder and Director of the Navigating the Medical System Lecture Series, welcomed everyone and shared the vital need for our community to work on eating a healthier diet.

Anna Delapaz noted that the United States spends one third of a trillion dollars on prescription medications. Many of these drugs are directly related to conditions that could be prevented with proper nutrition. She cited high blood pressure and high cholesterol as examples. In 2020, over two million people were on statins for high blood pressure. The obesity rate has climbed from 1994 to 2018. She defined obesity as a BMI (body mass index) between 30 and 39. Over 40 is considered severe obesity.

She explained that research showed that BMI predicts morbidity and death. She then shared information from a study called the China Cornell Oxford Project, where there were two groups. One group ate a diet with animal protein and fat, while the other ate a diet high in plant fiber only. The participants in the animal protein diet group had higher rates of obesity, breast cancer, and colon cancer.

She then spotlighted foods that we should add to our diet.

Berries, she shared, are high in antioxidants. They have cancer-fighting abilities and can prevent brain and liver disease. They are the second highest antioxidant food with 650 units of antioxidants. Also, they aren’t as high in sugar as grapes or bananas. It is recommended to include ¼ cup of berries and to have two cups of fruit daily. Frozen berries are fine. She then shared a berry smoothie recipe:

One cup frozen berries (she suggested blackberries)

Two cups choice of milk

½ frozen banana

1 handful of mint

1 tablespoon of flaxseed

She noted that flaxseed ups omega-3 and fiber.

Next, she spoke about grains and beans. Studies demonstrate the benefits of whole grains. They have fiber and more nutrients. Adding 28 grams of fiber correlated with lower risk of death and heart disease. Whole grains include wheat bread, oatmeal, whole-wheat flour, and whole-wheat muffins. Whole grains cut the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. The higher fiber of whole grains slows the absorption into sugar. Also, fiber content of whole grains causes you to feel fuller.

Three to four ounces of grain per day is recommended. This can be half a cup of oatmeal, half of a whole-wheat English muffin, or one slice of whole-wheat bread.

The next important group she spoke about is beans or legumes. She said that you should have one serving of beans or legumes at every meal. This adds fiber and less cholesterol.

She noted that plant protein has more fiber, and animal protein doesn’t contain fiber. She shared that lentils, in particular, cuts blood sugar even four hours after a meal. She shared that lentils are a really good source of protein and fiber.

Then she shared the following lentil recipe:

1 baked sweet potato

¼ cup lentils

Handful of cilantro

Handful of peanuts

1 sliced citrus fruit

She related that The Bean Institute website is a good resource for recipes. Also, MYPlate.gov has recipes and information on how much you need of each food group.

The next food group she spoke about is nuts and seeds. A quarter of a cup of whole seeds or two tablespoons of nut butter is recommended. The best seeds include chia, hemp, pumpkin, sesame, or sunflower seeds. You can toast these and add them to salads. The most nutritious nut is walnuts. They have higher levels of omega-3 and promote heart health, and they are a good source of healthy fats.

The last food group she discussed is herbs and spices. These can be overlooked, and they are a great way to add flavor and avoid using salt. They have the highest level of antioxidants of any food group and are good dried or fresh. Adding herbs and spices ups the health benefits to your meal. One spice that stands out is turmeric, which contains curcumin. It protects against breast, colon, lung, and pancreatic cancer. It has anti-inflammatory powers. It is recommended to eat a quarter of a teaspoon daily. People with gallstones or kidney stones should limit their intake of this spice.

She shared that eating whole foods is better than supplements.

She then shared a turmeric tea recipe.

¼ cup water

½ tsp. dried turmeric

½ tsp. ginger

1 cinnamon stick

3 black peppercorns


Black tea bag

She cited a study on Alzheimer’s done in 2010, where one group of participants was given saffron, and one group was given a placebo. After 16 weeks, cognitive function improved with the saffron group.

She also noted that cloves, cinnamon, and oregano inhibited an enzyme that causes depression.

Next, she spoke about the importance of hydration. Water is the ideal drink. She said that we should drink five 12-ounce cups of liquid per day. You can add a slice of lemon or orange to your water. “Water is what your body wants.”

She also spoke about drinking hibiscus tea, which can lead to a significant drop in blood pressure according to a study. This was when people had three cups of this tea per day.

In addition, she spoke about the importance of exercise. We need 150 minutes of physical activity a week. This includes two days of muscle and strengthening training. The goal is 10,000 steps per day. You can keep track of your steps on an app on your phone.

She then recommended the book How Not to Die Diet by Dr. Michael Greger.

The lecture ended with a lively Q&A session.

By Susie Garber