Dr. Roach: There is no one-size-fits-all healthy diet

Keith Roach
To Your Health

Dear Dr. Roach: Most health professionals agree that one should follow a “healthy diet,” yet no one ever says exactly what that is. I have low thyroid, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. Some of my meds cause chronic constipation.

I and hundreds of others would be most appreciative if you could print a structured diet to follow for a week or two, and then we could repeat it.


Dear F.G.: This is a question I get often, but I have been reluctant to answer it. I certainly could print a diet that I think is healthy, but depending on your medical conditions, it might not be precisely right for you. You have diabetes, so avoiding sweets is particularly important, and since you have high blood pressure, it’s more important for you than it is for others to keep your sodium intake low.

However, the most important reason I can’t publish a healthy diet that would work for everybody is that food choices are intensely personal and relate to your upbringing and locale. With my own patients, I don’t try to give them a diet they should change to, but instead get a careful diet history and work with them to try to make their diet healthier.

For most people, that means reducing red meat and choosing other good protein sources, like legumes, fish, nuts or tofu. It usually means increasing vegetables and fruits, reducing sugars and substituting whole grains for processed ones. It often means removing unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks entirely.

What it emphatically does NOT mean is taking the joy out of eating. If I have a patient who really, really enjoys a less-than-healthy dish, I recommend that the patient eat it, without guilt, but infrequently, so that it becomes a special indulgence. For most people, it’s easy to make some changes in the diet in order to feel better, get healthier and maybe live longer.

Dear Dr. Roach: My husband is very clean in his personal hygiene and takes great care for safety in health-care matters on his job as a plumber. My concern is that when he perspires during the night, it leaves a brown residue on the sheets — sometimes down to the mattress pad. We don’t know if it is something to be concerned about, and we fear something may be going on inside. He is 41, physically fit, but works very hard. He is under a lot of stress.


Dear V.S.: Abnormally colored sweat is a rare condition called chromhidrosis. The sweat may be green, brown, orange, yellow or black. It may occur on the face, armpits, groin or other areas. The color comes from an excess of pigment in the sweat glands. Occasionally a medication can cause it, but usually it has no known cause and does not represent any kind of disease (one exception is in people with jaundice).

It sometimes can be very bothersome cosmetically, and treatment, including botulinum injection or capsaicin cream, has been effective.

Email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu.