Nutrition Wellness

Our Changing Diet: What it Means for Our Health

Cup cake is placed on top of a heart

What are we eating?

Our diet has changed profoundly over the last 10,000 years, with a more accelerated rate of change over the last hundred years. There is a disconnect between what we’re putting in our bodies as nutrition and what our bodies are genetically designed to metabolize.  The refining process, or milling of grains, has led to a loss of nutrients, especially micro-nutrients such as minerals. This means that we have dramatically increased our intake of sugar and fats while reducing our intake of fiber. Have you ever noticed in the grocery store there is often a health food section? Doesn’t this make you wonder, what is the food in the rest of the store?

If so, that’s a very good question. The Standard American Diet has been given the acronym SAD. It’s more appropriate than we may think. When compared to the nutritional intake of many more traditional cultures, the American diet has higher fat intake, less fiber and increased amounts of animal protein. A recent study shows that unhealthful dietary practices, including increased calories, fat, sodium, and sugar and lower intakes of fruits and vegetables increases the risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. Only when we understand the damaging effects of our diet can we begin to make a change.

 

How can we eat healthier?

In cultures with a daily intake of more than a pound of fruits and vegetables, the cancer rate is half of the cancer rate in the United States.  So you really are what you eat! Or as Hippocrates said “Let your food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Striving to eat at least 3 cups of fresh or cooked vegetables per day will lead to noticeable health benefits. For one, this increased intake of plant derived nutrients and fiber will lead to an increased sense of fullness and satisfaction. A stomach satisfactorily full of healthy fruits and vegetable may lead to a decrease your intake of refined sugars, refined carbohydrates and fats.

Another simple dietary adjustment is to greatly reduce or eliminate sugary beverages. These calorie dense, low fiber drinks lead to a rapid rise in blood sugar which leads to obesity, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and diabetes. One study estimates the worldwide burden of sugar sweetened beverages leads to 184,000 deaths/year.

 

Make a change today!

The takeaway from this is that even small changes can greatly increase our overall health. Substituting and replacing unhealthy foods with healthy options a little at a time can have lasting effects.

 

Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/07/24/opinion/sunday/20110724_SAD_Timeline.html?_r=0

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3138644/

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/sugary-drinks/

http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2015/06/25/CIRCULATIONAHA.114.010636

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