We have all heard about “Leading Causes of Death” and usually read about heart disease, cancer, diabetes, strokes. But now the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and the University of Washington have ranked “poor diet” as a leading cause of death. (Environmental Nutrition, Oct. 2013). Why? Scientists analyzed data from 2010 and discovered that of the 10 leading causes of death, POOR DIET is now "leading the pack".
In 2010, they attributed 678,288 deaths to a poor diet. Poor diet surpassed smoking, drug use and alcohol as causes of death. However, physical inactivity was not far behind the other factors.
So what is the Poor Diet that is causing so many deaths?
- Low intake of fruits and vegetables. If more people ate 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, they could lessen their risk.
- Sodium – most Americans take in way too much sodium, and mostly from packaged foods, not the salt shaker at the table. We also don’t eat foods high in potassium such as fruits and vegetables that helps counter the adverse effects of sodium.
- Whole Grains – Americans eat too few whole grains and many Americans don’t eat any whole grains. In the nutrition class I teach the students are required to do a 24 hour diet recall, writing down everything they ate in a 24 hour period. The diets are full of Pop Tarts, fast food and few, if any, whole grain foods. MyPlate at Choosemyplate notes that half the grains you eat each day should be whole grains.
- Nuts/seeds – a handful of nuts and seeds each day is very healthy. Nuts do have fat, but a heart healthy fat. (See blog entry, How Healthy Are Nuts?, 9-15-2013)
- Seafood – eating more fish and seafood that is broiled or baked and not fried is also a healthy choice.
So what can you do to improve your diet and reduce your risks of many diseases? Modeling your diet after the Mediterranean Diet would be a good step to take. You can read more about the Mediterranean Diet at: Mediterranean Diet: A heart- healthy eating plan.
- Fruits/vegetables – every meal should have fruits and vegetables, people in Greece average 6 or more servings a day of fruits and vegetables.
- Whole grains – have grains at every meal, especially whole grains
- Nuts/beans – eat a handful of nuts every day and add beans to your diet
- Olive oil – replace saturated fats like butter with a heart healthy olive oil
- Red meat – limit to a few time a month
- Red wine – if your drink wine, do so in moderation
- Physical Activity – the diet also emphasizes being physically active.
Sources: Poor Diet is Leading Cause of Death, Environmental Nutrition, Vol. 36:10, October 2013.
Image Source: http://www.womensheart.org/images/Mediterranen_Pyramid.jpg