Poor Diet Linked to Early Death

food labels, sports drinks, serving size, calories, added sugarWhen you’re planning meals, grocery shopping or perusing a restaurant menu, are you wondering which foods might help you live longer?

It’s not such a far-fetched question when you consider the results of a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. About half of all U.S. deaths from heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes are linked to eating a poor diet. That’s roughly 1,000 deaths every day.

Consuming too much salt, red meat or processed meats and sugary drinks made the top three foods/beverages to avoid. They appeared to contribute the most to the risk of early death.

Yet, not eating enough of other types of food also came with significant risk. Eating too few nuts, seeds, seafood, whole grains, fruits and vegetables – all the things health professionals tell us we need to eat – raised the risk as well.

Here’s the good news in all this research: if you switch to eating a healthy diet, you may cut your risk by nearly 50 percent.

At Bon Secours In Motion, Registered Dietitian Kari A. Drescher, MA, RD, has seen the difference a healthy diet can make. Patients that come to her for nutrition counseling learn how to choose the right foods in the right portion. “I’ve seen people put diabetes in remission,” Drescher said.

 Are we hungry yet?

At In Motion, Drescher teaches her patients how to use meal timing, meal composition, and portion sizes to their advantage. It’s important to eat within one to two hours of waking up and then every three to four hours. “You want to wait at least three hours between meals but no more than five hours,” she said. “You want to feel that hunger cue.”

People who eat out of boredom or emotion often overeat or eat too soon. Then, there are those who go so long without eating that they end up inhaling their next meal with no thought to portion sizes or food choices. It’s also important to stop eating about two hours before you go to bed.

Foods you should eat.

It’s no surprise to Drescher that foods like nuts and seeds made the study’s list of things to include in your diet. Both have mono and poly-unsaturated fats, which help lower your body’s LDL (bad) cholesterol while raising its HDL (good) cholesterol. “When HDL is high, it removes the junk from your arteries.”

Drescher and other Registered Dietitians at Bon Secours In Motion use the plate method to help people make healthy food choices. One-fourth of a 9-inch plate is for carbs, another fourth is for protein and one-half of the plate is for vegetables. Patients learn how to balance protein and carbohydrates – macronutrients that fuel our brain, heart and other organs.

Exercise still plays a role.

Although the recent research on diet didn’t focus on exercise, another significant study last year found that exercise can cut the risk of 13 different types of cancer. At In Motion, patients learn about the important of exercise and strategies to make time for physical activity.

“It’s not just what you eat that counts,” Drescher said.  “You need to move,” Drescher said. “You need to make exercising part of your lifestyle, just like you make brushing your teeth and taking a shower a part of your day.”

+ Learn more about nutrition counseling at Bon Secours In Motion.