Death by [Poor] Diet

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A new study in The Lancet has found that a poor diet is more deadly than tobacco. Unhealthy eating now accounts for 11 million deaths worldwide, (compared with 8 million tobacco deaths) mostly as a result of heart disease, followed by cancers and Type 2 diabetes.

The study found that these deaths were associated with diets low in whole grains, fruits, nuts, seeds and omega-3 fatty acids

and high in red andprocessed meat, sugar-sweetened drinks, and other unhealthy foods including those containing trans-fatty acids. These findings once again drive home the importance of nutrition and its impact on health – simply put, we are what we eat.

To keep your diet on the healthy eating track, aim to include the following:

  • Fruit and vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli and brussels sprouts, berries and bananas.
  • Whole grains such as wholemeal bread, flour and pasta, brown rice and oats.
  • Beans and pulses such as chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, black-eye beans. Also, products made from these like tofu and houmous.
  • Nuts and seeds such as peanuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans, Brazil nuts and macadamia nuts.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish like salmon, trout and mackerel. Suitable sources for vegetarians and vegans include flaxseed, chia seeds, edamame or an algae-based supplement providing DHA and EPA.

You will notice that most of the foods in the advice above are plant-based. Of recent, one message that continues to come across the nutrition news waves is the need to embrace a more plant-based diet not just for health benefits but also to address sustainability issues.

Small changes such as replacing all or part animal protein with plant protein can make a big difference to personal health as well as the environment. This can be as simple as using a 50:50 mix of lean minced meat and kidney beans in your favourite lasagne recipe instead of minced meat alone.

On a personal note, I watch my intake of red and processed meat and opt for one or two meat-free meals a week. I also look for ways to incorporate extra vegetables into any meals I prepare and consciously choose to follow the ‘all things in moderation’ message that registered dietitians like myself give and advocate.

What one thing do you think you could start doing today to make or keep your diet healthy? Leave a comment below.

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