How Does Diet Impact Health?

(opinion article)

Trendy diets and nutrition research change almost daily. Still, amidst all the hype, study after study shows that good food choices have a positive impact on health, and poor diets have negative long-term effects. Know the facts:

  1. Americans whose dietary patterns include fresh, whole foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean meats, and fish have a lower incidence of major chronic disease and especially of diet-related diseases.
  2. Unfortunately, the standard American diet (S.A.D.) is heavy in saturated fats, partially-hydrogenated oils, refined carbohydrates, and highly processed foods.
  3. This diet, in combination with a sedentary lifestyle, large portion sizes, and high stress is blamed for the increase in obesity and associated diseases in the U.S. (according to the Center for Disease Control, over a third of the U.S. adult population is obese.). Diseases associated with obesity include type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, respiratory problems, and certain cancers, including breast cancer in women.

Did you know?

All the publicity around low-fat diets in our culture leads many of us to assume that eating any fat is bad, but our bodies require some fat to be healthy.  Enjoy beneficial fats. Get the majority of your fats from plants and fish, and minimize saturated animal fats.

Eating too much or too little

Eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia (binge eating and purging), and binge-eating disorder, are also on the rise. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, in the United States alone, 20 million women and 10 million men have suffered from an eating disorder at some time in their lives. These disorders are significant threats to health and are often chronic.

The average age of sufferers is plummeting, claiming control of children as young as elementary school. Peak eating disorder onset among girls occurs between ages 11 and 13. Eating disorders are also appearing more frequently among men and middle-aged women.

Nourishing ourselves

The increase in both eating disorders and obesity dramatically demonstrates that diet is not just about giving your body sustenance. Learn to eat mindfully. Nourishing yourself engages every aspect of your being—physical, social, emotional, mental. When any of these aspects are unbalanced, eating behaviors can suffer.

Nutrition involves our relationships with family, friends, community, the environment, and the world. We need to make decisions about what and how we eat that foster not only our health and wellbeing but the health of those around us and of our planet and environment.

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