By Dr. Lauri Beyerly
Contributor, Sports & Fitness Network
We are surrounded by delicious foods. It smells great! It looks enticing. It tastes great! Ads and marketing campaigns make food appealing. It is hard to resist.
But what should I eat? Can this affect my health? The answer is simple, “Yes, what you eat does affect you.” There are hints everywhere to show us that. For example….
- We have an abundance of food in this country. Food portion sizes have increased over the last few decades. Take the portion-distortion quiz: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/wecan/portion/index.htm. What did you find? An increase in portion size is one of the contributors to the obesity epidemic. According to the CDC, approximately 1 out of every 3 adults is obese while 2 out every 3 adults is overweight (1). Obesity is caused by an imbalance in calories in and the calories we expend. We’re eating too many energy dense foods that are nutrient poor. Despite over consuming calories, our diet is poor in other nutrients, such as folic acid and vitamin D.
- In 1998, folate fortification started. The FDA required its addition to enriched breads, cereals, flours, cornmeals, pastas, rice, and other grain products (2). Low intakes of folic acid were linked to major defects of the baby’s brain and spinal (3). Vegetables (especially dark green leafy vegetables), fruits and fruit juices, nuts, beans, peas, dairy products, poultry and meat, eggs, seafood, and grains are good sources of folic acid. Most of these foods are nutrient rich and are not energy dense.
- Rickets, a deficiency in vitamin D that causes the softening and weakening of the bones in children, has been clinically diagnosed in a number of children in the last decade (4). The CDC no longer monitors for rickets believing it had been eradicated. Now with our nutrient-poor diets is has reappeared.
The average person’s life expectancy is around 78 years. If we eat 3 meals a day and don’t count the first 5 years of life, we will consume approximately 82,000 meals in our life. Wow! That is a lot! Why should I worry? I have lots of opportunity to impact my health. Yet, we need to start a healthy diet before we consume most of these meals. The effect of a poor diet takes many years to show an effect. Signs of malnutrition do not happen overnight. For example, the obese person does not instantly become obese after one meal. It takes time for the noticeable increase in adipose tissue. The positive benefits of eating healthy also take time. You shouldn’t wait until you have consumed most of your meals.
How can you assess the quality of your current diet? Where do you start to make changes? A great resource is the Super Tracker: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/supertracker-tools/supertracker.html. Give it a try! Have fun! See how healthy your diet is.
Remember…You are what you eat. Nutrition matters.