Health/Wellness

A Fresh Start to a Healthy New Year!

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As we enter this time of New Year Resolutions, number one on our list should be what we owe to ourselves—good health!! Most of us don’t realize that the foods we eat, to a very large extent, have the power to prevent and reverse disease.   Did you know that heart disease (the #1 killer in the US), type 2 Diabetes and many forms of cancer can be prevented by using food as medicine?  Additionally, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, allergies, and many autoimmune diseases (i.e. Rheumatoid Arthritis and Multiple Sclerosis) are directly tied to an unhealthy dietary lifestyle.

The “Standard American Diet” is often referred to as SAD because the sad reality is that this diet has ravaged the health of Americans.  Moreover, the Standard American Diet is the core of the obesity/overweight epidemic that is plaguing our country. This diet also referred to as the Western diet or “meat-sweet” diet is characterized by high intakes of red meat, sugary desserts, high fat foods and refined grains.  Sadly, the Standard American Diet consists of 63% refined and processed food (e.g. soft drinks, packaged snacks and desserts), 25% animal-based products (e.g. meat, fish, chicken, dairy products and eggs), and 12% plant-based (up to 6% of this total is derived from potatoes or french fries). Only a paltry 6% of our diet is made up of health promoting fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

The SAD state of our health is that 70% of Americans are overweight or obese, 70 million Americans have high blood pressure and 100 million Americans have diabetes and the prevalence of cancer is rising. Additionally, childhood obesity has doubled for children and quadrupled for adolescents in the past 30 years and these youth are more likely to have cardiovascular risk factors such as elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

What is the solution to a longer, healthier life? The answer is a whole food, plant-based diet!  Adopting a whole food, plant-based diet is the first step to seizing control of your health through the power of food choices. Each bite that we consume during the course of a day is either one step toward health, or one step toward disease.  A plant-based diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds and excludes animal products, and by-products including dairy and eggs.  This diet also excludes or minimizes highly refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar and oil.  In essence, a whole food, plant-based diet maximizes the intake of whole, plant-foods and minimizes the intake of processed and animal-derived foods.

Now that you know the facts behind “why” you should switch to a whole food, plant-based diet, it is time to learn “how” to transition to a plant-based diet.  Here are a few simple steps toward your journey to a happy, healthier life.

  1. Evaluate.  What does your diet look like now? The first step is to assess where you are right now.  Take the 4Leaf Survey (www.4LeafSurvey.com) to help you identify where you are on your journey to a whole food, plant-based diet.
  2. Adapt. The best way to incorporate a plant-based diet into your daily routine is to become educated and knowledgeable about this new dietary lifestyle. Some helpful resources are:  www.plantricianproject.org , www.nutritionfacts.org, and the documentary Forks over Knives.
  3. Implement a plan. Make plant foods the rule and processed, packaged and animal-based foods the exception to the rule. Aim to fill one half of your plate with vegetables and fruits and the other half with starchy vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Plan your daily meals according to the pyramid below.
  4. Set Goals. Use the Standard American Diet as one end of the spectrum, and a whole food, plant-based diet as the other end. Each week, set a new goal to help you move along the spectrum toward more plant-based foods. Focus on progress and what you are adding to your diet, rather than what you are giving up.

belinda's pyramid

 

In conclusion, today is the first day of the rest of your life! The good news is that embracing a whole food, plant-based diet can help prevent and even reverse some of the top killer diseases, despite years of eating the Standard American Diet (SAD).  Adopting this dietary lifestyle can be more effective than medication and surgery. Make today count; choose health with each bite you take in 2017!

 

 

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