Many of us look forward to “cheat days” that allow us to indulge in burgers, pizza, cake and anything fried. One day can’t hurt, right? Cheat years, on the other hand, can.
According to a recent Tufts study, unhealthy diets are responsible for an estimated 318,000 American deaths per year. To put this in perspective, nearly half (45%) of cardiometabolic deaths caused by diabetes, heart disease, and stroke were associated with bad eating habits. High sodium was another common factor in a large percentage of those deaths.
Lead author of the study, Renata Micha stated, “Americans are overeating salt, processed meats, and sugary-sweetened beverages. This is especially true of men, younger adults, Blacks and Hispanics, and people with lower levels of education.” She identifies this as the “bad news” in the study, but says the “good news” is we know what foods we should be eating to prevent these diseases and fatalities.
Simply altering our diets could not only reduce the number of deaths caused by cardiometabolic diseases, but also prevent these diseases altogether. Instead of spending billions treating diseases, Micha believes it is more effective to focus on prevention methods. Americans spend an estimated $80 billion dollars per year on healthcare, and $27 billion of that is spent on prescription medication. Eating healthy foods can keep us out of the doctor’s office, which would significantly cut healthcare costs.
There are several strategies the government and individuals can use to promote healthy eating in America.
- Healthy food subsidies.
- Increased taxes on unhealthy foods.
- Incentivized or mandated product reformulation. (Reduced sodium and trans fats in processed foods.)
- Educate yourself on the foods that are good and bad for your diet.
- Avoid packaged or processed foods and sugary beverages.
- Stay hydrated; It’s common to mistake thirst for hunger.
- Eat more fresh foods: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains.
- Reduce your salt intake.
Swap out your healthcare bills and prescription pills for a healthy, well-balanced diet. “Eating healthy is key, and if we remember that simple fact, most of us can have healthier and better lives,” says Micha. Cutting back on the processed foods and salt is only half the battle; It’s important to substitute them for foods with real nutritional value to prevent life-changing diseases.
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