It’s not a perfect picture (and frankly isn’t close to one) but in general Americans are making diet and lifestyle changes for the better. “American diets are poor but improving,” shown in a recent study cited by the Huffington Post. In fact, the numbers show that improved diets in the U.S. have prevented 1.1 million premature deaths over a 14-year period. Don’t start patting yourselves on the back quite yet, America. Researchers are also quick to point out that the overall quality of the American diet remains poor. As The Political Paw print argued in their post, “Oh Aunt Voula, Maybe You Shouldn’t Be Eating Meat Either,” it seems Americans have been heading in the wrong direction with their diets. Nevertheless, some would argue the opposite.
To find out how “good” we’ve been, researchers analyzed trends in Americans’ diets, drawing data from a different study of about 34,000 U.S. adults, each surveyed twice between 1999 and 2012. Researchers then applied a scoring system to each diet that was survey, called the Alternate Healthy Eating Index 2010. This considers participants’ fruit, vegetable and whole grain intake, in addition to all the bad decisions…of sugar-sweetened beverages and processed meats.
How did we measure up in the study? The effect of changes in their diets over the time period was tracked by measuring the rates of premature deaths and disease from two separate studies that involved approximately 173,000 Americans. Results showed that the average healthy-eating score increased from 39.9 to 48.2 over the given period – the highest possible score was 110. Not surprisingly, reducing intake of trans-fat over the 14-year period accounted for about half of the improvement in people’s dietary scores. Noted by LiveScience, the results also “linked improvements in participants’ diets to a 13 percent reduction in type 2 diabetes cases, an almost 9 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease rates and an approximately 1 percent reduction in cancer cases.”
How can we continue this upward trend? First off, ditch the processed foods. And the sugar. You’ve probably heard those two rules time and time again, but if you’re motivated enough to make a difference, stick to those two above all others. I get it. The amount that is put out there today about health and fitness is overwhelming and tremendously contradictory. I’ll be the first say: if you follow every rule but out on health blogs, news articles, fitness magazines, you’ll find at least one “qualified” argument against every food out there and will be left with a slimming diet of water and air.
Maybe, as posted by Root & Aynapse in “Rebranding #UglyProduce,” we should do the environment and ourselves a favor by eating more produce, including the poor “ugly” ones not considered fit for supermarket shelves. Instead of reaching for the superficial shiny glazed doughnuts, reach for the oblong, two-colored tomato – you’ll reduce the nation’s waste and your waistline.