04/16/2018 A Healthier Lifestyle- Where to Start?

Debi Bernish, Food and Nutrition Expert

A Healthier Lifestyle- Where to Start?

How do you live a healthy life? This is a common question that leads to many different conversations and conclusions. Everyone seems to have an opinion on what a healthy lifestyle means. We live in a society that hypes the best exercise and the newest diet. Despite this, Americans seem to be getting sicker and much larger. More than 25 million people have IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)¹,  over 30 million adults have diabetes² and the number of people struggling with obesity is now at 78 million³. These serious health conditions are characterized by chronic inflammation. While we have more health information available to us than ever before, we don’t seem to be utilizing it to become healthier.

Information about how different foods impact our body is coming from many more sources compared to few years ago. Gut health and probiotics are words we hear often.  We are flooded with numerous TV ads, internet success stories and the promise of life changing programs via infomercials. More now than ever, living a healthy lifestyle requires a holistic understanding of health and wellness to separate fact from fiction and make better choices for our wellbeing.

Eating trends come and go

In healthy eating trends, it seems that every day something new pops up, contradicting or at least challenging the previous mindset. In the last half century, we’ve experienced conflicting information about many foods including the following:

  • fats are terrible, now fats are our friend
  • whole grains are great, now ancient grains are better
  • all vegetable oils are good, now use olive and coconut oil
  • animal meat and protein are good for you, now eat plant based protein only
  • everything in moderation, now elimination diets

The list goes on and on and we wonder why people are confused?

Excess sugar

A big threat to good nutrition is sugar and highly processed carbohydrates4. Even though they are low in nutritional benefits, they are very prevalent in the American diet. Shelf stable processed foods made of highly refined carbohydrates have taken over most of the space where people shop, making it very difficult for people to make healthy choices.

Sugar is found in many foods and even if you scan the nutritional label looking for it, you may still be baffled. Sugar has several different names. Some packaged products contain five or more kinds of sugar, but unless you know all the chemical names, you may be unaware of the total amount of sugars. Consuming large amounts of sugar and very high glycemic carbohydrates on a regular basis will increase insulin levels in the blood. This produces strong blood sugar fluctuations in the body. These blood sugar fluctuations lead to chronic inflammation5, a condition that has the potential to result in a wide number of serious diseases that only a few decades ago were very rare.  

In the US we have gone from about 5 lbs. of sugar per capita (inhabitant) per year in the early 1800’s, to over 100 lbs. today, according to the CDC6. If you compound that with all the other highly refined carbohydrates that turn into sugar very rapidly in your body and the natural “addiction” that sugar produces7, you have the perfect setting for a health epidemic. That epidemic would be seen in the form of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and an ever-growing number of auto-immune diseases.

There is hope, with proper education, along with self-discipline and common sense, to cut down on sugars, sugary foods and drinks. In our next post in this series, we will take a look at how to cut down on sugars in our American diets. 

About the author:

Debi Bernish is a self-described “good carb ninja”, has a a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Food science and is passionate about helping people make smarter eating choices for a healthier life. She will be a regular guest contributor to Supplementally Speaking, sharing nutrition insights and delicious recipes.

 

References:
1 About Us. (n.d.). Retrieved April 11, 2018, from aboutibs.org/facts-about-ibs.
2 Statistics About Diabetes. (n.d.). Retrieved April 11, 2018, from diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/?loc=superfooter.
3 Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2017, November 13). Retrieved April 11, 2018, from cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/aag/dnpao.htm.
4 Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). The sweet danger of sugar. Retrieved April 11, 2018, from health.harvard.edu/heart-health/the-sweet-danger-of-sugar.
5  Role of “Western Diet” in Inflammatory Autoimmune Diseases
Arndt Manzel, Dominik N. Muller, David A. Hafler, Susan E. Erdman, Ralf A. Linker, and Markus Kleinewietfeld.

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