By Karen Trom from the September 2011 Edition
Change your CHOICES, Change your LIFE
I received a few e-mails after last month’s article from readers asking why they should be concerned about what they eat as we are all going to die anyway. Yes, we are all going to die, but how you treat your body now will greatly affect your quality of life until then. I want to be active and energetic until one day my heart just slowly stops and I peacefully slip away. I know, many other things can happen but I am trying to stack the deck!
The Standard American Diet (SAD is the perfect acronym) is high in fats, sugar, sodium, and processed foods. This also applies to the Canadian diet so it is no surprise that the top two causes of death in these countries are heart disease and cancer. While genetics and environment can be a factor, it is our unhealthy diet and lack of exercise that are the main causes.
Research has shown that most of the contributors to heart disease (High blood pressure, high cholesterol, blood clots, and blockage) can be prevented by watching what you eat and getting regular aerobic exercise. Most health experts believe that as much as 50-60% of cancers are due to poor diet and another one-third of cancers are caused by tobacco (cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and pipes). Every year, about 1.3 to 1.4 million people in the US and Canada are diagnosed with cancer.
Think about that for a moment. That means that if everyone ate well and stopped using tobacco, about 1 million of these cancers never would occur. That’s how much power we all have over our own health!
This does not mean that what you do or don’t eat is directly related to your cancer risk. Cancer is such a complicated disease that we can never know for sure what may have caused cancer to occur in anyone person. But these numbers still are useful. They help us to realize that you do have power over your health. Eating well is not a guarantee that you won’t get cancer or heart disease, but it sure will put the odds in your favor!
There are no downsides to eating healthfully. And fortunately, the diet that best reduces cancer risk also helps fight heart disease, diabetes, stroke, hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease, and most of the other diseases that plague our modern society. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by making smart nutrition choices.
What about Mexico? The top causes of death in Mexico used to be infectious diseases, traumatic injuries, and hunger. In the past decade, these have been replaced by diabetes, heart disease and liver/kidney failure. Normally considered a rich countries’ disease, diabetes is growing fastest in poor countries, often in tandem with obesity – a rising problem in developing countries and especially in junk food-obsessed Mexico.
While it is encouraging that deaths from infectious diseases have greatly diminished, diseases that are linked to unhealthy lifestyles are reaching epidemic proportions. Mexico is now the second fattest country in the world and might take that dubious honor away from the United States within the next ten years if current trends continue. A sedentary lifestyle combined with poor nutrition has taken hold in Mexico and will continue if not addressed quickly. Rather than the fresh fruits, juices, and vegetables that used to be standard, a trip to OXXO or Kiosko for soda, chips, and cookies is the norm. (this way of eating is also adding to the litter problem, but that’s a topic for another day).
Tortillas have never been classified as a health food, but as part of a diet filled with homegrown meat and produce, body weight and obesity were never a problem in Mexico until the past decade.
While we can’t change society as a whole, we can look at ourselves and our choices. I hope that if enough people say no to junk food and empty calories, teach our children and grandchildren that healthy food is good food and encourage them to get some exercise we can start turning the tide for future generations. As for you?
Well, it’s never too late to make changes, no matter what your age!
Next month I’ll take a look through the grocery aisles and pick out the Always, Sometimes, and Never eat items to help make your shopping trip easier and more nutritious.
Your feedback, questions, and comment are welcomed! E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org