Eat Right, Live Longer

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Provided by Novant Health UVA Health System

Diet is now ranked as leading cause of death in the United States, ahead of tobacco use and high blood pressure.

We’ve all been told about the benefits of a healthy diet. What is generally less well-known is just how risky poor nutrition can be.

Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in the United States ahead of tobacco use and high blood pressure year are:

  • Cardiovascular diseases, including coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and stroke
  • Obesity, and by extension diabetes, increased cancer risk and joint pain, to name just a few
  • Cognitive decline, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Increased cancer risk

“These are some of the most common causes of illness and death in the country and minority communities are disproportionately affected,” said Lira. “In our practice, nearly every patient suffers from at least one of these conditions.”

Research has shown diet also plays a role in other common conditions including lung disease, depression, anxiety, autoimmune diseases and autoinflammatory conditions.

Eat This, Not That

Lira says there are six major offenders that pose the greatest dietary risks. Below, she offers some switches you can make to improve your diet and eating habits:

  • Processed foods – Be aware that chips, crackers, packaged meats, TV dinners and soups tend to be high in salt (sodium), trans and saturated fats, and. sodium
  • Added sugar – This comes in soda, juice, desserts, cookies, snack cakes, candy, coffee syrups and sweetened creamers, and some breads. You can satisfy your nighttime sweet tooth with some
    berries with a small amount of whipped cream.
  • Far too little plant-based food – Many people struggle to eat the recommended daily amount of
    fruits and vegetables. Keep cut veggies handy for a quick snack or lunch box addition. Turn an omelet or other eggs into a meal by stirring in a mixture of veggies, such as carrots, peppers, onions, mushrooms, or spinach and some low-fat cheddar cheese.
  • Unbalanced meals – Each plate of food we eat should be made up of vegetables and then some of each food group including protein and healthy carbohydrates, such as whole grains.
  • Too little fiber – We all need more fiber in our diet from sources like beans, peas, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Fiber aids digestion, helps you feel fuller longer and can help with blood sugar and cholesterol control.
  • Skipping meals and excessive snacking – The body needs a ready supply of energy spaced consistently throughout the day. Try to modify your food intake by eating on a regular schedule. Plan your meals and snacks.

“Almost all of the conditions we deal with on a daily basis, no matter what their causes, can be improved by a diet rich in plants, increased physical activity and smoking cessation,” said Lira.

For more information on weight-loss services at Novant Health UVA Health System, visit


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