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…As a result of this fast food, processed diet includes obesity, vitamin and mineral deficiencies and high levels of inflammation and inflammatory diseases.
– Rachel Ezelius

Five Things You Can Do Today To Be a Healthier You

by Rachel Ezelius

TV Dinner circa 1953

We live in a convenience and fast food society to match our fast pace and busy life. Swanson introduced the first TV dinner in 1953. Since then food preparation has only ‘improved’ in speed with things like pre-cooked chicken strips, 5-minute microwavable vegetable bags, and 1-minute rice. The latest statistics have found two-thirds of Americans are overweight, and half of those are obese. By 2030, it is predicted that 86% of Americans will be overweight or obese. Other findings found 9 out of 10 Americans don’t eat sufficient amounts of daily vegetables and fruits. These plant-based foods are complex carbohydrates made of protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber and are rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory vitamins, and other nutrients. Unfortunately, a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that two-thirds of the carbohydrates consumed by American adults come from bread, soft drinks, refined cereal, pasta, cooked grains and desserts instead of vegetables and fruits. The consequences Americans are facing as a result of this fast food, processed diet includes obesity, vitamin and mineral deficiencies and high levels of inflammation and inflammatory diseases. For example, in 2009, research was published that 3 out of every 4 Americans did not have adequate levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D insufficiencies and deficiencies significantly increase the risk of osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, muscle wasting, and depression. Convenience and fast foods contain too many of the nutrients that promote inflammation. In fact, inflammation is widely regarded as a common factor in all disease processes. Bottom line: foods that we eat have a significant effect on our health, weight and inflammation. Here are five ideas to improve your health, lower your weight and reduce your inflammation.

Idea #1 Eat Mostly Fresh, Whole Foods.

Fresh, whole foods means it looks something like the way it did in nature and has not been overly processed by human beings. For example, fill your plate with chicken, not chicken nuggets, apples not apple juice and vegetables, not a vegetable pot pie. It also means dutifully reading the ingredients on food labels of anything coming out of a box, can, jar, bottle or bag that these too are fresh and whole foods.

Idea #2 Eat a lot of High-Fiber, Nonstarchy Vegetables, and Fruits.

Vegetables and fruits are a powerful source of antioxidants. Aim for diversity in the produce and eat 5 to 10 servings (1/2 cup cooked, 1 cup raw or 1 cups leafy) a day. Eating more vegetables and fruits fill you up, so you look to eat less of the processed foods.

Idea #3 Drink Water.

Many people find it difficult to drink the recommended amount of water needed, accusing water of being boring and tasteless. There are many ways to give water and interesting and tasty twist. Consider adding lemon, lime or cucumber. Herbal teas also help meet water needs and have substantial amounts of antioxidants.

Idea #4 Eat Fish and Free-Range Lean Meat.

Fish have the omega-3 fatty acids, specifically EPA and DHA, which have been proven to be anti-inflammatory. Free- range (or grass feed) lean meats also are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Unfortunately, animal sources grain feed are high in omega-6 fatty acid. Omega-6 fatty acid, when consumed in high doses, has also shown to be highly inflammatory.

Idea # 5 Limit Sugars, Sugary Foods, and Refined Grains.

Let’s be frank. Sugar is empty calories, devoid of any necessary nutrition and depletes other levels of nutrients in the body. The consumption of sugar and sugary foods increases inflammation and makes us fat. Refined grains are much like sugar, providing mostly empty calories since most of the nutrients have been removed during the processing, refining, and bleaching.

Bonus Idea: Try a Superfood.

Super foods are a class of the most potent, nutrient-packed and anti-inflammatory foods you can find. A short list of ideas is things like acai berries, goji berries, seaweed, cacao, hemp seeds, maca powder, spirulina or chia seeds. Chia seeds, for example, contain healthy omega-3 fats, packed with proteins, antioxidants, soluble fibers, and tons of healthy vitamins and minerals. Chia also can be used as a thickening agent so adding it to oatmeal or smoothies make you feel full and it is an excellent replacement for things like yogurt.

Better-Than-Yogurt Chia Pudding

(yields 2 cups)
1-1/2 cups almond milk
1/2 cup chia seeds
1-1/2 TB agave nectar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch sea salt
Directions: In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients. Let sit and soak at room temperature for 20 minutes, or cover and refrigerate overnight.
Serving Per Recipe 1: Nutrition Facts per serving.
Calories 180, Fat 13gr; Protein 4gr; Carb 10gr; Fiber 5gr

About the Author…

Raechel Ezelius

Rachel Ezelius is a Dietitian registered with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and certified by New York State. Her “Eat Smart” program, available exclusively at Fitness Incentive, has been honored as the Best of Long Island 4 times, 2013 – 2016. Click here to learn more about Eat Smart.

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