Latest headlines: diet choices are top risk factors

Latest headlines: diet choices are top risk factors

Did you hear the news last week? It was major news, but not from our nation’s capital, or Wall Street, or our State Capitol, not even from Hollywood.  But it was on all the major networks and social media sites.  This news was too important to miss; it impacts all of us.
Smoking is no longer the number one risk condition for disease and death.  Now our dietary choices are the number one reason for death and disease, specifically heart disease, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes. What a scary and sobering wake-up call.
The report warned that we not only eat too much of what’s bad for us but we also don’t eat enough of what’s good for us.  Think of it as a warning of a great tsunami that’s about to drown us all from coast to coast.  There’s high ground but time’s running out.  So, while the politicians are trying to figure out health care it’s time for each of us to address our own health care plan.  And by following it we’ll incur less health care costs, have fewer insurance claims, cut down on doctor visits and hospital stays, be healthier, need less medicine, be more productive, save time and money and live longer!  Seriously.
The recommendations were:  Eat more nuts and seeds, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy vegetable oils, fish and seafood.  Cut down on red meats, processed meats, trans fats, and salt.
Now let’s do it: start your new health plan with a small handful (about 12 – 15 pieces) of tree nuts every day, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds or pecans…unsalted.  Just remember that a little is good, more is too much.  In a few days, add a piece of fruit to your daily intake…an apple, a pear, an orange, some grapes, your choice but consider this before you start complaining, an apple is cheaper than a candy bar and a bag of almonds cost less than a prescription.  Eating healthy does not cost any more than eating poorly, maybe even less in the long run.
Now add a vegetable every day.  Your choice again.  Consider that a head of lettuce costs less than a bag of chips.  A bunch of greens is cheaper than a box of snack crackers and a sweet potato is cheaper than an order of French fries.  Put lettuce and tomato on your sandwich instead of bacon!
Okay, next make the change to whole grains. Because whole grain bread and cereals have more fiber they fill you up so you don’t have to eat or buy as much; portion control pays off in saving dollars as well as calories.
Next go meatless a couple of days every week, substitute with a pot of beans or peas.  A bag of pinto beans with all its protein and fiber, doesn’t even come close to the cost of just one pound of beef, pork or processed meats. (Have you seen the price of bacon lately?)  You’ll also save by eating more chicken, turkey, fish and fewer as well as smaller servings (3 ounces twice a week) of red meats.  Reduced risk of heart disease, obesity and colon cancer is the pay off.
Sugar sweetened beverages are also on the list of poor diet choices.  Major bad choice.  There’s nothing nutritious about a cola.  Eat your apple instead of having that afternoon cola and have a refreshing cup of water.  Cheaper and keeps your blood sugar down too.
Salt is also blamed in this warning.  Take the salt shaker off the table, learn to like the taste of fresh food.   If you’ll take the above steps you’ll be eating more fresh foods, fewer packaged snacks and less processed meats making a huge difference in your salt intake.  Total salt intake needs to be less than 1 teaspoon per day.
So there you have it. While Washington works away at solving health care, we can already be doing something about our own.  Practice optimal nutrition and you’ll cut your risk of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer in half.  That’s the news.  We can do this. We can be healthier.  Mississippians could lead the way back to good health!  Can’t you just see the headlines!

Recipe of the Week

Kale Salad with Fresh Strawberries and Toasted Almonds
Look at this…a vegetable, fruit and nuts in the same recipe! Fits perfectly in our health plan!

1 large bunch kale leaves (9 cups bite-sized pieces)
Juice of 1 medium orange, divided
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 teaspoons honey
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup sliced strawberries (blueberries, blackberries or raspberries)
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup slivered almonds or pine nuts, toasted
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese, if desired
Remove and discard center ribs and stems from kale leaves. Tear kale leaves into bite-sized pieces.  Combine kale, half of orange juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt in a large bowl. Gently squeeze kale by scrunching small amounts with clean hands; release and repeat to soften, deepen in color and intensify fragrance. Make the dressing:  Whisk remaining orange juice, orange zest, honey and pepper in a small bowl. Gradually whisk remaining ¼ cup olive oil into the juice mixture to combine well. Pour the dressing over kale. Add strawberries, raisins, and toasted almonds; toss gently.  Allow to marinate 15 to 20 minutes before serving. If desired, top with feta cheese. Serves 6.

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