There’s an old saying: “You are what you eat.” While this may not be exactly true, doctors want us to know that what we eat does affect our health. In fact, in a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association experts identified 10 food habits linked to causing early death.
According to study results, an estimated 45 percent of all deaths caused by heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes are tied to these 10 common food habits. Sometimes it may be a matter of eating too much of a certain thing or not enough of another.
Which of these 10 habits can you identify in your daily diet? What do the experts recommend? Let’s break down the results to get some answers.
Food Habit #1: Too Much Salt
Yes, it makes food taste delicious, but too much salt leads to health problems. The JAMA study found salt to be the “leading diet-related factor” linked to death. Too much salt led to approximately 9.5 percent of all diet-related deaths. The most at-risk population: senior citizens. So, use the salt sparingly when seasoning your food.
Food Habit #2: Not Enough Fruits
Nutritionists and doctors recommend at least two servings of fruit daily, based on your age. For most people, a serving equals one piece of fruit or a one-cup equivalent. However, most people do not get the proper amount of fruit in their daily diet. The JAMA study revealed about 7.5 percent of diet-related deaths happen as result of too little fruit in our meal plan. Improving our fruit intake can be as easy as substituting a snack or dessert choice with a piece of fresh fruit.
Food Habit #3: Not Enough Vegetables
Not to sound like a broken record, but vegetables are also a necessity in our diets. Experts say we should eat at least three or four servings of vegetables each day. This should be a combination of vegetables, including leafy (such as spinach), starchy (potato, corn), orange (carrots), legumes (beans) and others such as broccoli and peppers. Doctors in the JAMA study reported about 7.6 percent of diet-related deaths occurred because we don’t eat enough vegetables.
Food Habit #4: Not Enough Seeds And Nuts
Nuts and seeds offer a powerful punch of protein for our diets. Yet, doctors warn we are not taking advantage of the health benefits they provide. Healthy food guidelines suggest eating about 5.5 ounces of protein-rich foods, including walnuts. About 8.5 percent of diet-related deaths are associated with not eating enough protein from nuts and seeds.
Food Habit #5: Not Enough Whole Grains/Too Many Refined Grains
Grains can get confusing in a food plan. Which ones are good? Bad? Nutritionists recommend whole grains, such as oats, brown rice and quinoa, as part of a healthy diet. Overall, people eat too much refined grain, such as white bread, white rice and semolina pasta. The combination of too many refined grains and too few whole grains led to about 5.5 percent of all diet-related deaths.
Food Habit #6: Not Enough Seafood
Many people believe foods containing fat are unhealthy. Actually, foods with omega-3 fats, such as seafood, help improve heart and brain function. So, you don’t need to stay away from seafood. In fact, the JAMA study found that about 7.8 percent of diet-related deaths happened because we aren’t consuming enough seafood. In other words, make eating more seafood one of your new healthy food habits.
Food Habit #7: Not Replacing Solid Fats With Better Options
As stated above, not all fats are the same. This is especially true when it comes to the fats we cook our food with each day. Doctors warn that cooking with solid fats, such as butter, contributes to heart disease. Approximately 2.3 percent of all diet-related deaths were linked to using solid fats in cooking. Think about using olive oil or canola oil as a healthy substitute.
Food Habit #8: Too Much Red Meat
Carnivores beware. While red meat isn’t always a bad choice, how much we eat of it can be a problem for our bodies. When getting our recommended 5.5 ounces of protein servings each day, don’t depend too much on red meat. Doctors from the JAMA study found 4.2 percent of diabetes-related deaths could be tied to this unhealthy food habit.
Food Habit #9: Too Much Processed Meat
Bacon… oh, how we love it. But, processed meats such as bacon, hot dogs and certain deli meats, while delicious, can be too much of a good thing. Eating too much processed meat boosts the chance for heart disease and complications from diabetes. About 8.2 percent of all diet-related deaths are from eating too much processed meat.
Food Habit #10: Too Many Sugary Drinks
Doctors have been warning of the health risks of soda and other sugary drinks for quite some time. Not only do they contain empty calories that can lead to weight gain, but they can increase the risk of diabetes and related problems. The good news is Americans seem to be getting the message about sugary drinks. For the first time, consumers are drinking more bottled water than soda. That’s a good thing, considering 7.4 percent of all premature deaths due to diet were connected with these drinks. People ages 25 to 64 had the highest risk of early death from too much soda and other sugar-filled drinks.