Healthy Diet Could Prevent 1 in 5 Deaths

As a rapidly growing older population faces aging with a host of chronic health problems including obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, researchers work at a rapid pace to find interventions that can improve the health and lower the cost of caring for the impending silver tsunami of aging Baby Boomers. 

What studies continue to find is that diet, and using food as medicine, may be the most under-utilized treatment for chronic disease and premature death.   According to a recent CBC News report, a study published last week in The Lancet found that eating a diet rich in fresh fruits, nuts, whole grains and vegetables could prevent one out of five deaths.  In fact, researchers found that globally, 11 million deaths in 2017 could have been prevented if patients ate a healthy diet, reducing their salt intake and boosting consumption of whole grains and fruits. 

Seems simple enough; eat a healthy diet, limit fat and salt and stay away from processed foods.  But for low income families, the rising cost of fresh fruits and vegetables, a lack of access to fresh food choices and insufficient education all contribute to poor nutrition.  Unhealthy fast foods are inexpensive and convenient and without good education and healthy choices at workplaces, community centers or schools, it can be an uphill battle to maintain the recommended diet.  Residents of northern communities may be even harder pressed to afford the luxury of fresh fruit or vegetables that are priced beyond the average wage earner’s or pensioner’s means. 

Looking at food guides around the world, the message is similar but Sweden’s simple, to-the-point guide offers this clear advice:

  • MORE:  Vegetables, fruit and berries, fish and shellfish, nuts and seeds, exercise
  • SWITCH TO:  Wholegrain, healthy fats, low-fat dairy products
  • LESS:  Red and processed meat, salt, sugar, alcohol

Source: National Food Agency/UN Food and Agriculture Organization

For people on a tight budget or living in remote areas, flash-frozen vegetables can provide good nutrition and are perfect for soups, stews and casseroles.  Fresh produce quickly loses its nutrient value; try to use what you buy within a few days.  According to researchers at University of California – Davis, fresh carrots can lose up to 80 percent of their vitamin C after a week of refrigerated storage and thawing or cooking causes frozen vegetables to lose nutrients, so eat them straight away. 

Learn more about eating healthy on a budget by following this link to the National Institute on Aging.