If you’re a regular visitor to this site, you generally know what you should be eating. Our team of doctors recommends eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and whole grains. We also recommend some low-fat dairy, and this is pretty much in line with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommendations, too.
When it comes to nutrition, there is very little gray area in what separates a healthy diet from an unhealthy diet.
What Americans Are Bringing to the Checkouts
But it’s clear that very few Americans actually follow this advice. How do I know? Because I wake up every day, walk down the street to go shopping, and find myself in the public arena. I see countless people who are overweight or obese. I see jam-packed fast food restaurants and I see people lining up at the checkout counter of the grocery store with frozen pizzas, chips, donuts, pastries, sauces spiked with sugar, and soda.
I do see people with fruits and vegetables and other healthy selections, but they are few and far between.
Look, there is little question anymore about how important your diet is to your health. It can be the determining factor in your weight and risk for diseases like:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Chronic inflammation
- Stroke, and certain cancers.
It can also be what keeps you healthy and allows you to age gracefully without putting you at risk for the conditions mentioned above. In fact, a healthy diet featuring fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and lean protein has been repeatedly proven to offer health benefits.
Making Poor Food Choices Can Kill You
But although people acknowledge they could eat better, they don’t—and here’s proof: the latest statistics on what Americans are eating show that the majority of calories are coming from the unhealthy sources that contribute to illness, disease, and death.
Here are the top 10 sources of calories in the American diet:
- Grain-based desserts (things like cakes, cupcakes, cookies, donuts, pies, crisps, cobblers, granola bars)
- Yeast breads
- Chicken and chicken-mixed dishes
- Soda, energy drinks, sports drinks
- Alcoholic beverages
- Pasta and pasta dishes
- Mexican-mixed dishes
- Beef and beef-mixed dishes
- Dairy desserts (ice cream, ice cream bars, frozen yogurt, gelato)
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That’s a top-10 list you definitely don’t want to be a part of. Some of them can be healthy—chicken, beef, Mexican, and dairy included—depending on how they’re prepared. But for the most part, the majority of this list is pretty scary. There are no vegetables, fruits, or healthy fats present, and the impact of this is illustrated by the current obesity and diabetes epidemics.
The Top-10 List to Follow
If you want to go against the grain and be pledge to actually eat right, care about your body, and heavily reduce your risk for future disease, here’s a top-10 list to get behind:
- Leafy, green vegetables (spinach, broccoli, asparagus, kale)
- Colorful vegetables (sweet potatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, tomatoes, carrots, squash)
- Legumes (chickpeas, fava beans, black beans, lentils)
- Colorful fruit (oranges, grapefruit, apples, cherries,blueberries, strawberries, raspberries)
- Lean protein (chicken breast, turkey breast, extra lean ground beef, sirloin, bison, egg whites, legumes, whey protein)
- Oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, tilapia)
- Healthy oils (olive oil, grapeseed oil)
- Nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans)
- Low-fat dairy (eggs, egg whites, Greek yogurt, yogurts that are unsweetened)
- Whole grains (brown rice, oats, steel-cut oats, whole grain breads, whole grain pasta)
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Take your health and nutrition into your own hands and avoid becoming another statistic. Break away from what the majority of Americans are eating and free yourself from the health risks that come along with high-calorie foods.
Sources for Today’s Article:
U.S. Department of Agriculture, “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010,” Health.gov web site, December 2010; http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2010/DietaryGuidelines2010.pdf, last accessed December 3, 2014.
Yang, J., “Modified Mediterranean Diet Score and Cardiovascular Risk In a North American Working Population,” PLOS One web site, February 4, 2014; http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0087539, last accessed December 3, 2014.
Roberts, M., “Mediterranean diet keeps people ‘genetically young’,” BBC News web site, December 2, 2014; http://www.bbc.com/news/health-30296425.