America is suffering a decades-long health crisis that is steadily killing us, and in cruel ways we have never seen before.
Obesity rates in the United States are among the highest in the world. Two out of every three Americans are considered to be overweight or obese. In 2013 the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that 27.6% of American citizens were obese, estimating that 3/4 of the American population will likely be overweight or obese by 2020. The U.S. has the highest rate of obesity within the OECD grouping of large trading economies, a ranking that has steadily and alarmingly increased.
Obesity is a complex disorder involving an excessive amount of body fat. Obesity increases your risk of health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and certain types of cancer.
Being extremely obese means you are especially likely to have health problems related to your weight. This health crisis has led to over 120,000 preventable deaths each year in the U.S. An obese person in America incurs an average of $1,429 more in medical expenses annually and approximately $147 billion in direct (preventive, diagnostic, and treatment services related to weight) and indirect (absenteeism, loss of future earnings due to premature death) costs.
You are what you eat
Nutritionist Victor Lindlahr, who developed the Catabolic Diet (later called The Negative Calorie Diet), published his research in the 1942 book, You Are What You Eat: how to win and keep health with diet.
Lindlahr was a strong believer in the idea that food controls health and a pioneer in what would begat the philosophy of weight loss and “clean eating.” In our modern age of fast-paced life styles, fueled by inexpensive, calorie-laden, fast food, it is more difficult to practice clean eating. Still, along with the Catabolic diet, there are positive dietary options that should be considered.
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet incorporates the basics of healthy eating — plus a splash of flavorful olive oil and perhaps a glass of red wine — among other components characterizing the traditional cooking style of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease. The diet has been associated with a lower level of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — the “bad” cholesterol that’s more likely to build up deposits in your arteries. The Mediterranean diet is also associated with a reduced incidence of cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Women who eat a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts may have a reduced risk of breast cancer.
Key components of the Mediterranean Diet include eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts; replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil; using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods and limiting red meat to no more than a few times per week.
The Paleo Diet
The Paleo Diet, also called the Caveman Diet or the Stone Age Diet, is a plan based on foods similar to what might have been eaten during the Paleolithic era, approximately 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago. These are earlier foods obtained by hunting and gathering. The belief is that our bodies are better suited to that type of diet, rather than to the modern diet that emerged with farming.
Loren Cordain, PhD, author of The Paleo Diet, claims that by eating like our prehistoric ancestors, we’ll be leaner and less likely to get diabetes, heart disease, cancer, or experience other health problems.
The Paleo Diet is basically a high-protein, high-fiber eating plan that promises weight loss without cutting calories. On this Caveman Diet, one can eat lots of fresh lean meats and fish, especially those rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, mackerel and albacore tuna. Other foods that are permitted are fruits, vegetables and healthier fats, eggs, nuts and seeds and healthier oils, including olive oil, walnut oil and coconut oil.
Coconut Oil is one of the healthiest oils for cooking because it has a higher smoking point. It is heart healthy and cancer preventative. It contains high amounts of lauric acid and is considered anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic and anti-viral. Like all first cold pressed oils, they are healthiest used raw. Although coconut oil is high in saturated fat, studies demonstrate that consuming coconut regularly can help you lose weight.
Overall, a diet rich in lean protein and plant-based foods can help you lose weight. This dietary stratagem makes you feel full by controlling blood sugar levels, which help control appetite cravings. Clinical trials show a Paleo diet can lower the risk of heart disease, blood pressure, and inflammation, reduce acne, and promote optimum health and athletic performance.
A healthy diet must be well balanced and holistic to be effective. Three remaining dietary approaches are equally imperative for a healthy program of “clean eating,” and need to be considered.
Limit your sugar intake, especially in sugar-rich sodas and beverages. The American Heart Association recommends limiting sugar intake to no more than half of your daily discretionary caloric allowance: No more than 100 calories per day for women (about 6 teaspoons) and no more than 150 calories per day for men (9 teaspoons). The consumption of added sugars — also called
“empty calories” since they confer few or no nutrients — has been linked to chronic illnesses from diabetes to heart disease.
Hydration – Water is essential to the body for health and survival, and is critical to the balance of all the body’s systems. This helps with fat-burning, detoxing and muscle-building, as well as, brain and organ function. Water is the most important nutrient for life and has many important functions including regulating temperature, lubricating joints and transporting nutrients and waste throughout the body. Water is also the single most critical nutrient for health, growth, and development.
Grazing – a dietary strategy popular with competitive runners and bodybuilders, suggests consuming multiple small meals every two-three hours. This stokes the metabolism, decreases appetite cravings and maintains high energy levels. A study conducted at the University of Cambridge found that eating more frequently lowered levels of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol.
Not every diet is appropriate for everyone. Do your homework and then decide what’s best for you, but also remember that moderation, portion control and common sense are equally important components to healthy living and eating clean.
Maxim W. Furek, MA, CADC, ICADC is passionately researching the essence of happiness. His rich background includes aspects of psychology, addictions, mental health and music journalism. His book Sheppton: The Myth, Miracle & Music explores the psychological horror and eventual survival experienced by two entombed coal miners. Learn more at shepptonmyth.com