Eating Healthy Plays a Role in Disease Prevention

Kale chips, green juice, chia pudding. It’s nut-trends-eating-healthy-NDClikely that you’ve seen recipes for foods like these on your Pinterest page, Facebook news feed or in your favorite magazine. However, the same couldn’t be said three or even five years ago. Food is trendy, and as scientists continue to do research on nutrition and its role in disease prevention, what is considered healthy and delicious continues to evolve.

According to a survey released by Today’s Dietician, a nutrition trade magazine, eating healthy is a concern for most Americans, as obesity rates climb and rates of chronic health conditions among the population increase. But what are the most popular nutrition tips and trends this year? From cleanses to eating Paleo, we’ve put together a guide to the latest in nutrition and its link to health.

  • Fruits and vegetables first: When it comes to the most important change you can make for your diet, the answer is surprisingly traditional. To improve overall health, dieticians recommend increasing the servings of fruits and vegetables you eat on a typical day.
  • Ancient grains: What is old is new again when it comes to fiber- and protein-rich carbohydrates. Ancient grains include spelt, quinoa, wheat berries, millet and amaranth. These plants have been around for hundreds of years and are not genetically modified (GMO), making them a healthy source of natural nutrition.
  • The kale craze: Superfoods like kale and chia seeds continue to be popular this year, with coconut oil joining the ranks. Because it is a valuable source of plant-based saturated fats, coconut oil is good for the heart.
  • MyPlate: The food pyramid is no longer the best way to monitor your diet. MyPlate is a food guide modeled after what an ideal plate should look like at each meal. It helps consumers make better food choices and emphasizes healthy portions.
  • Local and sustainable food sources: If you’ve been visiting the farmer’s market more often lately, you’re not alone. According to the Today’s Dietician survey, the two terms that were most trendy among grocery shoppers were “local” and “sustainable.” This indicates a move away from processed foods. Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is also a popular trend. This practice involves paying a fee to support a local garden, then receiving weekly or bi-weekly shares in the crops.
  • No more low-fat: It has been disproved time and time again, but with a recent emphasis on sources of good fat and the benefits of a diet rich in omega-3, the low-fat trend is becoming less and less popular. Recent studies have shown that eating a “low fat” diet doesn’t correlate to having less body fat.
  • Fermentation: Foods like sauerkraut, Greek yogurt and kombucha tea are growing much more popular due to a trend toward fermentation. This process changes the flavors and textures of food, aids in digestion and supports the immune system.
  • Gluten-free (no matter what): Despite the lack of evidence to support wheat- or gluten-free diets for either weight loss or health (except among those with a clinical disease or disorder, such as Celiac disease), consumers continue to put their trust in these eating plans. A popular example is the Paleo diet, which requires the elimination of wheat and grains.
  • Healthy = trendy: Above all, health itself is important to consumers. They are reading health and lifestyle blogs for nutrition tips, recipes and daily workouts, as well looking to TV doctors and fitness gurus for the latest information on health and wellness.

So what does all of this mean for prevention and preventive care? According to a recent report from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “primary prevention is the most effective and affordable method to prevent chronic disease,” and good dietary changes are the best way to improve health. Many diseases and their side effects can be prevented or managed effectively through diet and lifestyle improvements. Such conditions include obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even cancer, according to the same report. As part of the Affordable Care Act, the National Prevention Council introduced the National Prevention Strategy: America’s Plan for Better Health and Wellness. This is a great example of prevention on a federal level, as it indicates a shift from problem-based health care to prevention and wellness solutions. It strongly supports nutrition and healthy choices as ways to eliminate health disparities and improve quality of life for Americans.

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