Is Your Diet S.A.D?

Is Your Diet S.A.D.?

Just as its name implies, the SAD diet is not one that is going to give you vibrant energy, good health or prevent disease. It most cases it leads to heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, lower quality of life followed by an early death. Sounds great, doesn’t it? I’m sure that if this diet was presented as a choice with those consequences on a menu of diet plans to follow, not many of us would voluntarily sign up for the plan. The SAD diet stands for Standard American Diet and it is truly one of the biggest downfalls of living in our wonderful USA. We’ve been led to believe that the all-American diet of fast food burgers, hot dogs, hoagies and ultra-processed food products is “the normal way to eat”, and everything else equates to deprivation and the other dreaded aspects of so-called dieting. The truth is the typical way that most of us have become accustomed to eating is our biggest risk factor for disease, death, and a host of chronic disabling conditions. 

Look at your own way of eating and answer these questions honestly:

On a DAILY basis: 

  • Is your diet low in fruits and vegetables (less than 5 servings per day)?
  • Is your diet low in nuts and seeds?
  • Is your diet high in sodium? (Do you read the labels of what you eat to figure it out?)
  • Is your diet high in trans fats? Trans fats are prevalent in baked goods, processed foods, fried foods, margarine, chips and snack foods.  
  • Is your diet high in processed meats like cold cuts, sausage, bacon, pastrami and the like?
  • Is your diet low in omega 3 fatty acids that come from wild-caught fatty fish sources?
  • Is your diet low in whole grains like fresh oatmeal, buckwheat, quinoa, barley?
  • Is your diet low in fiber? (25- 30 grams per day)
  • Is your diet high in sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages and processed juice products?
  • Are you a ‘meat and potato’ kind of eater?

Our hot dog and burger barbeque way of life is clearly not working for us here in the US. We spend the most money per capita on health care and lag far behind in life expectancy than any other country yet we are more obese.

A large study (The State of U.S. Health 1990-2010) looked at millions of Americans and compared us to 33 other countries. The study found that our biggest risk factor for chronic disease, death, and disability is our DIET. (See this graph.) We are living less healthy lives with lower life expectancy and quality of life due to developing chronic conditions like obesity, overweight, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancers. The main reason for this is our poor diets, the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet)

The biggest question we need to ask ourselves is this: Given that the typical SAD (Standard American Diet) leads to early death, compromises our daily quality of life and leads to chronic disease like obesity, overweight, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic inflammatory diseases, autoimmune and GI issues and diseases and so many other diet-related diseases, how important is it to you change it? 

Go ahead, take a minute and write it down.  On a scale of 1 to 10, how high of a priority is it to you?  If you gave it a high priority on the scale it means that you are more than ready to start to make some changes.  Let’s look at one of the best ways to change up the SAD prognosis and get on to a healthier way of life. 

A New Way to Look at Eating: WFPB

WFPB stands for Whole Food Plant-Based. This way of eating is probably one of the best health hacks you can incorporate into your diet. “Eat Food, not too much, mostly plants” (Michael Pollan) is probably one of the best pieces of health advice you can find.

What exactly is a WFPB diet? People can get apprehensive when they think of a plant-based diet; thinking that they need to adopt a strict vegetarian or vegan type of diet but that’s not true. 

You can eat more plants without becoming ‘vegetarian’ or ‘vegan’. Vegetarianism and Vegan are two different ways of approaching food and although they do focus on plant-based eating they are not what a WFPB diet must be. When someone is a vegetarian, they typically exclude meat, poultry, and dairy but sometimes vegetarians include eggs, seafood, and some dairy. Vegans, on the other hand, abstain from all animal products including dairy, meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and even honey.  

WFPB eating is not as strict or limiting. Many health experts advocate that people begin to look at their S.A.D. diet and simply begin to adopt a new way of eating that incorporates REAL food vs processed and fast food. If you have ever heard of “The Mediterranean Diet” you will notice that this particular way of eating is very much a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet. In your Rolling Strong App you can choose a Heart-Healthy way of eating that is WFPB. What this means is that you incorporate more fruits, vegetables, whole grains (such as barley, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat), legumes, nuts and seeds, fatty fish (ex: wild salmon, mackerel, sardines), and healthy fats (such as olive oil and avocados) into your daily food intake and you limit saturated fats, and animal products (red meat, processed meats, poultry and, whole fat dairy)and ELIMINATE processed foods.  This type of eating is known as a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet WFPB and it has many health benefits. It’s much more flexible than a vegetarian or vegan diet, encouraging the intake of minimally processed foods, limiting animal-sourced products, and increasing your intake of vegetables and fruits, seeds, legumes, healthy fats, fatty fish and whole grains.  

Health Benefits of WFPB

  • Weight Loss:  When you eliminate processed foods and begin to incorporate more fruits and vegetables you will undoubtedly begin to lose weight. The high fiber content of the fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is one of the primary reasons for the weight loss. Fiber keeps you full longer, slows down the digestion of food and benefits the ‘good’ gut bacteria that helps you lose weight, and improves your mood and immunity.  A WFPB diet also helps to keep the weight off long term, unlike short term fad diets.
  • Heart Healthy: Studies have shown over and over that s higher intake of plants equates to a substantially lower risk of cardiovascular disease. These same studies also indicate that the inverse of a WFPB diet; the S.A. D. is associated with higher risk of cardiovascular disease.  
  • Healthy Brains: What is good for your heart is good for your brain. Plant-sourced foods are rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients and a diet high in plant-based foods is associated with a 20% reduction in the risk of dementia and cognitive decline and impairment.  
  • Lowers Risk of Cancer: Eating a WFPB diet is tied to lower risk of certain cancers, especially those cancers associated with gastrointestinal and colorectal health as well as prostate and breast cancer.
  • Lowers Risk of Diabetes: WFPB diets lower your risk of developing diabetes and help you better manage your blood sugar levels. Studies have indicated that those who follow a plant-based diet had a 34% lower risk of diabetes than those who follow the S.A.D. diet.    
  • Helps with Blood Pressure: Those who follow a WFPB diet have lower blood pressure than those who eat a S.A.D diet. High blood pressure is a silent killer, but just because you don’t ‘feel’ it doesn’t mean that it isn’t doing intense damage to your cardiovascular health. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with potassium which helps to regulate blood pressure. The fiber-rich whole grains, fruits, and vegetables help you lose weight and studies show that losing even just 10 pounds can lower your blood pressure.

Beware: Junk Food Plant Eating

The one caveat that you need to know is that not all plant-based foods are considered healthy and many should be avoided. Therefore the “Whole Foods” part of “Plant-Based” is included when we look at the health benefits of a WFPB diet. We all know many people that claim to be vegans and vegetarians who decide eating a plate of French fries is a healthy choice when out to eat (because, hey, a potato is a plant…). The same goes for potato or any kind of processed chips and snacks or processed frozen foods that tout vegetables or are labeled “Vegan” or “Vegetarian”. Be careful of falling into eating plant-based junk food! These foods are highly processed, contain loads of nefarious chemicals and additives and generally are made with low-quality oils and can be just as detrimental to your health as a fast-food burger.  

Is your diet S.A.D.? How to Start Changing it:

If you are ready to begin to eat more WFPB, start small and make better choices each day as you plan your meals. If you are not already working with a Rolling Strong Coach, reach out and get some support on how to make some changes. Put more vegetables on your plate each day and think about the foods that you are eating. Log your food each day in the Rolling Strong App and see how many of your foods are WFPB. Is your daily food intake WFBP or is it SAD? Changing to a focus on Whole Foods that are Plant-Based will help you naturally lose weight, your health will improve, and you will feel more energized, alert and alive.  

By:  Cindy Luisi, WHE, WHC, CCP, CDL Wellness Coach

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