Currently many Americans are struggling with the cost of health care. Even before spending money on treatment for health conditions you likely have to contend with mortgage payment like monthly premiums and sticker-shock deductibles. Supposedly this is to offset the high cost of healthcare in the United States. While one preventive check-up yearly is routine, what really constitutes prevention? Your diet likely holds the biggest key to preventing disease that will significantly increase your out of pocket health expenses. The cost of Type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes alone, preventable and curable conditions through better lifestyle, is estimated at $322 billion per year in health care costs. When you add other diet-related diseases such as obesity, heart disease, several cancers, and cognitive decline, costs are estimated at over $1 trillion dollars annually. Nutrition and diet, despite being so linked to prevention of illness, is only a small part of our healthcare system. Yet, the choices that you make everyday can positively impact your health. You have the choice to make healthful and impactful food choices everyday through food choices.
There are many examples of links between food and disease prevention:
- Eating a Mediterranean style diet which is rich in fruits, vegetables, and includes whole grains, legumes, fish, and healthy fats may lower risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), by one third according to a study in the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
- Tomatoes and other foods that contain lycopene may lower risk of prostate cancer. For every 1 milligram of lycopene consumed, there was a 1% decreased risk according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. Lycopene gives fruits and vegetables their pink and red color, and other sources include watermelon, grapefruit, red peppers, papaya, guava, and red cabbage. Tomato products such as sun-dried tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato juice are some of the highest sources.
- In several reports, lycopene and other carotenoids such as beta-carotene may lower risk of developing breast cancer.
- Partial replacement of saturated fat with poly- and monounsaturated fat such as those found in plant-based oil, nuts, and fatty fish reduced the risk of heart disease in several studies according to Current Cardiology Reports.
- People with higher intakes of plant protein such as lentils, dried beans, tofu, and nuts had a lower risk of death from heart disease than those with higher intake of animal proteins, particularly from processed red meat according to a study in JAMA Internal Medicine.
- Eating berries that are high in antioxidant rich anthocyanins may reduce risk of type 2 diabetes by 15-18% according to a meta-analysis in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
- Individuals walking 30 minutes, five days weekly were found to spend $2,500 less a year for health care related to heart disease compared to their sedentary counterparts.
These are some of the changes you can make in your diet to positively impact your health. Pick one change to make in your daily diet.