According to new research - Our diets are killing us!

Research published in the March 7th issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that almost half (45.4%) of the more than 700,000 deaths from heart disease, stroke and type II diabetes in 2012 were associated with diets that either had insufficient amounts of fruits/vegetables, nuts/seeds, whole grain, polyunsaturated fats (vegetable oils), and seafood omega-3 fatty acids (fish) and/or had excessive amounts of sodium, unprocessed red meat, processed meats and sugar-sweetened beverages.

The highest proportion of deaths were associated with diets high in sodium and processed meats and low in seafood omega-3 fatty acids (fish) and nuts/seeds.

For the article abstract see:

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Use this news

From what this research revealed, the way we eat may be seriously detrimental to our health. To use this news and make some healthy changes to your dietary intake, consider the following recommendations of the American Heart Association, Choose My Plate, and the FDA  for the 10 foods/nutrients identified in the study -

Sodium – limit amount to 1500 – 2000 mg/day.  One teaspoon of salt (sodium chloride) has 2300 mg of sodium. So, the amount of sodium from all sources should be less than 1 teaspoon a day. Besides salt, some common sources of sodium include:  baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) soy sauce, MSG (monosodium glutamate), sodium preservatives, canned soups, vegetables and broths, baked goods, frozen meals and other prepared foods or processed foods and meats, certain cheese.

Processed meats – eliminate. These are meats that have been processed/preserved by smoking, curing, salting, or by preservatives. Ex: ham, bacon, pastrami, salami, hot dogs, sausages, deli meats.

Unprocessed red meat – limit amount to 18 ounces per week and 3 ounce portion size, about the size of a deck of cards.

Sugar-Sweetened beverages eliminate. Replace sweetened beverages with unsweetened ones. To give you a sense of how much sugar is in a 12 ounce serving of common beverages:

cranberry juice cocktail  - 12 teaspoons of sugar
               orange soda                         11
               cola soda                              10
               orange juice                         10
               sports drinks                         5
               Seltzer                                     0
               Unsweetened teas              0

Keep in mind that a level measuring teaspoonful of sugar contains 15 calories that have no nutritional

Fruits and vegetables – Eat between 5 – 9 servings each day

        One serving of whole fruit = size of baseball     
       One serving of frozen, sliced or chopped fruit = 1 cup
       One serving of dried fruit = ¼ cup
        One serving of raw leafy greens = 2 cups
       One serving of cooked leafy greeens = 1 cup
       One serving of most cooked, sliced or diced veggies = 1 cup

  Seeds and nuts – Eat 1.5 ounces per day of nuts to possibly reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
        1.5 ounces = about 1/3 cup of shelled nuts
        1 ounce of seeds = 2 tablespoons           
       Be careful!  Nuts and seeds are healthy, nutrient dense, but also calorie dense!

Seafood Omega-3s – Eat a 3.5 ounce portion of seafood high in omega 3 fatty acids two times a week. Fish high in omega 3s include: salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna.  

Whole grains – Replace refined grains with whole grains. Whole grains are those that contain the whole grain kernel which included its fiber. Examples of whole grains are 100% whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, whole cornmeal, brown rice, wild rice, buckwheat.

            Females nine years and older  - should eat between five-six ounces of whole grain a day
            Males nine years and older      -  should eat between six-eight ounces.
            Younger children  
                         two-three years of age -  should eat three ounces
                         four-eight years of age -  should eat five ounces

One ounce = 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of cold cereal, ½ cup cooked brown or wild rice, whole grain pasta or cooked cereal.

Polyunsaturated oils (vegetables oils).  Replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats such as
soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, olive oil. No more than 6% of daily calorie intake should be from 
saturated fat, which means less than 120 calories (or about 1 ¼  tablespoons) for someone eating 2000 calories a day. Saturated fat is found in butter, cream, cheese, red meat, and tropical oils such as palm and coconut.

For more information see:

American Heart Association -
How much sodium should I eat

Saturated Fats

Harvard Health Publications
Cutting Red Meat for a longer life

Unprocessed Red and Processed Meats and Risk of Coronary Artery Disease and Type 2 Diabetes – An Updated Review of the Evidence

American Institute for Cancer Research
Reducing meat intake

Choose My Plate




Nuts and seeds



Joanna Hayden, PhD, CHES is the principal of Associates for Health Education and Behavior, LLC, in Sparta, a practice focused on improving health through education. Her office offers individual and group health education, and individual health behavior change guidance.  For more information please see  To contact Dr. Hayden, email her

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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