While studying agribusiness at Cal Poly, a bold statement stuck out: Children these days may have a shorter life expectancy or less quality of life than their parents (1). Hearing this news was shocking. As a society, we have strived to provide enough food for everyone. Now we are at a point where we have enough, too much sometimes, so how it is that people are less healthy than previous generations? It turns out that most of the decreases in health are due to preventable illnesses caused by dietary choices. According to the American Heart Association, 1/3 of American children and teens struggle with dietary health issues (2). This a problem that strikes us to the core, and this article is going to explore three simple ways to improve nutrition and health for everyone.
Let’s cut to the chase!
Fiber – We need more fiber! According to a report put together by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, 97% of Americans are fiber deficient (3)! Fiber is hard to find in most processed foods. Look at the labels on cereal, loaves of most bread, and ready to eat food and you will see why. Fiber, by definition, is found in plants! That is why our diets should be filled with plant based fruits and vegetables. The recommended average daily intake is 31.5 grams, and the American average intake is only 15.1 gram. Ask yourself, how much fiber do you eat a day? How can you add more fiber to your life? Some of my favorite foods are oatmeal, strawberries, and Brussels sprouts!
Sugar – This sweet delight makes everything better, and it is unavoidable! Yes, we are all guilty of it. Sugar is delicious, because it gives our body energy that can be stored, turned into fat, and prepare us for the next famine. The USDA recommends about an average of 10 teaspoons of added sugar per person a day, yet the average consumption is 20 teaspoons (4)! The truth is we are addicted to sugar. It is everywhere and we can hardly escape it. Again, look at the food labels to see how many grams of sugar are in the foods you are eating. Ask yourself if it is worth it, and next time you are craving something sweet, try eating a fruit.
Water – A fundamental dietary need that many Americans miss out on is staying hydrated! Up to 75% of Americans may suffer from chronic dehydration according to Medical Daily (5). Our bodies are composed of water! Dr. Roberta Lee was quoted in the article saying, “60 percent of our body is composed of water, 75 percent in our muscles, 85 percent in our brains, it’s like oil to a machine”. Water is what we need to make our bodies run smoothly. Without it, we may find ourselves getting headaches, muscle tension, and even constant fatigue. A study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that drinking water led to better focus and performance during test taking in children (6). We need to be drinking water, and if we are thirsty it’s already too late! Dehydration has begun to take affect. Ask yourself and your loved ones, what do you drink in a day, and how can you increase your water consumption?
These three simple ways we can make our lives and the lives of our loved ones incredibly better. It sounds so simple, but how can we actually make this happen? Recently, a Wall Street Journal article said that it actually pays to pay your children to eat vegetables. A study was conducted on 8000 children at 40 different elementary schools (7). The scientists found that once students were given a 25 cent token for eating vegetables at lunch, they were more likely to continue the trend once the incentive program ended. The findings indicate that there are ways we can influence children to eat healthy. Positive incentives!
As responsible caretakers for ourselves and others, we must be mindful when choosing the foods that go into our bodies and reward ourselves for being healthy. Take a look at the delicious apple above. This fruit can be a simple solution to the three problems listed above. It is high in fiber, has natural sugars, and is filled with hydrating nutrients that will refresh you no matter what season it is! Go to the store, buy some apples, and eat one a day for a whole week and see what happens.
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- Gray, Laura. “Will Today’s Children Die Earlier than Their Parents?” BBC News. N.p., 8 July 2014. Web. 27 Oct. 2016. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-28191865
- “Overweight in Children.” Overweight in Children. American Heart Association, Aug. 2014. Web. 28 Oct. 2016. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyKids/ChildhoodObesity/Overweight-in-Children_UCM_304054_Article.jsp#.WAmLkZMrLow
- Greger, Dr. Michel. “Where Do You Get Your Fiber? | NutritionFacts.org.” NutritionFactsorg. N.p., 29 Sept. 2015. Web. 28 Oct. 2016. http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/09/29/where-do-you-get-your-fiber/
- Ericson, John. “75% of Americans May Suffer From Chronic Dehydration, According to Doctors.” Medical Daily. N.p., 03 July 2013. Web. 28 Oct. 2016. http://www.medicaldaily.com/75-americans-may-suffer-chronic-dehydration-according-doctors-247393