Small changes in diet can have a big impact on health

March 19, 2018 by Joe Higgins, Ohio University
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

How's that New Year's resolution coming along? Getting ready for summer and want to look your best? Just want to feel better physically? Whatever your motivation, Mercedes Sotos-Prieto, an assistant professor of nutrition in Ohio University's College of Health Sciences and Professions said just a little change in diet has a big impact.

March is National Nutrition Month and for many, resolutions made months ago to eat healthier may have waned at this point which could be chalked up to such as cutting out entire sources of food. In July, 2017, research by Sotos-Prieto was published in the New England Journal of Medicine detailing that consuming more whole grains, vegetables, fish, fruits and nuts and reducing sugary beverages and processed meats can lower the risk of premature death by up to 17 percent.

Sotos-Prieto said it is especially important to educate the youth on as many do not consider the effects eating poorly can have on . She said early education can help to prevent diseases before they occur and added that awareness in adults is crucial in setting good examples for children.

"There's no magic diet or recipe," she said. "You need to find a diet you can adhere to for a long time that includes healthy components such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, healthy fats such as olive oil and swapping refined grains for whole grains that are better for you."

Just by changing one serving of red or processed mat for one daily serving of nuts or legumes can have a big impact on your health, she added.

According to Sotos-Prieto, recent studies have shown that reduced-fat and fat-free foods aren't always a good alternative.

"High fat consumption can actually be good if the quality of the fat is good," she said. "Nut butter (made from actual nuts), can be a good source of food in addition to avocados and other oils and we have strong data that shows extra is proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease."

Sotos-Prieto suggests a plate be filled halfway with fruits and vegetables while the other half consists of healthy protein and whole grains. Drink water and add to your routine. She addressed the culture of going out to eat and said it's still possible to find healthy substitutes at restaurants.

"Take a burrito in a bowl. Ask for a tortilla made with whole grain, add brown rice, beans and include all the vegetables you want with chicken and guacamole. Instead of fries, get a side of vegetables or create your own pizza at home using whole and vegetables," said Sotos-Prieto.

Small changes sustained over time will benefit your health inside and out, doing away with the pressure to make diet-related resolutions next New Year's.

Explore further: Researcher finds healthy eating reduces risk of premature death

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