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Poor diet kills one in five of us

Two years ago next week, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” (aka the “Sustainable Development Goals” or “SDG”), a broad list of ambitions aimed at ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring prosperity for all—within 15 years.

Number two on the list was related to food and health: “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.” (That, just under the SDG’s very modest #1 priority, which is to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere.”) While clearly not a strategic proclamation or indication of feasibility, the list was nonetheless symbolic in its intent to do something about what and how the world eats—or doesn’t. (Two short years later, as persistent famine in four nations threatens 20 million human lives, the SDG list feels more symbolic than ever. But that’s another story we’ll continue to cover.)

Now, as the General Assembly convenes this week in New York City, the results of a series of five studies funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among others, reveal that the global diet is one of those intractable problems that also appears to be killing us at a rate of one in five.

The study, titled “The Global Burden of Disease” and published Saturday in medical journal The Lancet, tracks morbidity and mortality from major diseases and is the most comprehensive study of its kind to date. It measures 37 of the 50 health-related indicators on the SDG list over the course of nearly three decades for 188 countries and, on the basis of past trends, predicts indicators like years of life lost or years lived with a disability to the year 2030.

First, some good news, according to commentary on the research from The Lancet’s editors: Overall, global mortality rates have decreased over the past five decades and we’re generally becoming healthier, even if that means we’re also living longer with more disease. And yet, 72 percent of all deaths last year were caused by non-infectious (read: often preventable) diseases like cancer and diabetes. Ischemic heart disease—the term given to describe problems resulting from narrowed arteries—was the leading cause of premature death in 2016. And that’s not new. Deaths attributed to heart disease have risen steadily over the course of the decade from 2006 to 2016, increasing by 19 percent globally.

“Despite progress on reducing deaths, [a] ‘triad of troubles’—obesity, conflict, and mental illness, including substance use disorders—is preventing further progress,” wrote the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), which coordinates the GBD study, in a release, saying excess body weight was “one of the most alarming risks in the GBD.”

To put it more starkly: “The rate of illness related to people being too heavy is rising quickly, and the disease burden can be found in all sociodemographic levels. High body mass index (BMI) is the fourth largest contributor to the loss of healthy life, after high blood pressure, smoking, and high blood sugar.”

But the GBD findings on obesity are clearly specific to the overnourished, western world. So what about malnutrition? According to UNICEF, “undernutrition contributes to nearly half of all deaths in children under 5.” Well, there’s “poor diet” (behavioral) and then there’s “poor diet” (circumstantial).

Even as the General Assembly gathers amid a fog of existential threat—conflict, climate change, mutually-assured destruction—it’s worth thinking about how much air time the results of a study (however far-reaching) on the other, and to a great extent preventable, ways we’re killing ourselves is really likely to get.

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Now your baby can eat like a caveman with paleo diet-friendly purée

When it comes to a baby’s health, parents are often willing to try anything. But should that include jumping on the latest paleo diet-friendly food bandwagon?

As the market for good-for-you, organic foods continues to expand for adults, it’s no surprise that the desire for healthy baby food has grown — especially as health-conscious millennials start families. After following a paleo diet and seeing personal benefits, Austin-based couple (and future parents), Serenity Heegel and Joe Carr, founded Serenity Kids, a paleo-inspired baby food startup they say fills a void in the baby food market.

Julie Wilhite Photography

A paleo diet, also referred to as the caveman diet, is based on the foods scientists believe humans ate during the Paleolithic era, which includes eating animal protein, wild-caught fish and wild plants. It eschews grains, dairy and other foods that have since become staples in the human diet after people began farming about 10,000 years ago.

But is the diet safe for little humans?

“There are certainly elements to paleo eating that I appreciate and endorse, particularly the lack of processed foods and the abundance of vegetables and good quality protein,” says Nicole Silber, R.D., a pediatric nutritionist and baby food expert in New York City. “However, I would not recommend babies and toddlers eliminate grains, dairy and legumes.”

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But Serenity Kids, which is meant for kids aged 6 months and up, isn’t just made of ground-up proteins. The 4-ounce, shelf-stable pouches feature pasture-raised meat from small American family farms and organic vegetables. They’re available in three flavors: free-range chicken with peas and carrots; grass-fed beef with kale and sweet potato; and uncured bacon with kale and butternut squash.

The garden vegetable and beef blend offered by the Gerber company is sweetened using pear juice concentrate. In comparison, Serenity Kids’ beef and vegetable blend isn’t sweetened, doesn’t have added preservatives or unspecified “flavorings,” and uses organic vegetables and grass-fed beef.

Nutritionist and health and wellness expert Madelyn Fernstrom tells TODAY Food that cutting out processed foods when possible is a good thing “but on the paleo [diet], no grains, dairy, or legumes are recommended. This is a problem for babies and young children as low and non-fat dairy are the easiest way to get adequate calcium and vitamin D for growing bones and teeth.”

While labeled a fad by some, interest in the paleo diet has steadily increased. Paleo product sales are forecasted to reach $300 million by 2018, according to Nutrition Business Journal. Serenity Kids products can be pre-ordered on their website or purchased from Amazon in early fall. Six packs of individual flavors cost $26.95 while variety packs cost $27.95. By comparison, a 12-pack of Gerber’s Chicken Gravy baby food jars retails for $24.99 on Amazon. That means Serenity costs about $1.12 per ounce of baby food while Gerber costs about 83 cents an ounce.

Fernstrom says that since the diet has soared in popularity among adults looking to eat healthier, she gets inquiries from parents asking if it’s okay for their kids to go paleo, too. Unless the kid is suffering from extreme allergies, says the diet expert, it’s best not to eliminate entire food groups. “It’s important to emphasize that babies are not tiny adults and their nutritional needs differ.”

Fernstrom added that while baby foods without preservatives like Serenity have some good qualities, the idea of using the paleo diet as a marketing tactic might send the wrong message to parents about what’s “healthy” for kids.

Julie Wilhite Photography

But Serentiy Kid’s CEO Serenity Heegel says she’s not advocating a strictly paleo diet for infants and told TODAY Food that parents should consult health care providers to determine any potential food intolerances in their own kids.

“We don’t advocate putting babies on diets, paleo or otherwise,” Heegel said. She continued, “We do believe in ‘eliminating’ foods that are potentially dangerous, such as many processed foods, sugary desserts, or allergens.”

According to Heegel, “Meats and vegetables contain much larger quantities of vitamins and minerals than do fruits, grains, and legumes. Grains and legumes can be good sources of carbohydrates and fiber, however they have relatively small vitamin and mineral content compared to vegetables, and have been proven to irritate sensitive stomachs.

“Starchy vegetables — like the ones used in Serenity Kids baby food — outperform grains and legumes by providing carbohydrates and fiber plus an abundance of vitamins and minerals, and are much easier to digest.”

Silber acknowledged that when it comes to commercial baby food, some companies keep costs down by overdoing it on sugary fruit, which also makes it more palatable for some babies.

“I always say to feed babies the taste profile you want them to have as adults,” says Silber. “We don’t eat our meat sweetened with fruit, so why should our babies?”

Added the nutritionist, “I like that Serenity Kids offers a beef and veggie only as well as a chicken and veggie only blend, which can help babies meet their protein, fat and iron needs without the sugar from fruit.”

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So if you’re a parent who’s concerned about artificial ingredients, what should you do?

Fernstrom says there are plenty ways to still feed kids wholesome foods without eliminating entire food groups. “The concept of no-added sugars and salts, and processed foods is not unique to the paleo plan.”

“For jarred or packaged foods, look for no added sugars, salts, or fats,” she said. “Adding a variety of puréed fruits and vegetables introduces new tastes early on, when taste preferences are starting to form,” Fernstrom says. And if you’re worried that your kid may have a food sensitivity or your family has a history of certain intolerances, “Always get advice from your pediatrician, to avoid possible food allergies.”

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11 worthless foods to cut from your diet right now


Food serves many functions. For some, food is simply a source of energy required to survive, while others see mealtime as a regular highlight to their day. Food also plays an essential part in regulating health. Whether you live to eat or eat to live, recognizing the way food affects the body is something we should all be thinking about more.

The goal here is not about losing weight. Sure, if you choose your foods better, a slimmer waistline could very well happen. And if that’s the incentive, you need to change your eating habits — great. But simply getting rid of refined carbs and added sugars isn’t enough. In fact, there are a whole host of other foods that pop up in regular diets that can cause distress to your body in ways you may not have even imagined.

Here are 11 worthless foods that you’d be better off cutting out of your diet altogether.

1. Arizona Iced Tea

It’s a hot day, you’re low on energy and a refreshing caffeinated beverage sounds like a good idea, right? Wrong. “It’s a nice example of a beverage loaded with more sugar than you need in a day, masked with the healthy and healthful label of’ ‘iced tea,’” registered dietician Abby Calcutt tells GQ.

Just one 24-ounce bottle of lemon Arizona Iced Tea contains 59 grams of sugar. While sipping this stuff could give you a buzz in the short term, it’s sure to make you crash in the end.

2. Low-fat fruity greek yogurt

“But it’s low-fat,” you say. That may be true, but after you add the pre-blended chocolate granola and various other flavors and fruits, that label starts to lose a bit of its meaning. If you think you’re replacing all that sugary cereal you used to eat with, say, Chobani’s Blackberry Fruit on the Bottom Greek Yogurt, you may be surprised to learn it contains 15 more grams of sugar than a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

3. Flavored coffee creamers

The bitterness of coffee makes it a difficult beverage for some to drink unsweetened. If you’re trying to avoid sugar in your diet, you might use coffee creamer instead. Lori Zanini, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tells GQ this could be a bad idea.

“What we usually don’t realize is that the majority of coffee creamers contain hydrogenated oils, which are trans fats that can actually harm our heart health by lowering our good cholesterol and increasing our bad cholesterol — while providing additional, empty calories,” Zanini explains, adding that the best option is probably just to take your coffee black.

4. Sweet cereals

You probably already knew this food was bad for you. How bad? Well, it really comes down to how often you dip into the Cap’n Crunch. A bowl on occasion probably won’t do too much harm, but as these things tend to go, if the box is around, it’s going to be eaten.

Once again, like the yogurt, just because the cereal might contain the words “healthy,” “fresh fruit” or “whole grains” doesn’t amount to much when it comes with loads of sugar. Dietician Jim White suggests to GQ that if you really crave a bowl of cereal “choose high fiber cereals with eight grams of sugar or fewer per serving.”

5. Granola bars

Yep, yet another breakfast-type food you may think is healthy but often proves to be quite the opposite. The reason — you might start to see a bit of a pattern here — has to do with all the extra processed ingredients added to make these bars so addictive.

6. Soda

This is another one of those obvious ones you probably already know about. You may think that avoiding a Big Gulp and instead drinking smaller cans of regular — or worse, diet — soda is better for your health. But just because you’re not ingesting all that sugar, doesn’t mean you’re avoiding soda’s ill-effects.

“Artificial sweeteners and aspartame in diet soda in particular can mess with our body’s regulatory system,” Carissa Bealert, a registered dietician, tells Health.com. “Plus, soda doesn’t nourish you. It doesn’t give your body anything at all.”

7. Fried foods

It’s hard to give up the tasty stuff, nor should you completely. But be sure to enjoy it as a treat and not the main course. A large, long-term study conducted by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health found that people who eat a lot of fried foods may have a higher risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

“Because there is not enough research to date to clearly confirm that one type of oil is best to use for frying,” said Leah Cahill, lead author of the study, “it is probably wisest to alternate a variety of oils to provide you with a mix of fatty acids — much the way you would eat a variety of vegetables or fruits rather than just choosing one.”

8. Fat-free dressing

This is another example of how the phrase “fat-free” is a misnomer. Believe it or not, sometimes enjoying a salad dressing with certain “good” fats can be really good for you. What are those? Monounsaturated fatty acids, for instance, found in olive oil and avocados help to lower cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease.

9. Cheese

Cheese is another example of the dangers of enjoying too much of a good thing. For a better understanding of why, read about the good things that happen to your body when you cut dairy out of your diet.

10. Soy sauce

Delicious with some sushi, but also “really bad for blood pressure,” registered dietician Keren Gilbert told Health.com. If you’re going to pour soy sauce all over that raw fish, make sure it’s the low-sodium variety.

11. Flavored Waters

In an effort to replace your soda in your diet, many people start drinking flavored, or enhanced water. This is not an improvement. In fact, those fancy flavors usually tend to come with a bunch of artificial sweeteners, which contribute to similar sorts of cravings you get from drinking soda.

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Mexican food diet best for health, weight loss, author says – WLS

Maru Davila, author of “The Mexican Food Diet,” stopped by ABC7 Thursday to talk about her new book and why Mexican food is best for getting healthy and losing weight.

Davila said seven out of 10 people are overweight, and many are also suffering from health issues related to excess weight. The best possible thing to help with these problems is to eat Mexican food, said Davila.

Davila gained 60 lbs. and neglected her health, struggling with her weight for 30 years. She found the solution in the food she ate while growing up in Mexico.

Mexican food is commonly perceived as delicious, but also unhealthy and leading to weight gain. Davila said Mexican food has elements that are great for health and weight loss. For more information on Davila’s book, visit www.TheMexicanFoodDiet.com.

Vitamin deficiency warning: THIS is why your healthy diet might not be so nutritious

“An example of this is that many naturally iron-rich foods like green vegetables are difficult to extract the iron from.”

Sometimes food contain natural chemicals which can affect digestion and absorption of different foods.

“Lectins for example, found in beans, pulses, grains, cereals, fruits and vegetables can be quite inflammatory for some people, affecting our gut lining, our ability to digest food effectively and to absorb the vital nutrients,” Newbold explained.

“Phytates and phytic acid are other examples of natural chemicals found in seeds of grains. They have the ability to bind to certain minerals such as zinc, iron and calcium, which affects the absorption of these vital nutrients and the body’s systems they support.”

He recommended vitamin D, B vitamins, magnesium, iron, zinc, and iodine as supplements people may want to think about taking.

However, he stressed that this does not mean we should stop focusing on eating a healthy, balanced diet.

“We should always remember though that there are multiple benefits from eating a good whole food diet, not just the amount of vitamins and minerals we’re able to extract,” he said.

Warren Buffett’s Junk-Food Diet Has Gotten Him to 87: Should You Follow It?

Warren Buffett celebrated this his 87th birthday Wednesday, with help from (or in spite of) McDonald’s (MCD) , Utz, See’s Chocolates, Dairy Queen and Coca-Cola (KO) .

The Oracle of Omaha has an estimated net worth of more than $70 billion, ranking him among the top five richest men in the world. Yet, the Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) (BRK.B) CEO’s private life has been defined more by comfort than conspicuous spending. He still lives in the same home he bought in 1958 for $31,500, which amounts to little more than $260,000 in 2017 dollars.

“My life couldn’t be happier,” Buffett said a Berkshire Hathaway shareholder’s meeting in 2014. “In fact, it’d be worse if I had six or eight houses. So, I have everything I need to have, and I don’t need any more.”

However, what Buffett eats is just as interesting as how he spends his money. In 2015, in a lengthy discussion with Fortune, Buffett noted that he is “one-quarter Coca-Cola.” While he only owns 9% of the Coca-Cola company itself, he says that a quarter of the estimated 2,700 calories he consumes each day come from the five Coca-Cola products he drinks each day. That includes original-recipe Coca-Cola consumed at work and the Cherry Coke he drinks at home.

Buffet will have a Coca-Cola with a breakfast of potato sticks made by Utz of Hanover, Pa., and will occasionally sub in a bowl of ice cream. However, Buffett has also stated in the HBO documentary Becoming Warren Buffett that he also pops into a local McDonald’s each morning for breakfast. Before he ventures out, he tells his wife how much money to put in a cup in his car and, in exact change, buys breakfast based on how the stock market is performing.

“When I’m not feeling quite so prosperous, I might go with the $2.61, which is two sausage patties, and then I put them together and pour myself a Coke,” he told director Peter Kunhardt in the documentary. “$3.17 is a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit, but the market’s down this morning, so I’ll pass up the $3.17 and go with the $2.95 [sausage, egg and cheese].”

This isn’t a habit he restricts to breakfast, either. When he took Microsoft founder Bill Gates to lunch a few years ago, he decided on McDonald’s as the venue. The result made it into Bill and Melinda Gates’ 2017 annual letter.

Buffett loves his Coke.

“Remember the laugh we had when we traveled together to Hong Kong and decided to get lunch at McDonald’s?” Bill wrote. “You offered to pay, dug into your pocket, and pulled out … coupons!”

But Buffett’s diet doesn’t make him cheap. In fact, it’s cost him quite a bit of money in the past. Buffett bought See’s Candies for $25 million in 1972 not just because he saw potential in it, but because he loved its nut fudge and peanut brittle. Buffett bought Dairy Queen for $585 million in 1997 not just for its low overhead and growth potential, but because he enjoys it himself.

“What I usually get is a sundae,” Buffett told Yahoo Finance. “I get the small sundae for the ice cream and the extra large sundae for the topping. So I mean, I just smother in the cherry topping and then pour a lot of nuts on it.”

In fact, if you go to Omaha, you can visit Buffett’s McDonald’s, Dairy Queen and favorite steakhouse, Gorat’s, and eat like a billionaire for less than $50. But should you? Last year, through journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin, a Berkshire Hathaway investor questioned Buffett’s investment in Coca-Cola, saying it contributes to roughly 137,000 deaths a year from diabetes, 45,000 deaths from heart disease, and a few more thousand a year from cancer. A year earlier, Bill Ackman said Buffett’s investment in Coca-Cola was immoral.

Buffett’s answer? “There’s no evidence that I will any better reach 100 if I had lived on broccoli and water,” he said.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that eating 2,700 calories of fast food, soda and snacks will get you to 87 years old.

Jessica Weneger, a registered dietitian in Buffett’s hometown of Omaha, notes that it’s difficult to hand out blanket nutrition recommendations without knowing Buffett’s other eating habits, his medical diagnosis and what his current exercise plan looks like. Based on Buffett’s own estimate of 2,700 calories per day, Wegener says that there is always a concern that it could lead to weight issues and obesity, which in turn can lead to chronic disease. She also says that high caloric content could also simply be a byproduct of unconscious overeating.

“I believe that no one can follow a diet of food that they don’t like,” Wegener says. “I would suggest decreasing total intake of higher calorie and saturated fat foods by eating smaller portions of his current favorites and add more fruits and vegetables to go alongside to balance out his less nutritious food choices. I would also discuss how he feels to find out if his diet could be effecting his overall health and wellness.”

Buffett has made attempts to explain his high-sugar, high-salt diet in the past. In 2015, for example, he told Fortune, “I checked the actuarial tables, and the lowest death rate is among six-year-olds. So I decided to eat like a six-year-old. It’s the safest course I can take.” However, when a writer from Fusion attempted to eat like Buffett — including his dinner favorite of chicken-fried steak with mashed potatoes and a strawberry malt — she was sickened after one day. Omaha dietitian Wegener notes that dietary habits vary widely by individuals and that what works for Buffett, or even those who follow the kale trail and turn green just looking at what he eats in a day, won’t necessarily work for others.

“For those people who use the excuse that Warren Buffett does it, I would encourage them to assess their current health, how they feel, their relationship with food and to not compare themselves to anyone, as no one has the same genetic make up that they do, unless they have an identical twin,” Wegener says. “Each person needs to follow the plan or type of eating style that works best for them.”

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