"Often when people talk about health conditions they're talking about chronic conditions such as heart disease or diabetes," Dr. St. Sauver says. "However, the second most common prescription was for antidepressants — that suggests mental health is a huge issue and is something we should focus on."
According to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, 70% of Americans take at least one prescription drug. Antibiotics, anti-depressants, and pain-killers top the list with usage increasing with age. The industry is now a $250 billion business and it's been growing every year. Since anti-depressants are the second most prescribed, it suggests that poor mental health is prevalent.
Vegan diets have been proven to reduce and eliminate chronic illness along with various other health issues. Plant-based ingredients also improve mood and outlook on life. Twenty percent of the respondents in the study take 5 or more prescriptions daily. If more health care professionals can recommend plant-based diets as part of the solution to personal health problems, it could help some people reduce their dependence on medication and restore a much needed balance to their lives.
Learning to avoid meat took a long time for me to do. Giving up dairy products took even longer. Decreasing and removing most of the sugar from my diet took the longest of all! It is that addictive! I'm glad I did it, though. I should have started sooner. Excess sugar compromises health. It feeds the demons, such as:
According to Michael Moss in his book, Salt Sugar Fat, most food companies use sugar to engineer processed foods to achieve a 'bliss point' which appeals to consumers so greatly, they'll purchase the product repeatedly. In a can of soda, this may require as many as nine teaspoons of sugar, which suggests that the bliss point and health are inversely correlated...
Actively avoiding sugar is a good pursuit. Cook fresh meals at home, make your own desserts and restrict the sugar content, and skip sweetened beverages or dilute them with water if they are a big part of your life. Sugar causes inflammation which is the breeding ground for many illnesses, but it can be controlled with a bit of discipline and effort!
Psychology Today - Dietary Sugar and Mental Illness
NY Times - Is Sugar Toxic?
Natural News - The Harmful Effects of Sugar and Choosing Healthy Alternatives
The link between diet and cognitive ability and mood is my favorite nutrition topic. New research suggests that this link is stronger than previously thought. Interestingly, it doesn't focus on the mind, but on the gut! The revelation is that a healthy gut, enhanced by the consumption of natural probiotic foods, boosts mental health, strengthens the mind, and prevents depression.
Per this article from Food Consumer written by Dr. Mercola, several studies have shown that eating probiotic foods increased brain activity. In addition, certain good bacteria reduced anxiety and stressed induced hormones. The best way to activate the good bacteria is to avoid processed foods and excess sugars, while eating plant-based foods with a specific focus on fermented vegetables. Tempeh is an example of a fermented tofu product. Further research also indicates that the micro-flora in the gut may also affect brain development over time.
Eating plant-based foods has so many benefits and impacts all of the systems within the body, chief among them is the health of the gut which can lead to a positive state of mind!
After studying 1,859 patients, researchers from Cancer Causes & Control concluded that a diet rich in dark leafy greens, like kale and chard, my reduce the risk of Barrett's Esophagus, a condition linked to cancer. In fact, people with the highest intake of greens were "54% less likely" to have this condition.
The study also found that those with the highest intake of vegan ingredients such as legumes, fruit, all vegetables, and grains delivering large amounts of antioxidants, had the lowest risk of BE. These risks were adjusted to take into account GERD which is a common cause of BE. Plant-based diets have been shown to reduce the risk of almost all diet related cancers, and this is another example of this healthy effect!
Low potassium intake has been associated with a number of NCDs (non-communicable diseases), including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney stone formation and low bone-mineral density. An increased potassium intake may reduce blood pressure, decrease risk of cardiovascular disease, have beneficial effects on bone-mineral density, and mitigate the negative consequences of high sodium consumption. Source: World Health Organization
Potassium is an essential nutrient for the body, but it is often overlooked or forgotten when nutrition is discussed as more commercialized food components attract attention such as sodium, fiber, sugars, protein, calories, carbs, and fatty acids. Yet, potassium plays a major role in the regulation of the body. Reduced potassium consumption may exacerbate hypertension and heart disease among other ailments.
The NIH states that potassium has these additional functions for the body:
Potassium can also help balance the negative impact of too much sodium, since sodium may increase blood pressure while potassium counteracts this bio-effect. Paying attention to potassium-to-sodium ratios in one's food is useful for this purpose. While it's not clear what the optimum potassium to sodium ratio is, we can take an example from nature. Fresh coconut water, considered a very healthy beverage, has a ratio of about 4 to 1, so trying to aim for that mix is a good place to start.
Vegan ingredients help meet daily requirements for potassium and cooking fresh food at home makes it easier to control the sodium side of the equation. Dates and dried apricots have more potassium than bananas while excellent vegetable sources of potassium include chard, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, spinach, and the ubiquitous kale!
According to the Associated Press and NY Daily News, two hospitals in NYC are offering prescriptions for fruits and vegetables instead of pills and medications. Termed "Health Bucks", the prescription is actually a voucher to be exchanged at local farmers markets for plant-based ingredients. Patients also get nutrition counseling.
This strategy is a very good way to encourage better eating habits leading to long term health and fewer hospital visits for its patients! So many chronic illnesses are related to diet that a prescription for more vegetables and fruit in one's diet makes sense and gives patients the opportunity to overcome illnesses naturally and for good while boosting sales for local farmers. Some day, it would be nice if all prescriptions were plant-based or vegan, but this is a fantastic start!
"Vegetarian athletes can meet their dietary needs from predominantly or exclusively plant-based sources when a variety of these foods are consumed daily and energy intake is adequate," Ghosh wrote in his presentation. Source
A common concern expressed by those considering a vegan / vegetarian diet is about the diet's ability to provide adequate nutrition. It's a good question to ask since dietary changes should be preceded by research. For those who are still weighing the trade-offs, this research presented at the Institute of Food Technologies annual expo suggests that even athletes can perform well on a vegan or vegetarian diet. In fact there are several high performance athletes that are currently vegan and achieving success.
It requires eating a wide range of vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes, but it's not hard to include all of these ingredients in daily meals. It's important to learn a few good recipes that combine nice flavor and an abundance of plant-based ingredients. If competitive athletes can operate at the extremes of human performance and be vegans, those of us who do not put great physical demands on our bodies should have no problems with the vegan lifestyle as well!
The team from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle warned: ‘There is really no evidence that taking dietary supplements is beneficial to health, and there is increasing evidence that taking high doses is harmful.’
Fish-oil supplements are a huge market and are touted as having beneficial nutrients such as Omega-3 fatty acids. However, current research suggests that the high doses of Omega-3 in these supplements may trigger prostate cancer per this article. Although more research is needed to find direct correlations, many researchers haven't proved links between taking supplements like these and prolonged health.
In addition, over-fishing to provide the oils for the supplements is posing environments hazards especially for shark populations which are sourced for the key ingredients. A diets rich in vegetables, fruit, and grains is still a great way to get one's nutritional needs without having to risk possible side affects from ingesting highly processed nutritional aids.
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Shanghai, July 4 (CNA) When economic growth and environmental protection are in conflict, "we have to give up economic development because protection of the environment and sustainable development are more important than pursuing economic growth," Taipei Mayor Hau Lung- bin said Thursday. Source
Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin speaking to a group of EMBA students in Shanghai advises the future business leaders of China that the cost to clean up the environment from manufacturing waste is much higher than the income earned from those industries. His message comes at a time when pollution in China's rivers and water tables along with smog in it's cities is generating outrage from concerned citizens.
The message of sustainable development is an important one as many developing nations along with developed ones seek ways to boost GDPs at the cost of the community. Nations which are looking to grow should focus on the long term and protect the natural resources that help sustain it's ecology. Finding industries other than animal agriculture, logging, and heavy, unregulated manufacturing is a reasonable way to plan for the best future possible!
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