The obvious answer to this question is yes; it probably could be killing you. It primarily depends on what you are eating. If you are eating according to the Mediterranean Diet your food is actually helping you to live a longer and a healthier life. However, if you are eating almost any other diet you could be at risk if you have not done your homework about the various diets that are being featured in articles, books and on the Internet. Here is a brief explanation about how these diets rank according to a recent report comparing them.
There are many diets available as people consider how to lose weight and keep it off. A panel of nutritional experts was asked by U.S. News and World Reports to evaluate each of the following diets to determine which ones offered the most scientific and sustainable weight management options.
1. THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET—This diet was the panel’s top choice, and the foods in this diet include vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy oils (Olive Oil), fish and poultry. The science behind this diet includes the Framingham Heart Study and several peer-reviewed scientific studies. Approximately 150,000 people have been evaluated for over 30 years and those on the Mediterranean Diet lived longer and had less chronic illness than all other dietary programs used by other participants.
2. The DASH DIET—DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Foods in this diet are very similar to the Mediterranean Diet with some changes, such as the use of low-fat dairy products. Red meat, fats, and sweets are allowed in small amounts. Studies have verified that people on this diet were able to reduce their blood pressure and often reduce their need for prescription medications.
3. VEGETARIAN/VEGAN DIET—Vegans eat no animal products while vegetarians are less strict on this. Some vegetarians allow dairy and eggs in their diet. This is a very heart-healthy approach featured in books by Dean Ornish and Neal Barnard. However, there are some challenges to the vegan diet including possible deficiencies in amino acids, vitamin D, iron, zinc and B vitamins, especially vitamin B12. This can lead to brain-related issues, osteoporosis, higher risk of cancer and other chronic illnesses. Usually, these issues can be addressed with quality nutritional supplements.
4. FLEXITARIAN DIET—This is basically a vegetarian diet, which allows the occasional piece of meat or fish. The key word here is "occasional." For people who are used to eating meat every day, occasional could mean switching to eating meat every other day. Eating Omega 3 rich fish a few times a week and one helping of grass-fed beef per month is probably a healthier option for flexitarians. Certain red meats like pork or processed bacon should be avoided at all times.
5. WEIGHT WATCHERS—This popular diet program has changed over the years to reflect the needs of their customer base with more emphasis on healthier foods. Portion and calorie control are the main benefits; however nutritional quality is not very high. Their typical consumer still eats foods that are processed, cooked and mostly non-organic, which means enzyme and nutrient levels are low. There are no incentives to eat the healthiest vegetables or fruits, and they allow two helpings of dairy per day. People are often eating better than they previously were, but not nearly as well as they could be. This is why this diet is on the lower end of the list of the best diets with the most science behind them.
6. KETO DIET—In last place is the keto diet. It is designed to force the body into ketosis through the consumption of high levels of protein and fat, as well as low levels of carbohydrates and fiber. Our bodies, especially our brains, are designed to burn carbohydrate so this is not a good diet for most people. Even people in the Paleo period would not eat this diet if they could have found more vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Some cultures like the Eskimos have adapted to this diet over hundreds of years, but only out of necessity. The keto diet cannot provide a sufficient level of nutrients necessary to meet the needs of our bodies. People on the keto diet often experience the following health challenges: loss of muscle mass, kidney problems due to high levels of uric acid, dehydration, digestive disorders due to low fiber levels, liver disease due to high protein intake, hormone imbalance and chronic illness due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
When a diet does not include some or many key nutrients, this begins a process of cellular deterioration, which eventually leads to a chronic illness. Poor nutrition is one of the main reasons why chronic disease happens and now over 60 percent of the adult population in the United States has a chronic disease. This is not surprising because in one study by the National Cancer Institute of 16,000 people they could not find one person with a truly healthy diet. The CDC agrees and reports that over 95 percent of our population has one or more nutritional deficiencies.
Many people try to compensate for their poor nutritional behavior and the lack of nutrients in today's food by taking nutritional supplements. That can be very helpful in spite of a recent study by Tufts University that indicated that supplements do not extend the life of people who take them. Such a study lacks any credibility since it was an observational study with no evaluation of specific factors such as the beginning health of the participants or the number or quality of the supplements taken. There are over 40,000 scientific studies that clearly show that quality supplements help people to live longer and healthier by preventing, as well as reversing chronic illness.
However, even if you eat the healthiest diet, and take quality nutritional supplements, there are still potential health risks due to the interaction between certain foods and certain biochemicals that are consumed by many people. Here are some of the most significant examples of these interactions that everyone should be aware of.
SYNTHETIC FOODS AND OTHER CHEMICALS DEPLETE NUTRIENTS.
- Synthetic iron destroys vitamin E, vitamin C and beta carotene.
- Brominating agents (fumigated fruit and bleached flour) destroys vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, potassium and selenium.
- Sulfites oxidize vitamin C, molybdenum, riboflavin and folic acid.
- Food dyes inactivate vitamin B6, folic acid and vitamin C.
- The food additive, ethylene glycol, destroys vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E and selenium (it is used to make antifreeze).
- Preservatives BHT and BHA destroys vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin E.
- EDTA (used in chelation) prevents the absorption of minerals zinc, calcium and magnesium.
- Pesticides inactivate vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B6, digestive enzymes and selenium.
- Chlorine inactivates thiamine and destroys vitamins A, C and E.
- Fluoride destroys vitamin B1, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene and disrupts the function of virtually all human enzymes.
- Antibiotics create vitamin B deficiencies and destroy good bacteria in the intestines.
- Aspirin destroys vitamin C, vitamin E and folic acid. It also can cause internal bleeding, as well as lead to heart disease, stomach ulcers, intestinal cancer and Reye's syndrome.
- Statin drugs deplete Co-enzyme Q10, which is critical for the heart, and can eventually cause a heart attack.
- Most prescription medications deplete or destroy one or more important nutrients
Food grown on non-organic farms have been shown to have 40 - 80 percent fewer nutrients than food grown on organic farms. The following chemicals contribute to this reduced nutritional value:
- Lime—Binds zinc and manganese and impedes copper intake.
- Nitrogenous fertilizers—Impairs copper absorption into plants.
- Phosphates—Create excess absorption of molybdenum and impairs calcium uptake.
- Potash (potassium)—Causes boron deficiency in plants.
- Pesticides/herbicides—Impair the absorption of all essential minerals.
These potentially dangerous interactions do not influence everyone’s health, but they are very prevalent when you consider how many people consume tap water for drinking, preservatives in food processing, non-organic fruits, and vegetables or commonly used prescription medications.
This is not information that you will find on food labels or will be shared with your doctor or your grocery store manager. This is your personal responsibility and you are responsible for finding this information and using it to protect the health of you, your family members and anyone else that you care about. Hippocrates is supposed to have said, “let your food be your medicine,” but I’m very certain he did not imagine we would have so many challenges finding truly healthy food considering all of the dangerous chemicals that we must contend with every day. Consider the following important facts when you take the previously mentioned information into consideration as you go forward with your plan to eat a truly healthy diet.
- Reports from the Centers for Disease Control, and others, indicate that 95 – 99 percent of the population has one or more nutritional deficiencies.
- Nutritional deficiencies have been shown to be the number one cause of chronic disease.
- Only five percent of doctors have received adequate training in nutrition.
- About 70 – 80 percent of all disease is preventable, and nutrition is the number one scientifically-proven method of preventing, and even reversing, most disease.
- Poor nutrition is the number one cause of the high cost of health care.
Charles K Bens, PhD
Charles K. Bens, PhD is an author, speaker and wellness consultant specializing in the prevention and reversal of chronic disease. He is the founder and president of Healthy @ Work, Inc. a wellness education and consulting company focused on improving the health of employees. The company provides workshops on a wide range of health topics. He has written nine books including Healthy at Work: Your Pocket Guide to Good Health, The Healthy Smoker: How To Quit Smoking By Becoming Healthier First and over 200 articles. Dr. Bens lectures all over the world on organizational change and improvement as well as on wellness and health improvement. And was selected by Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation as the Vail Visiting Professor for 2013.