Facts with Hope
FACT: Many people turn to artificial sweeteners as a way of trimming carbs and calories from their diets. But a recent article in the journal Nature indicates sugar substitutes may actually alter the function of bacteria in the human gut in a way that can increase risk for obesity, diabetes and other chronic disease.1
HOPE: Cutting out sugar—artificial or otherwise—isn’t hard when you adopt a diet packed with whole grains, fruits and vegetables, plant-based protein and good fats. A preponderance of research shows this type of meal plan contributes to weight loss, can help cure type II diabetes and prevents heart disease, high blood pressure and other lifestyle-related illnesses. While there are no shortcuts to health, the good news is found in helping yourself to nature’s bounty.
FACT: Children who don’t get adequate vitamin D could be more likely to succumb to heart disease when they’re adults, according to a recent Finnish study. Researchers found that among 2,148 children, ages 3-18, those with the lowest levels of the vitamin showed a thickening of the arteries in adulthood—a sign of heightened risk for cardiovascular disease. 2
HOPE: Because the body makes vitamin D when exposed to sunshine, kids shouldn’t skimp on time outdoors. It’s also important to regularly check their levels of vitamin D—ask your doctor to do the test during your child’s annual exam—and you may have to provide a supplement. As the adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
FACT: Sales of organic fruits and vegetables have skyrocketed to more than $11 billion annually, and more than 80 percent of families in the U.S. buy organic products at least once in a while, according to the Organic Trade Association. However, if you’re buying organic you’re spending more—and the majority of buyers say cost limits their organic purchases. 3
HOPE: A number of studies show little scientific evidence proving that organic fresh fruits and vegetables provide more nutrients than non-organic produce.4 And while pesticides can be blamed for a tiny sliver of cancers, a diet high in fatty, refined foods and low in fruits and vegetables is the far bigger culprit. So don’t let cost be a barrier—in the case of fresh produce, quantity is key.
FACT: How do you get your protein? It’s a question asked almost anyone who forgoes meat for a plant-based diet. Truth is, those eating western diets are consuming up to twice as much protein as they need. 5 All that extra protein gets turned into sugar, then fat, which leads to decidedly unhealthy results.
HOPE: Protein is found in most plant-based foods, from tofu to spinach to whole grains, so vegetarians and vegans don’t need to stress about missing out. Plus, fruits and vegetables provide a whole slew of additional nutrients that are vital to good health. In the Garden of Eden, God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed … and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. … And, behold, it was very good.” (Gen. 1:29-31)
- Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota, doi:10.1038/nature13793, Eran Elinav et al., published in Nature, 17 September 2014.
- Junoala, et al. (2015). Childhood 25-OH vitamin D levels and carotid intima-media thickness in adulthood: the cardiovascular risk in young finns study. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, epub. Feb. 10.
- Organic Trade Association. (2014). Market analysis. Retrieved from www.ota.com.
- Smith-Spangler, et al. (2012). Are organic foods safer or healthier than conventional alternatives?: a systematic review. Annals of Internal Medicine, 157(5): 348-66
- USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. (2010). Adults daily protein intake much more than recommended.