fresh peppers and asparagus, eat your vegetables, potassium rich foods, vegetable-rich diet

Researchers have found an answer to the question: Is the standard American diet killing us? Unfortunately, too often what we eat and what we skip contributes to disease and death.

The Link Between Diet and Death:

The investigators did a sophisticated analysis of data on what, precisely, people ate in both 2002 and 2012. They used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) for both years. These nutrition scientists paid special attention to 10 foods or nutrients that have been associated with a risk of cardiometabolic disease in previous studies.

Then they looked at deaths due to heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes and teased out which dietary habits contributed to these deaths. They found an estimated 45% of these deaths were linked to a diet containing too much salt, sugar and processed meat.

What Should You Be Eating Instead?

If people ate more nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and seafood instead, they would be less prone to these lethal cardiometabolic conditions. An analysis by age showed that for adults between 25 and 64, sugar-sweetened beverages were the major dietary culprit. For those over 65, the biggest problem was excess sodium.

Differences in dietary patterns by income and ethnic group apparently contribute to higher cardiometabolic mortality in poor neighborhoods. Finding ways to eliminate food deserts and promote fresh whole foods in such areas as well as in affluent regions could help improve health overall.

We Don’t Want Your Diet Killing You:

Health food enthusiasts have been proclaiming for decades that you are what you eat. This new research published in JAMA confirms that diet may be at least as important to health as preventive heart medications.

Micha et al, JAMA, March 7, 2017

If you would like guidance on healthful eating, you may wish to consult our book, Recipes & Remedies From The People’s Pharmacy. It has two weeks of menu plans as well as recipes from nutrition scientists we have interviewed on The People’s Pharmacy. We’ve included many of our own favorites featuring vegetables, fish and whole grains.

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  1. Kate

    Q. What about a person who has trouble holding a pen?
    (Trying to write would likely add to anxiety.)
    Tape recorder, then erase? But this doesn’t have a “visual”.

  2. Larry
    Raleigh, NC

    “Eat…fruits…. Avoid…sugar-sweetened beverages.”

    I eat a healthy diet and rarely drink soft drinks, but I don’t understand the difference between sugar in fruits and sugar in soft drinks.

    The medical profession has completely lost its credibility with me with diet advice like:
    –Don’t eat foods with cholesterol. Oops, never mind. Cows have loads of cholesterol and only eat grass. We goofed.
    –Avoid fatty foods to lose weight. Oops, sorry, we meant to say Eat all the meat you want. Don’t eat carbohydrates.
    –Don’t eat red meat. No, wait! We meant eat red meat, not carbohydrates.

    What will next week’s rule be?

  3. George

    “For those over 65, the biggest problem was excess sodium.”

    I guess the question is what is the definition of “excess.” See this article:

    …public health officials want everyone over the age of 50 to keep their total sodium intake to less than 1,500 mg of sodium daily. The researchers found that if you keep your sodium intake between 3,000 and 6,000 mg daily, you are likely to have the best outcome.

  4. Angela

    I think the Food Industry and the Pharmaceutical Industry are killing us.

  5. Mary

    A ton of information is available at, there is a great deal of the results of scientific studies from all over the world. Not much in the way of recipes, but it’s very informative in terms of specific foods. You can subscribe and get a daily email, and the site is reasonably easy to search.

    • dzrlib

      My parents both lived into their 90s while regularly eating butter, drinking milk, using honey as a sweetener, etc. They NEVER drank soft drinks and studiously avoided refined/artificial sugar. They felt that refined cane sugar, including high fructose corn syrup, was poisonous!

  6. Joyce

    I think we don’t need a study to tell us a diet high in sugar, salt and processed meat has a negative impact on health (though I think dairy is another culprit). That’s common sense. For me, it’s not the food, it’s my choice of foods. Last year I changed my diet to mainly veggies, fruit, minimal nuts/seeds, some grains and little oil.

    My total cholesterol went from 189-156, LDL decreased also; both in just two short months. Returned to my old habits and next test my cholesterol was 201. I have no one to blame but me and my food choices. So I’m back on mainly whole food/ plant based. Trying to unbreak the habits I developed as an adult. Truth is, as a child of the 60s my family ate whole foods not processed foods.

  7. Alison

    Don’t forget the chemicals like the main ingredient in the weed killer Roundup that is sprayed on oats just before harvesting. Great, I eat oatmeal every day for years, and possibly killing myself on weed killer.

  8. Scott

    Some time ago I read that arsenic is used by manufacturers or growers when processing rice for consumption. I do not remember where I read this but it stuck because I eat a lot (3-3 1/2 cups per week) of brown rice with fish or chicken as my dinner.

    Several weeks ago, I realized that the outside edges of both feet including ankles were tingling and numb but still functional. The tingling sensation also seemed to be traveling up my left calf.

    It’s terrible to self diagnose but I remembered this arsenic article and decided to stop eating rice.

    Over the next 3 weeks or so, I found that the tingling went away, my right foot is back to normal and the left seems to be much better although the numbness is not yet completely gone.

    Can you comment on what you know about this and if it could be real or am I just imaginning all of this.

    Thank you.

  9. J. David A.
    Springfield, MO, USA

    I cringe every time “fish” is recommended for health. Coastal folks can get ocean fish at stores but there is no safe fish in stores in the midwest on most days.

    Farmed fish is being fed the fryer vat oil from the burger and chip industry after that oil has been heavily used and oxidized for excessive time by managers cutting corners for profit.

    The salmon, tuna and shrimp is not even the right color – white fish takes more investigation but the ants won’t eat the fish fat drippings off the store-bought or trout operations in Missouri.

    The sickest diabetics I took care of in practice fished the trout farms frequently.

  10. Whitley

    Interesting no mention of “red meat” just “processed meats”.
    That means bacon, sausage etc I presume ?

  11. Karen
    Midland, MI

    There is an abundance of tasty healthful foods.
    My go to food is short grain brown rice with beans, topped with a cooked fresh farm egg and mixed salad.
    I believe when we eat good foods, we do not crave filler (killer) foods.

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