focusAn interesting study came out a while back, looking at the impact of diet on patients with stable coronary artery disease. Analyzing dietary patterns of more than 15,000 adults, the authors found that while a more Mediterranean diet appeared to lower the risk of major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE), surprisingly, eating a more Western diet didn’t seem to raise risk.

Its authors concluded,

Greater consumption of healthy foods may be more important for secondary prevention of coronary artery disease than avoidance of less healthy foods typical of Western diets.

Naturally, some challenged this notion.

“To say that dietary advice should focus on only eating healthy foods and not on significantly limiting the unhealthy foods in the typical Western diet is absurd,” said Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical Center, in New York City.

After all, there’s plenty of evidence showing linking the Western diet – with its huge portions, high sugar content, reliance on hyper-processed foods, and all – and chronic disease. The World Health Organization has cited the shift to more Western diets as one factor in the soaring rates of chronic disease in developing countries.

More, the dietary info provided by patients in this recent study was self-reported – far from the best way to collect accurate data. People “forget” to report foods they don’t want to admit to eating. People get a little too casual with keeping their diary, not always noting things like snacking. What participants reported may reflect a healthier diet than the typical American tends to eat.

Even so, there’s some truth in the idea that we might do better by focusing more on health-promoting foods rather than just avoiding what’s bad for us. For what junk foods put into us is only half the story. They also tend to displace healthier choices. Those French fries come at the expense of a salad. That pastry comes at the expense of fresh fruit or cheese. That prefab frozen dinner comes at the expense of fresh, fatty fish and vegetables.

And the way they make us feel may make us less apt to engage in other healthy behaviors, such as exercise or getting quality sleep.

What if, instead of avoiding this food or that, we chose to focus more on including lots of the good stuff – more plants, more fish, more healthy oils? Include those, and, typically, there goes the appetite for the junk, especially once you’ve gone a while without it. Once those initial cravings die, they tend to stay dead…unless you start feeding them regularly again.

And this attitude – accentuating the positive, really – applies to far more than just food. We can apply it to exercise. To spending time outdoors, in green space. To getting enough rest. To doing all the things we know support good health. We do that, and we find we have less time or inclination toward habits and behaviors that drag down our bodies, minds, and souls.

What will you do today to cultivate health in your world?

Image by Dimitris Kalogeropoylos, via Flickr

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