How about some good news?
According to new research in Obesity, folks have finally started cutting back on the sugary drinks. They’re also drinking more water, which – unlike soft drinks – your body actually needs. After all, it’s involved in every single metabolic process within.
Analyzing data from 18,000 kids and 27,652 adults collected between 2003 and 2014, the researchers found steep drops in sugar-sweetened beverage consumption. Per capita consumption dropped from 473.8 to 312.6 daily drink calories for kids and from 425 to 31.1 for adults.
And fewer folks are drinking these beverages daily. In 2003, nearly 80% of kids had a sugary drink on any given day; in 2014, just over 60% did. The drop was less sharp for adults but still notable: from 61.5% having a sugary drink daily to 50%.
Of course, the bad news is that we’re still drinking a whole lot of sugar.
On the one hand, you have the damage that the sugar and acids in soft drinks do to tooth enamel, paving the way for decay. On the other, you have the chronic inflammation that sugar fuels, leading to gum disease and a host of related systemic health issues.
But as they say, any journey starts with just one step, and this decline in consumption is an important one.
We’re still waiting for that first step in the journey to better diet quality. According to the latest data from the CDC, only 12% of Americans eat the minimum daily fruit recommendation and only 9% eat the minimum veg recommendation.
Interestingly, though conventional wisdom holds that the wealthy eat healthier than the poor, in this one respect, it isn’t by much. Only 3% more of the economically advantaged met the daily veg minimum than the economically struggling. Clearly, having the funds is no insurance of a healthful, balanced diet.
And a wide variety of produce is absolutely fundamental to it.
The real kicker is that the recommended daily minimums aren’t all that much to begin with: 1 ½ to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of veg. Here’s an example of what that can look like, from an excellent post over at the Kitchn:
As the author of the post notes,
Once I lined everything up I was surprised to see how little food this actually is. When you hear over and over about The Fruits and Vegetables We Are Not Eating, one supposes that the quota must be daunting. But it’s not, really, and seeing everything side by side is helpful as I think about planning my meals.
If, on the other hand, all this seems a little bit overly thought-out (hey, it’s only fruits and vegetables, after all — eat as much as you can!) I get that. But I do think it’s interesting how few of us actually eat our daily recommended fruits and vegetables, and perhaps seeing a few simple examples of how easy it can be might help you.
Let’s hope it does. For even this one change alone – displacing nutrient-empty foods with real food – can pay big dividends. In fact, one study published earlier this year in the New England Journal of Medicine found that small, incremental changes to the diet may help you live a longer, healthier life.
Researchers found that a 20-percentile increase in people’s diet-quality scores was linked with an 8 to 17 percent reduction in a person’s risk of death from any cause over a 12-year period….
In practical terms, a 20-percentile increase in diet-quality score can be achieved by swapping out just one serving of meat, which is 4 ounces of red meat or 1.5 ounces of processed meat, for one daily serving of nuts (about a handful) or legumes (about one tablespoon of peanut butter), said Mercedes Sotos-Prieto, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor of food and nutrition science at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.
Those whose diets got worse, by the way, were 6 to 12% more likely to die from any cause during that same 12-year period.
Healthy eating really is the foundation of good health.
Soda can image by Susan Murtaugh, via Flickr