Author, The South Beach Wake Up Call (2011)
NY Times Best Seller, The South Beach Diet (23 million sold)
Creator of The South Beach Diet
Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
Advisor on heart health for Preventive magazine
The South Beach Diet Wake-Up Call
The 700 Club
“I don’t think that people understand that we as a society are in critical condition when it comes to our health,” shares Dr. Agatston. He says we are living in denial about just how destructive our fast-food, sedentary, sleep-deprived way of life is. Diseases of aging such as type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, impotence, and arthritis are showing up in 30 to 45 year olds at an alarming rate. The chronic diseases that are killing people today were very rare in the past. Our ancestors thrived on a diet of whole unprocessed foods; they also kept themselves fit and healthy.
When doctors look on the inside of the coronary arteries of young people today they are seeing an increase in plaque deposits. They are seeing more overweight young adults with the blood vessels typical of people decades older. Their tissues and organs are “rusting” in a manner similar to a poorly maintained vehicle. “Rusting” in our bodies, rusting refers to a degenerative process that destroys our healthy tissues and organs and hampers our body’s ability to heal itself. Poor eating, not getting enough exercise, and not getting enough sleep all promote inflammation in our cells and tissues. When your arteries rust, you might develop heart disease or have a stroke. When your brain rusts, you might develop dementia. According to Dr. Agatston, “If we don’t commit to leading a healthier and more active life, we will find ourselves old before our time and riddled with chronic health problems.” He refers to young adults who were born into this fast food, sedentary, screen obsessed culture as the “sickest generation” or “Generation S.”
TOXIC TO HEALTHY
Good nutrition, proper exercise and adequate sleep are all anti-inflammatory and anti-aging strategies that can halt and even reverse the rusting process. Dr. Agatston offers seven simple strategies for improving your health and the health of your families:
- Control the Clutter, Free Your Mind – Create an environment that supports a healthy lifestyle, from cleaning the junk food our of your fridge to making a space at home to exercise.
- Shop Right – Buy the best quality food at good prices whether you are shopping at a supermarket, a farmer’s market, a warehouse club, or a food coop.
- Cook as If Your Life Depends on It – Practice healthy cooking for yourself and your family and involve your children in the cooking process. Bring back the family meal.
- Eat In More, Dine Out Smart – Eat healthy in restaurants and on the road.
- Get Moving, Get Fit – Bring more movement to your life. Cardiovascular conditioning and core-strength training can take less than half an hour a day. Include more physical activity into your daily life even when you are not exercising. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Sleep Better, Live Longer – Get a good night’s sleep. Lack of sleep can alter your metabolism, making you prone to weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease.
- Make Every Meal Matter – Enjoy three healthy meals a day (consistent with the South Beach Diet eating principles) along with two healthy strategic snacks.
The secret to staying well is to eat as wide a variety of health-giving foods as possible and to include some of the MegaFoods at as many meals as possible. Some foods that provide outstanding health benefits include:
- High Antioxidant Berries may help prevent cataracts and short term memory loss associated with aging.
- Caffeinated Coffee in moderation can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Healthy Fats found in foods like avocados and olive oil are essential for nerve, heart and brain health.
- Omega 3 Rich Fish such as salmon or herring can help reduce blood pressure and reduce inflammation.
“Good nutrition is not just about weight loss. It is about feeding your body what it needs in order to feel great day in and day out and to help prevent acute and chronic disease. A healthy weight is a natural by product of healthy eating,” reveals Dr. Agatston.
Too many children are dining on junk food that is convenient and the food they get at school is often not any better. This has to change sincerusting can begin in early childhood. Even children as young as 10 years old have been found to have the clogged arteries of 45 years olds. Dr. Agatston believes that healthy changes must come from a holistic community approach. He believes we need to alter school curriculums to teach healthy lifestyle education; incorporate nutrition and cooking classes; and allow sufficient time for physical education and recess. “If kids eat healthy meals at school and learn about good nutrition and exercise, the weight will take care of itself,” shares Dr. Agatston.
Dr. Agatston’s work with Healthier Options for Public Schoolchildren (HOPS) program provided nutrition and healthy lifestyle education programming to more than 50,000 elementary school children nationally. Today the Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative (AUNI) based at the University of Pennsylvania addresses the problems of poor nutrition, obesity and diet-related disease among youth through programs in the city schools that provide students hands-on experiences growing, tasting, cooking and selling healthy foods that follow USDA guidelines.
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