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What we aren't eating is killing us

According to a recent global study, there are three nutrition risk factors that have increased mortality.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The University of Washington recently published a global study that revealed the 3 highest nutrition risk factors for increased mortality. 

These risk factors were responsible for greater than half of diet-related deaths in 2017 worldwide. It may surprise you to hear that these risk factors are not sugary beverages or red meat.

Instead the most dangerous nutrition risk factors were identified as:

  1. Not eating enough Fruit
  2. Not eating enough Whole Grains
  3. Eating too much Sodium

Mercy Health Registered Dietitian Katie Francisco provides some ideas for increasing your intake of whole grains and fruits, while decreasing your consumption of sodium.

Identifying Whole Grains
Foods labeled with the words "multi-grain," "stone-ground," "100% wheat," "cracked wheat," "seven-grain," or "bran" are usually not whole-grain products.

Color is not an indication of a whole grain. Bread can be brown because of molasses or other added ingredients. Read the ingredient list to see if it is a whole grain.

Use the Nutrition Facts label and choose whole grain products with a higher % Daily Value (% DV) for fiber. Many, but not all, whole grain products are good or excellent sources of fiber.

Read the food label’s ingredient list. Look for terms that indicate added sugars (such as sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, or raw sugar) that add extra calories. Choose foods with fewer added sugars.

When looking for whole grain, choose foods that list one of the following whole-grain ingredients first under the label's ingredient list:

  • Brown rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgur
  • Millet
  • Oatmeal
  • Popcorn
  • Quinoa
  • Rolled oats
  • Whole-grain barley
  • Whole-grain corn
  • Whole-grain sorghum
  • Whole-grain triticale
  • Whole oats
  • Whole wheat
  • Wild rice

Focus on Fruits
Eating fruit provides health benefits. Eating more fruits as part of an overall healthy eating style reduces the risk of some chronic diseases. Fruit provides nutrients vital for health including potassium, fiber, vitamin C and folate. Choose whole fruits instead of juice. The sugar naturally found in fruit does not count as added sugar.

  • Keep visible reminders: Place a bowl of whole fruit on the table, counter or in the refrigerator where it is easy to grab for a snack.
  • Experiment with flavor: Buy fresh fruits in season when it is less expensive and more flavorful. Use fruits (applesauce, bananas, dates) to sweeten a recipe instead of adding sugar.
  • Think about variety: Try a new fruit each week. You may find a new favorite!
  • Include fruit at all 3 meals: Add berries to your overnight oats in the morning, try a tangerine with lunch, or use fruit as an accent on salads.
  • Snack on fruits: Fruits make great snacks. Try dried fruits mixed with nuts or whole fruits like apples. They are easy to carry and store well.

How to Reduce Sodium Intake
The best way to reduce your daily sodium intake is avoid highly processed foods. Also, read the Nutrition Facts label and look for the Daily Value of sodium before purchasing and eating foods. Additional ways to lower sodium intake:

  • Consume more potassium by eating additional servings of fruits and vegetables. 
  • Watch portion sizes, especially of already prepared foods.
  • Limit cured foods, including cold cuts and sausages.
  • Rinse canned foods and look for no-salt added varieties.
  • Choose lower sodium packaged foods. Most sodium in the food supply comes from packaged foods. Use the Nutrition Facts label to choose foods with a lower % DV for sodium. Foods with less than 140 mg sodium per serving can be labeled as low sodium foods. Claims such as “low in sodium” or “very low in sodium” on the front of the food label can help you identify foods that contain less salt (or sodium).
  • Remove the salt shaker from the table.
  • Substitute crackers and chips with a small amount of unsalted nuts.

Check out these recipes that can help increase fruit intake, incorporating more whole grains and reducing sodium.

Kale-and-Chickpea Avocado Grain Bowl 

  • 1/2 cup uncooked bulgur
  • 1 (15-oz.) can unsalted chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups finely chopped carrots
  • 4 cups chopped kale
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 1 medium avocado, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric


  1. Combine 1 cup boiling water with bulgur in medium bowl. Let stand 10 minutes; drain well.
  2. Pat chickpeas dry with paper towels. Heat 1T olive oil in a large skillet over high. Add chickpeas and carrots; cook, stirring occasionally, until chickpeas are browned, about 6 minutes. Add kale; cover and cook until kale is slightly wilted and carrots are tender, about 2 minutes. Add chickpea mixture, green onions, avocado to bulgur; toss.
  3. In small bowl, whisk together remaining olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and turmeric
  4. Divide bulgur mixture among 4 bowls; drizzle evenly with dressing.

Farro and Spinach Breakfast Salad 

  • 1/2 cup uncooked farro
  • 1/2 cup fat-free Greek Yogurt
  • 1 large navel orange, peeled and sectioned
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 cups baby spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries


  1. In a small pot, bring 2 cups water to a boil and add faro. Cook until tender. Drain and let cool.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir the yogurt, orange zest and honey. Cut the orange sections into bite-sized pieces, if desired.
  3. Combine the faro and yogurt mixture; stir well to mix. Add the orange sections, spinach and blueberries; stir to combine.

Honey Lemon Quinoa Fruit Salad

  • 2 cups of blueberries
  • 2 cups of sliced strawberries
  • 2 crisp apples, chopped
  • 1 cup of cooked quinoa (white, red or tricolor)
  • 1/2 cup of walnuts, chopped
  • 1 1/2 lemons for juice
  • 2 tablespoons of raw honey


  1. Combine all of the fruit, quinoa and walnuts in a bowl and gently mix together.
  2. In a small bowl, stir the honey and the lemon juice together.
  3. Pour vinaigrette over the fruit salad and mix through.
  4. Serve immediately or allow to chill in the fridge.

Blackberry Baked Oatmeal

  • 1 cup of mashed banana
  • 3/4 cup of almond milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T ground flax seed
  • 3 T water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons of pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups of rolled oats
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Blackberries


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add the banana, almond milk, eggs, flax seed and water, oil, maple syrup and vanilla. Mix until combined.
  3. Add in the oats, cinnamon and salt and combine.
  4. Fold in the blackberries if you prefer them mixed through.
  5. Pour the batter into a greased 8x8 pan.
  6. Top with blackberries if you did not mix them in.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before cutting.

Resources: www.eatright.org, www.choosemyplate.gov, www.cookinglight.com. http: blog.myfitnesspal.com and www.spinachforbreakfast.com

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