A poor diet — one that is high in fat and sugar and low in fiber and nutrients —puts you at risk of developing a variety of preventable diseases and health conditions, like diabetes, high blood pressure, and more. The following table summarizes some of the most prominent health risks associated with poor dietary habits, identifies the dietary component that increases your risk, and offers some tips on how you can change your diet to reduce your risk.
|Dietary Component That Puts You at Risk
|Ways to Reduce Risk
|Deficiency of red blood cells
|Lack of iron
|Eat lean protein sources, such as shellfish, red meat (occasionally), oatmeal, and beans/legumes.
|An enlargement of the thyroid gland
|Lack of iodine
|Eat eggs, dairy, seafood, and iodized salt.
|Neural tube defect
|Defects, such as spina bifida, caused when the brain and spinal cord do not develop properly in the growing fetus
|Lack of folic acid in a pregnant woman’s diet
|Eat whole grains or fortified sources of carbohydrates (wheat flour, for example) or take a prenatal vitamin that has all the essential B vitamins.
|Rickets (children) or Osteomalacia (adults)
|Softening of bones due to poor calcification (in children resulting in distorted bones and bow legs)
|Lack of vitamin D, calcium, and/or phosphorus
|Eat dairy products and leafy, green vegetables.
|A gluten intolerance (gluten is a kind of protein found in wheat and other grain products that produces the elastic texture in dough)
|Ingesting products that contain gluten
|Avoid foods with gluten, such as wheat, rye, and barley.
|A skin condition caused by an overproduction of sebum, a natural oil produced by hair and skin
|Usually hormonal, but outbreaks triggered by certain dietary habits, such as eating refined sugars (elevated blood sugar has been shown to increase risk of acne)
|Avoid foods that can spike your blood sugar.
|Hypertension (high blood pressure)
|A condition in which the force of the blood bumping through your arteries is higher than normal, leading to coronary heart disease, heart and kidney failure, and stroke
|A diet high in fat and salt
|Reduce your intake of fat (specifically saturated and trans-fats) and salt. Follow the DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension), which focuses on fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains.
|Type 2 diabetes
|A potentially life-threatening condition in which your body either doesn’t use insulin efficiently or doesn’t produce enough insulin to maintain a normal blood-glucose level
|A diet high in sugar and fat
|Refrain from over consuming sugars and other refined carbohydrates, and exercise (proper amounts of exercise help regulate blood glucose levels).