Few preventive measures feed our overall health like proper nutrition does. It’s the fountain from which good health often flows.
Just ask Ericka Shuman, a health guide and registered dietitian for Capital Blue Cross Connect health and wellness centers.
“Nutrition fuels our body, and without the right food we literally don’t have the right amount of energy,” Shuman said. “So nutrition helps us to function optimally. It’s also very important for disease prevention.”
March is National Nutrition Month, which the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says is a time to more fully understand “the transformative powers of healthy food choices.”
“There are so many reasons people eat the way they do,” Shuman said. “It could be about food insecurity. It could be about mental health. So National Nutrition Month is about being aware of what we’re feeding our body, and why, and how that impacts our overall health.”
Data and danger
This topic isn’t just fodder for another health-month campaign. It’s literally a life-and-death issue, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which counts poor nutrition among the major risk factors it works to reduce in order to help Americans prevent chronic diseases.
The CDC says poor nutrition can cause obesity, heart disease and stroke, Type 2 diabetes, and deficient brain function for infants and toddlers with deficient iron levels, or whose mothers had low iron levels during pregnancy.
Which makes America’s generally poor nutritional numbers all the more problematic. According to the CDC:
- Fewer than 10% of American adults and adolescents eat enough fruits and vegetables.
- 90% of Americans consume too much sodium, raising their risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
- 14% of children 1 to 2 years old and 16% of pregnant women are iron deficient.
- Every day, 60% of young people and half of United States adults consume a sugary drink.
- U.S. diets include far too much added sugars and saturated fats.
The other price we pay
The bill for all this bad eating is big. It escalates healthcare costs for chronic conditions, and increases employee absenteeism. Healthcare for obesity alone, for instance, costs Americans $147 billion a year, according to the CDC.
Shuman says poor nutrition might even lower productivity, whether at home or at work.
“Without proper nutrition, you’re not going to feel good,” Shuman said. “You’re going to feel lethargic. So you won’t be functioning at your top level.”
Employers can help prevent these energy dips, and help their staff eat better, through educational initiatives, and by offering healthcare plans that provide nutritional guidance and counseling.
Capital Blue Cross does just that. Its registered dietitians (RDs) offer free nutritional consultations – in person and by telephone, to both members and nonmembers – and offer members covered follow-up medical nutrition therapy and health coaching at Capital Blue Cross Connect centers. Those follow-up services are also available to nonmembers for a fee.
Capital RDs also provide individual consultations and nutrition therapy to members covered by employer-group or individual plans.
“We help anyone,” Shuman said. “If someone calls the store and says, ‘I’d like to make an appointment,’ we just say, ‘OK,’ and we’re there to help.”
She added that access to personalized consultations and nutrition plans are critical.
“It’s really important to realize that good nutrition is not one-size-fits-all,” Shuman said. “Because it’s so individualized, it’s important to have a consultation to meet goals tailored specifically to your needs.
“That’s why we have registered dietitians to work through people’s personal barriers to change, and to work through complex issues with anything related to their health.”
(For more health and wellness news and information that can benefit your business and employees, visit thinkcapitalbluecross.com)