January 10, 2023
262: Steps Towards Achieving Optimal Health: Why Your Diet Matters

This episode is about the lack of nutrition education in our society and about the results of not educating the public, such as the high rate of preventable deaths related to diet and the fact that medical schools do not push...

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This episode is about the lack of nutrition education in our society and about the results of not educating the public, such as the high rate of preventable deaths related to diet and the fact that medical schools do not push nutrition education. We will cover steps on how you can get started on a plant-based diet.  

In this episode, you will learn the following: 

  • Majority of the deaths are preventable through healthy lifestyle changes, mainly nutrition  
  • A whole food plant-based diet can help reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases 
  • The steps towards getting started on a plant-based diet


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Rate Me: https://ratethispodcast.com/hls


Hello everyone. I am Maya Acosta, a health and wellness coach passionate about improving my quality of life and supporting you along the way.  

Before we get started on today's topic, I'm sharing what I've been up to this month. We are only a little over a week into January, and I've been decluttering my home. I started with my kitchen and eventually ended up in my home office. 


Every once in a while, I need to let go of things that no longer serve a purpose and re-organize my spaces to become more functional. This process allows me to think more clearly and allows more energy to flow easily.

If you are decluttering, remember that you can donate your items to thrift stores and food pantries. There is a women's shelter that I like supporting in my area. They help women get back on their feet after they've suffered hardships. Please don't throw your clothes away; donate them to your local thrift store.  

I am also working on potential partnerships to support my podcast. I recently shared that while I have been podcasting for four years, I do not benefit financially or cover my expenses for running a podcast. I pay out of my pocket to run this show. This year I plan to create mutually beneficial partnerships so that I can continue to maintain my podcast. Many people need to learn the costs of running a podcast. But for me, it is a couple of thousand dollars a month to keep this project going. The expenses involved hosting sites, editing sites, website, newsletter, ai services, and of course, a team that helps me edit my content. It is a full-time job and not easy for one person to run.

You may have noticed that from time to time, a podcast ad will run during my episodes. These are podcasts that I want to advertise on my show. I only allow content that I feel comfortable promoting. I also enjoy exploring podcasts and subscribing to other shows.

Also, I previously told you I am starting a women's support group. I've already had ladies sign up. If you are interested in joining my private tribe, click on the  following link, and I will contact you with more details:https://bit.ly/mayastribe

 Finally, feedspot recently rated my show as part of their top 15 plant-based foods podcasts. I am in the number 5 spot! yay. 

Ok, let's get started on today's episode, Steps Towards Achieving Optimal  Health: Why Your Diet Matters. This month, we are discussing how to start eating more plant-based foods.

The state of our health and lack of nutrition education is a cause for concern. With six in ten Americans having a chronic disease and nearly 400,000 lives lost to heart disease each year, it's clear that we need to make dietary changes to restore our health. But only a quarter of medical schools offer a single course in nutrition, leaving many patients and physicians needing more nutrition knowledge. Today's episode discusses the alarming statistics about our health and what a whole food plant-based diet could do to improve it. We also provide tips on how to get started with this lifestyle change. Don't take another step towards poor health - stay tuned to learn how to maximize your health with a  plant-based diet and how to restore your health. 

Most deaths in the United States are preventable and related to what we eat. Our diet is the number one cause of premature death and the number one cause of disability. Surely, diet must also be the first thing taught in medical schools. 

Nope. Only a quarter of medical schools offer a single course in nutrition. According to a 2011 publication in the Journal of Gerontology, an analysis of mortality and morbidity concluded that we live longer than a generation ago. This is good news. However, we are living fewer healthy years than we did before. Let's take a look at some statistics. Six in ten Americans have a chronic disease. Four in ten Americans have two or more chronic conditions.

38% of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime. Half of all Americans have cardiovascular disease. One in three Americans have prediabetes. That's about 88 million Americans. 34 million people live with Type 2 diabetes, and 72% of Americans live with obesity or overweight. 

But of all of these, the number one killer is heart disease. Heart disease claims nearly 400,000 lives every year. My husband is a vascular surgeon specializing in removing plaque from clogged arteries. Most of his patients have advanced atherosclerosis, a devastating disease that robs people of their quality of life. Many of his patients will spend the last ten to 15 years trying to manage this disease. 

While smoking and living a sedentary life can significantly contribute to atherosclerosis, diet is the most significant contributor to this plaque buildup. Most of us who were raised on a standard American diet, such as burgers, pizzas, hot dogs, etc., have fatty deposits in the walls of our arteries. This plaque buildup is called atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. The buildup happens over decades.

The American Heart Association's "Life's Simple Seven" program allows you to check your heart health score online. You would provide your weight and height, weekly physical activity, and smoking status. Then you answer how much you consume weekly, including fruit, vegetables, grains, fish, sugar, and salt. If you know your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels, you'll also include them to receive your heart health score. I will add a link to the show notes. 

This Life's Simple Seven program addresses seven risk factors that can be improved with lifestyle changes in order to achieve ideal cardiovascular health. According to Dr. Michael Greger, by adhering to these lifestyle changes, you may be able to wipe out 90% of your risk of developing diabetes, more than 80% of your risk of developing a heart attack, cut half of your risk of having a stroke, and reduce your overall risk of cancers by more than a third. Earlier, I mentioned that according to a recent national survey, only a quarter of medical schools offer a single course in nutrition.

As a result, six out of seven graduating doctors felt physicians were inadequately trained to counsel patients on a diet. Another study found that everyday people on the streets knew more about nutrition than their physicians. How often have you gone to your doctor and asked for nutrition information or recommendations on what you should eat? In case you are wondering what the standard American diet looks like, here's a snapshot, 63% of the food is refined and processed, 25% is animal-based such as meat, fish, chicken, dairy, and eggs, which contain high levels of saturated fat and dietary cholesterol. 

12% is plant-based. Of that 12%, 6% of those foods happen to be processed plant based-foods, and 6% are whole unprocessed plant-based foods. Today we know that eating a plant-based diet is a powerful way to achieve good health.

What are the benefits when you consume plant-based foods? You reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, have better blood sugar control, have healthy weight maintenance, and lower your risk of various cancers. 

The solution, then, is to restore our health by incorporating a whole food plant-based diet.

Here are the steps you need to follow for optimal health:  

  1. Maximize your intake of whole plant-based foods. 
  2. Minimize your intake of processed and animal-derived foods. 3. Incorporate a whole food plant-based diet. 
  3. Maximize your intake of whole plant-based foods. 

Maximizing your intake of whole plant-based foods is an essential step to restoring your health and reducing your risk of chronic diseases. Whole plant-based foods include fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds. These foods are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber and have been shown to help lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammation levels.


Aim to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter of it with whole grains, and the remaining quarter with protein-rich foods like beans, nuts, and seeds. Adding more whole plant-based foods to your diet can help you reach optimal health and reduce your risk of chronic diseases. In last week's episode, I  introduced my Practical Tips Guide, which includes an image of a whole food plant-based plate and lists of the recommended foods.https://bit.ly/ mayaspracticaltips 

In addition to helping you reach optimal health, whole plant-based foods have been shown to positively affect the environment. A plant-based diet has a much lower carbon footprint than other diets, requiring fewer resources to produce. Furthermore, a plant-based diet can reduce the pollution created by livestock production. By eating more plant-based foods and reducing your intake of animal-derived foods, you can help the environment.  

Finally, the cost of whole plant-based foods is often much lower than other diets. Fruits and vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds are all much cheaper than animal-derived products, meaning that you can eat a healthy and nutritious diet while saving money. My dad is not willing to give up his meat. But he recently told me that he and his wife have had to reduce their intake of meat and eggs because these foods' costs have increased over the last couple of years. He playfully said that they would be eating more plant-based foods.  

Furthermore, it's often easier to find whole plant-based foods in grocery stores and farmers' markets, meaning that you can start eating healthier while also supporting your local economy. I will be creating grocery tour videos to talk about navigating the grocery store to get the most nutrition for the least amount of money.  

  1. Minimize your intake of processed and animal-derived foods. The first step is to become aware of what kind of food you eat. Reduce your intake of animal-derived foods such as meat, fish, poultry, dairy, and eggs,  which are high in saturated fat and cholesterol. 

Most people eat most of their meals at fast food joints and restaurants. On top of that, the restaurants add additives and preservatives such as MSG to flavor their foods. 

On the contrary, whole, unprocessed plant-based foods are low in salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats. They are the foods that are close to their natural state. For example, a whole sweet potato in the grocery store's produce section is a better option than a canned soup containing sweet potato and other ingredients. That soup is probably loaded with sodium and other preservatives. Instead, try learning how to make a delicious soup at home. 

Fruits and vegetables are packed with phytonutrients, which can help reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease and cancer. Legumes, nuts, and whole grains are excellent sources of fiber, protein, and essential vitamins and minerals. Eating various plant-based foods will help ensure that you get all the essential nutrients your body needs.  

What I love about this lifestyle is that we return to preparing our home meals. We get the family involved in preparing delicious and healthy meals. We sit down at the dining table, and we eat together as a community. Enjoy your meals, eat slowly and savor every bite. We are not only eating for pleasure, we are nourishing our bodies with foods that will help us heal.

Also, eating mindfully can help you enjoy your food and recognize when you are full.

Incorporating a whole food plant-based diet into your lifestyle is a powerful way to achieve good health. Getting started on a whole-food, plant-based diet can be intimidating, so it's essential to have a plan.  

First, start by slowly incorporating more plant-based foods into your meals. This could mean trying out new vegan recipes, adding more vegetables to your plate, or replacing animal proteins with plant proteins. Next, try to replace processed foods with whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. With a bit of planning and effort, you can easily start to incorporate a whole food plant-based diet into your lifestyle. 

Another way to make the transition to a whole food plant-based diet easier is to find a supportive community. There are many online and in-person groups dedicated to helping people transition to plant-based eating. Connecting with other plant-based eaters can give you the motivation, tips, and recipes to make plant-based eating enjoyable and sustainable.

Eating a variety of whole plant-based foods, avoiding processed and animal-derived foods, and incorporating more fiber into your diet can all help you achieve optimal health. It may seem intimidating at first, but with a bit of planning and effort, you can easily start to reap the incredible health benefits of a plant-based diet. Don't wait any longer – start today and unlock your full health potential!

I'd love to hear how you apply Whole Food Plant-Based Diet to get optimal health. Simply let me know about your journey. Leave me a comment or a voicemail that I can share with other listeners.  

As always, thank you for being a listener.

Maya AcostaProfile Photo

Maya Acosta

Maya Acosta is a health and wellness educator, podcaster, and content creator from Dallas, Texas, advocating for whole-food, plant-based living. As co-leader of the Plant-Based DFW Pod, she educates the public on healthy living through various initiatives such as lectures, potlucks, and walks with the doc. Maya hosts the Healthy Lifestyle Solutions podcast and is a member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine's Women's Health Interest Group. She promotes female health and covers pregnancy, thyroid issues, menopause, and more.

Maya serves as a Pod Action Committee member for PlantPure Communities, creating courses to teach other leaders how to share their messages and support their communities online. Her dedication to health outreach is evident through her involvement in various initiatives such as lectures, potlucks, documentary screenings, and walks with the doc. As a content creator, Maya covers events and makes cooking videos for social media and YouTube.

Maya's passion for helping women take control of their health has become her "ikigai," meaning her life purpose. Maya's dedication to promoting a healthy lifestyle and empowering women to take control of their health is truly inspiring.