Diet and Your Organs: The Generator for Your Body

4 Minute Read

The heart.

Simply put, one of the most important organs in the human body. Yet while it single-handedly gives us life, it is the most common leading cause of death in the United States. Arkansas alone is number 4 out of 50 on the ranking list for most common deaths related to heart diseases in the US. The good news is that when asked the question “what is the biggest preventable measure you can take to avoid heart disease?” choosing health habits was the first and most effective way to maintain good heart health so you can never miss a beat!

To not make things too difficult, the heart is a pump and has two essential jobs for the human body to survive. It needs to provide the body with oxygen-rich blood so the body can be supported, but the heart also takes away the unoxygenated blood (the blood that was already used) and brings it through all the chambers of the heart to re-pump and start the cycle all over again. As long as you are alive your heart never stops pumping which means every 24 hours your heart pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood just in one day. To help visualize that a little better, every week your heart can almost fill up an average-sized swimming pool.

Unsplash / Robina Weermeijer

The biggest culprit for heart disease is saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugar, and here’s how…

There are two types of cholesterol that our bodies harbor, also known as good and bad cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is considered to be good cholesterol.

Unsplash / Leon Ephraïm

This is cholesterol that can be easily disposed of in the body and isn’t harmful to organ function; however, its counterpart, LDL, collects in the walls of the blood vessels and builds up plaque in the arteries, which if there is enough, blocks blood flow in the heart which leads to a higher chance to develop heart disease and even the risk of a heart attack. Both saturated and trans-fat have increased LDL cholesterol and decreased HDL cholesterol, which isn’t optimal for a healthy heart. Foods like beef, pork, lamb, cream, butter, cheese, margarine, and highly processed food (packaged cakes, cookies, crackers, doughnuts, and store-bought frosting) are found with high values of these fats and LDL cholesterol.

Diets high in sodium also can lead the body to hold onto fluid and not release it. With this extra fluid, it too will circulate in the body which leads to a heart that has to pump harder leading to heart disease. Foods like salty snacks, processed meats, sauces, and processed/shelf-stable foods are the biggest contributors to high sodium consumption.

Last but not least, we have added sugars. If there is an excess of added sugars, it can mess with our body’s natural insulin levels, which in turn, will lead to heart disease. A study in 2014 saw a positive correlation (increased relationship) between the rise of heart disease and added sugar consumption. Foods like soda, sports drinks, cookies, cakes, and candy (just to name a few) all have added sugar well above the daily recommended value.

Now that all that scary information is over, it’s time to talk about that happy ending I was telling you about earlier. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fats high in omega-3-6-9 will decrease your heart disease risk and even give you more benefits than just a strong pumping heart. Well Fed’s mission to provide healthy food only benefits you to live a healthier life and to prevent your risk of disease for a happy and healthier life! I can’t HEARTly wait to see how you will take steps to live a heart-healthy life!

Anna Polo, Dietetic Intern

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Diet and Your Organs: We’re Not Kidney You

When was the last time you thought about your kidneys? Unless you’re one of the 37 million people in the US with some form of chronic kidney disease, you probably haven’t given them much thought.

Make two fists with your hands right now. Don’t worry if you’re in a public space, pretend like you’re stretching.

Did you know that those two fist sized organs under your ribcage on either side of your spine filter 200 quarts (that’s 50 gallons if you’re counting) of blood a day? You might recall someone reminding you to drink 8, 8-ounce glasses of water a day and finally you know why! Only 2 quarts of the 200 quarts a day is sent out as waste (again, for you mathematicians that’s exactly 64 ounces, or 2 quarts).

Here’s some other things your kidneys do:

Unsplashed / Robina Weermeijer
  • Hormone production for your blood
  • Converts vitamin D from a non-usable source like the sun into a usable form. Vitamin D helps retain calcium and phosphorus which builds bones, reduces inflammation, and reduces tumor growth!
  • Filters out minerals your body doesn’t need to maintain healthy blood

We would submit to you that poor access to healthy food, a reality for 1 in 5 food insecure individuals in Arkansas, leads to many diet-related illnesses that have seriously negative consequences for the health of their kidneys, and ultimately their lives.

Your kidneys are important. Lose even a portion of their function and life gets hard. So, what inhibits the correct function of these fleshy powerhouses?

Unsplashed / CDC

Without getting too scientific, your kidneys filter toxic and unnecessary minerals out of your body to maintain healthy levels in your blood. When there is an overwhelming amount of something in your bloodstream, your kidney must work harder to process it, leading to kidney disease.

Diabetes is the leading cause of chronic kidney disease (1). A person with diabetes either lacks the insulin to process sugar or their blood rejects insulin, so sugar builds up in the blood, damaging the filters in your kidneys.

High blood pressure is kidney killer number two. High amounts of sodium in your diet cause your body to retain more water. More blood flowing in your veins, higher blood pressure. The extreme force of blood pumping through your kidneys can cause damage to its tiny blood vessels and lead to kidney disease or failure over time.

There is no single reason why certain communities in Arkansas are more at risk for kidney disease, but food insecurity plays a huge role for many rural and minority communities. 

African Americans are 4 times more likely to develop kidney disease, while Hispanic people and Native Americans are at 1.3% and 1.2%, respectively (2). Much of their risk is due to their risk for diet-related illnesses like diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure)

Our mission is deeper than simply providing healthy food. Diet is the major determinant of our participants wellbeing, but empowerment and education are vital to see change.

Good news is kidney disease is reversable. With the correct diet, help from a nutrition or doctor, a support system, and a good nutritional plan, a kidney disease patient can return to good health in time.

Check your kidneys health here and find resources to avoid or manage kidney disease here.