Each year the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a professional group of over 110,000 credentialed nutrition and dietetics practitioners focuses attention on National Nutrition Month® during the month of March. 

“The theme Celebrate a World of Flavors gives every culture a place at the table,” said registered dietitian nutritionist Libby Mills, a national spokesperson for the Academy in Philadelphia, Pa. “Celebrating the cultural heritage, traditions and recipes from all people is a tasty way to nourish ourselves, learn about one another and find appreciation in our diversity.”

March is also National Kidney Month and National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.  American Diabetes Alert Day is celebrated on March 26th. What do all these health awareness days and months have in common? Nutrition!

Following a healthy diet and lifestyle can prevent several cancers including colon cancer. Kidney disease can be controlled by following a special diet. We know that the risk of diabetes is higher if you are overweight and have a less than optimum diet. I invite you to contemplate how attention to you and your family’s nutrition could lead them to avoid certain diseases as well as enjoy tasty food from many cultures!

  • Kidney Disease: After working with people on dialysis for more than a decade, I noticed a common theme: most people didn’t know they had kidney disease until it was too late to do anything about it. I’ve learned that we all need to advocate for our own health; have your annual physical and ask what your eGFR is. GFR stands for Glomerular Filtrate Rate and it estimates your kidney function. If it is lower than it should be for your age, see a kidney specialist as well as a registered dietitian that is knowledgeable about kidney disease. 
  • Colon Cancer: According to the American Cancer Society, diets that include lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains have been linked with a decreased risk of colon or rectal cancer. Eating less red and especially processed meats may also be linked to a decreased risk. Taking control of your weight and also your alcohol intake (no more than 1 drink a day for women) can also help reduce your risk of colon cancer. (Being overweight is linked with an increased risk of many cancers including breast, endometrial and ovarian cancer.)

What’s a Healthy Diet Anyway?

It’s no surprise that the “Western type” diet, that includes sugary drinks, fast foods, processed carbs and a high proportion of red meats adds to the risk of disease. However, a “Mediterranean” Diet Pattern, which is “plant forward” with more emphasis on eating produce, seafood, legumes and nuts, reduces your risk for cancer and heart disease, is, along with the DASH diet, considered the healthiest diets. In 1993, Oldways, (a food and nutrition nonprofit) along with Harvard School of Public Health and the World Health Organization, created the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid. You can join the Mediterranean Diet Challenge here (requires purchase of the Make Every Day Mediterranean menu plan book) . And here you can find hundreds of free recipes that follow the Mediterranean Diet, including this recipe for Black Bean Brownies with Walnuts: I promise you’ll never know there’s beans in them but they contain 3 grams of fiber and protein in each brownie! 

For more information about National Nutrition Month or to find a Registered Dietitian in your area, see www.eatright.org. Learn more about the Mediterranean Diet in my April post!