We’ve all heard the phrase, “you are what you eat,” on several occasions. It’s even possible that we’ve heard it so many times that we allow it to go in one ear and right out of the other.  But when it comes to keeping a well-maintained body weight, building your immune system and living a long, healthy life, the phrase holds a great deal of significance.

America’s obsession with fast food and cheap meals has led to record numbers in obesity and chronic illness. According to the CDC, an estimated $94 billion price tag is attached to the obesity epidemic America is currently battling and a healthier diet could prevent at least $71 billion in medical cost per year. Physical weight is hardly the only issue associated with a poor diet. What often goes unnoticed when it comes to bad food choices is the affects that processed foods can have on mental health. A study published by the Public Health Journal found that regular consumers of fast food are 51 percent more likely to experience bouts of depression.

While these facts work to show that convenience comes at a price to the longevity and quality of one’s life, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  As more Americans become privy to the negative effects of fast food and poor eating habits, the casual dining industry is beginning to experience a slow decline in sales. A prime example of the case is the continued decline of sales from fast-food giant McDonalds. The world’s largest fast food chain reported a nearly 2 percent drop in sales in January 2015.  Analyst expected the drop to be around 1.2 percent.

When examining areas such as Okinawa and the San Blas islands off the coast of Panama, studies have found that the populations tend to live a longer life.  A common thread between these groups of people: their diet is built for longevity. Consuming foods rich in calcium, vitamins, and antioxidants, these populations are experiencing an average life expectancy of as much as 81 years.  Compare this to the United States’ life expectancy of 78 years and one could argue that the proof is, literally, in the pudding.

Check out this post by WebMD and find out what you can eat to increase the quality and longevity of your life.