Obesity has become a huge health problem in the United States and the rest of the developed world. More than one-third (34.7%) of adults and 17% of children in the U.S. are obese, according to the CDC. Even higher numbers of Americans are overweight.
Obesity is defined in adults as a body mass index (BMI) equal-to-or-greater-than 30. In children, a BMI at-or-above the 95th percentile defines obesity. (Overweight adults have a BMI between 25.0-29.9; overweight children have BMI values between the 85th-94th percentiles.) Several leading causes of preventable and premature deaths in adults — heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, cancer — all have been shown in multiple medical studies to be related to obesity.
What we eat (and don’t eat) plays the biggest role in whether we become obese or not and this, in turn, affects our overall health. Last week we looked at some “superfoods” — fruits and vegetables that come in a variety of vibrant colors and pack a nutritious punch that only “real” (not processed) foods possess. Examining the changing nutritional needs in women over their lifetimes, Rochelle Koff lists 10 superfoods that are as easy as “A-B-C” for all of us to remember:
1. Almonds/walnuts: They both provide a good type of fat and B vitamins that help lower bad cholesterol and cancer risk. Almonds are a good source of vitamin E, which is good for the skin. Walnuts have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits and are a source of Omega 3. Add flaxseeds and chia seeds for a healthy snack.
2. Avocados: They’re high in heart-healthy fat, raising good cholesterol, lowering bad cholesterol. They’re also an excellent source of potassium and vitamins C, K and E.
3. Beans: All beans are beneficial, said Cleveland Clinic’s Craggs-Dino. They have a high antioxidant level, they’re good for the heart, provide protein and fight cancer.
4. Beets: They’re rich in antioxidants, a source of fiber and iron with anti-cancer properties. Beets are also high in B vitamins, but they do have a high sugar content, so eat them in moderation.
5. Berries: Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries have different nutrients so eat a variety. Raspberries are high in vitamin K, which is necessary for bone health, Craggs-Dino said. All are high in antioxidants, which fight cancer and are a good source of potassium, which helps fight high blood pressure.
6. Broccoli: Cruciferous vegetables, which include Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower, offer antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C and beta-carotene. Dark green vegetables, including kale, spinach and collard greens, are also a defense against disease. “They’re not only high in antioxidants, they’re high in folic acid,” Craggs-Dino said.
7. Carrots: The veggie is one of the best sources of beta-carotene, which the body turns into vitamin A. Bright orange fruits and vegetables, including carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and mangoes, have an abundance of vitamins, fiber and phytonutrients that are good for your skin, eyes and heart.
Greek or low-fat yogurt (calcium, protein, probiotics), papaya (vitamin C, fiber), and salmon (omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, protein) round out this list of superfoods.
Not only are they colorful and great-tasting, but each superfood is versatile and can be eaten whole or incorporated into healthy recipes. If you have a recipe using one or more of these ingredients and would like to share, feel free to pass them along in the comments section below, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Check out “Will’s Guac” here.)