On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness information for all Oklahomans, published three times a week.

What’s Missing from Oklahoma’s Diet?

From obesity levels to diabetes diagnoses, it’s no secret that Oklahoma has room for improvement across the board when it comes to health. An alarming number of health issues plaguing Oklahoma’s adults derive from one thing: the fuel we give our bodies. That’s right – nutrition is a HUGE factor for our overall health. In Oklahoma, adults are missing the nutritional mark in three key areas: fruits, vegetables, and water.

Fruits and Vegetables

We’ve heard it said “Eat your fruits and veggies!” since we were kids, and it still holds true as adults. Fruits and vegetables, especially in their raw form without added sugars or salt, are some of the best nutrient-dense foods available, yet Oklahomans don’t consume nearly enough of them. A study from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that one-fourth of Oklahomans do not eat any vegetables on a daily basis, while half of Oklahomans do not eat any fruit.

Only 18.1% of Oklahoma adults in the study reported having consumed fruits at the recommended level of 2 or more times per day, while only 23.5% of adults reported having consumed vegetables at the recommended level of 3 or more times per day. How can we do better?

Try incorporating some of these tips to up your daily intake of nutrient-packed produce:

  • Keep fruit out where you can see it – a stocked fruit basket on the counter can encourage healthier snacking.
  • Skip white potatoes and opt for colorful veggies, which have more complex carbohydrates. These take longer to break down in the body and provide a long-lasting energy source.
  • Try something new! The next time you shop for groceries, pick one new fruit or vegetable to try. Letting your kids help pick out produce builds healthy habits for the whole family.

Fruits and vegetables are absolutely vital to proper nutrition, no matter your age. They supply important vitamins and minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Making fruits and vegetables a staple of your diet can reduce risk for heart attack and stroke, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and even eye diseases. Fruits and vegetables also help keep blood sugar at optimal levels, which can decrease your risk for diabetes.

Food prep chopping carrots

Water

Unhealthy food – or a lack of nutrient-dense food - isn’t the only thing derailing Oklahomans’ diets. Empty calories in the beverages we choose can do just as much damage. The USDA says that Americans get more calories from sugary drinks than from any other beverage choice.

The CDC reports that over one-third of Oklahoma adults consume soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, and/or fruit drinks on a daily basis. All of these drinks pack empty calories and a startling amount of added sugar; yet they provide little, if any, nutrients. These types of drinks contribute to risks for obesity, diabetes, liver disease, kidney trouble, and tooth decay.

Did you know? One 20-ounce bottle of soda or medium-sized soda at a restaurant contains the equivalent of more than 16 sugar packets! Replacing just one soda per day with water can save over 1,600 calories per week.

Drinking more water helps with kidney function, joint health, digestion tract function, and even can help control appetite. Adult females should aim for 4-5 large glasses per day, while adult males should drink about 7 glasses daily. Setting small goals and making small changes can translate to big results. Try making it a point to drink only water at restaurants (you’ll be surprised how much money you’ll save by adopting this rule). Purchase a reusable bottle to bring with you to work, and aim to finish it once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Try infusing your water with fresh fruit to get the benefits of both, while making your water more fun to drink!

Healthier Food Choices

In 2013, Oklahoma ranked 4th in the nation for sugar consumption. The effects of that sugar consumption are evident in the fact that two-thirds of the adults in our state are overweight. Sugar isn’t the only culprit – high amounts of saturated fats, trans fats, and sodium are also detrimental to adults’ diets and to their waistlines. By consciously choosing to incorporate more fruits, vegetables and water into our daily routines, we can quite literally start dialing those scales back. Check out Dr. Weil’s food pyramid for more reasons to make fruits and veggies the foundation of your meals.

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