We all have our favorite summer traditions that we look forward to as the weather gets warmer. For me, it’s the abundance of fresh, ripe fruits and vegetables—and enjoying them with family and friends. There’s nothing like a farmers' market peach or fresh carrots from a local garden.
In my book The Doctor in the Mirror, I talk about lifestyle and the relationship between how you live and how you feel. An important part of how you live is how you eat. Taking advantage of our country’s abundance of fresh fruits and veggies is not only a seasonal perk but also a critical step toward better health year round.
Each year, America’s Health Rankings® includes vegetable and fruit consumption as supplemental measures for state health. ChooseMyPlate.gov says most fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat, sodium, and calories-and none have cholesterol. Maintaining a diet rich in vegetables and fruits can protect against certain types of cancers and also reduce risk for heart disease, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes.
The rates of obesity and diabetes in America have never been higher. The 25th anniversary edition of America’s Health Rankings® found that 29.4% of all U.S. adults are obese, while 9.6% of all adults have been told by a doctor they have diabetes. The report also showed that the picture of diabetes in America is complex, with disparities evident based on education level, gender, and income. For instance, while the rate of diabetes among college graduates is 6.9%, the rate among those with less than a high school degree is more than double, at 17.7%. Self-reported diabetes has more than doubled in the last 25 years—while obesity rates have increased 153% in that time.
It’s time to address these chronic conditions through promoting better nutrition and physical activity habits among all Americans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified nutrition, physical activity, and obesity as “winnable battles.” By increasing exercise and paying attention to what we eat—and filling up on fruits and vegetables instead of less healthy options—we can take action and make progress in the fight against diabetes and obesity. By encouraging others to do the same, we can keep our communities healthy as well.