By Patrice Armstrong, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Office of Science Policy, Strategic Planning, Analysis, Reporting, and Data
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities
Happy and healthy “National Nutrition Month!” Whether your journey for optimal health is progressing or needs a boost, congratulations on taking strides toward a healthier lifestyle.
Healthy eating is shaped by each person’s life, personal preferences, cultural influences, traditions, and access to food. Nutrition-related health disparities persist disproportionately for chronic conditions among minority populations, compared to non-Hispanic Whites in the United States. In 2009–2012, significantly more Black men (43%) and women (44%) had high blood pressure than their White counterparts.1 Hispanics are 50% more likely to die from diabetes,2 and obesity rates of 38% for Blacks and 32% for Hispanics3 are of epidemic proportions. High blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity also increase the risk for heart disease.
NIMHD is addressing these disparities with research on genetic determinants of fat and their role in heart disease risk, assessing diabetes in high-risk minority populations, and promoting healthy lifestyle behaviors to address obesity-related complications. The first NIH-wide Nutrition Strategic Plan, scheduled for release later this year, addresses health disparities as a cross-cutting effort throughout NIH.
Build a Healthy Eating Style4
As a nutritional biologist, I offer 4 tips to improve your nutrition, not only during National Nutrition Month but for a lifetime.
1. All food and beverage choices matter.
- Focus on making healthy food and beverage choices from all 5 food groups, including fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy to get the nutrients you need.
- Eat the right amount of calories for you based on your age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity level.
- Building a healthier eating style can help you avoid becoming overweight and reduce your risk of diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
2. Aim low.
Choose an eating style low in saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars. Lowering your intake of saturated fat and added sugars can help manage your calories and prevent overweight and obesity. And eating foods with less sodium can reduce your risk for high blood pressure. You can follow these suggestions by
reading Nutrition Facts labels and ingredient lists to find amounts of saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars in the foods and beverages you choose; and
- looking for food and drink choices that are low in saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar.
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
- Focus on whole fruits.
- Vary your veggies.
- Make half your grains whole grains.
- Move to low-fat or fat-free milk or yogurt.
- Vary your protein routine.
- It is up to everyone, policymakers, industries, consumers, individuals, and communities to make healthy eating available and affordable.
Be well and may you have continued success in creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle that is right for you and your family!
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Health, United States, 2014. Table 60. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus14.pdf
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Hispanic Health. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/hispanic-health/index.html
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [ca. 2017]. Adult Obesity Prevalence Maps. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/prevalence-maps.html
- United States Department of Agriculture. (2019). Start Simple with MyPlate. Retrieved from https://www.choosemyplate.gov/MyPlate