March is National Nutrition Month, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is aiming to encourage people to develop healthy eating habits that still fit their food preferences, lifestyle and cultural traditions.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is not something that most teens and young adults think about very often. Nutrition Professor Mark Glen says that atherosclerotic lesions, which is the plaque that builds up in the arteries, can actually begin as early as the teenage years. Professor Bernie Elhard agrees that making healthy choices early in life is important.
“When you’re young, you can still have changes to your cardiovascular system that can’t necessarily be seen. You can get a buildup of plaque that continues to build over your life span. You’re never too young to start building good habits,” Elhard said.
The focus of this annual campaign is to raise awareness about the importance of incorporating healthy foods into the diet and integrating physical activity into the daily routine. One of the most effective ways to ensure a healthy lifestyle is to incorporate 10 foods into your diet that promote heart health, decrease cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure. These foods include oatmeal, salmon or light tuna, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, nuts (particularly almonds), berries and apples, legumes, spinach, flax seed and soy.
Some people may choose not to eat these foods for several reasons. Perhaps they do not enjoy the taste, or maybe they do not know how to incorporate any of these foods into a meal. Oatmeal is not only a very cost-conservative food item, but it is a great meal with which to start the day. Elhard says that oatmeal is loaded with soluble fiber, which research suggests lowers blood lipid levels.
To add a little flavor to your morning oatmeal, you can mix in a dried or whole fruit, like cranberries or blueberries, and sprinkle a little flax seed on top. Instead of adding half-and-half or two-percent milk to your morning coffee, you can try adding soy milk instead. Additionally, Glen suggests snacking on almonds rather than chips or crackers.
Cost and convenience are concerns for students, however. It is normal for college
students to put a healthy diet on the back burner because it may require a little extra room in their wallets. However, spending a few extra dollars on healthy food is nothing compared to the $312.6 billion that cardiovascular disease costs the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also, each of these 10 foods can be found and purchased at Saint Joe’s co-op, the Minnesota Street Market, located on Minnesota Street.
Maria Lovelette, a senior at St. Ben’s who is the marketing intern at the Minnesota Street Market, says that the owner, Katie Foley, loves it when students come into the co-op. She will help them find any food within the co-op and is more than willing to provide recipes for meals and snacks as well as offer her opinion about foods. Shopping at the Minnesota Street Market is beneficial to shoppers, farmers and the
community at large.
“Buying foods at the co-op allows students to give back to the community and support local farmers who grow food locally. A lot of the food sold there is organic and pesticide free,” Lovelette said.