As we already know, our kids are getting many of their calories each day from sugary foods like soda, energy drinks and sugar loaded snacks. Now, new research by Joseph Carlson of Michigan State University’s Division of Sports and Cardiovascular Nutrition and published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, indicates that teens need to increase the fiber in their diets by eating more plant based foods and not focus on restricting the fats. According to the USDA (choosemyplate.gov), here are the health benefits from eating more plant based foods (fruits and vegetables):
- Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet may reduce risk for heart disease, including heart attack and stroke.
- Eating a diet rich in some vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet may protect against certain types of cancers.
- Diets rich in foods containing fiber, such as some vegetables and fruits, may reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
- Eating vegetables and fruits rich in potassium as part of an overall healthy diet may lower blood pressure, and may also reduce the risk of developing kidney stones and help to decrease bone loss.
- Eating foods such as fruits that are lower in calories per cup instead of some other higher-calorie food may be useful in helping to lower calorie intake
- Dietary fiber from fruits, as part of an overall healthy diet, helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease.
- Fiber is important for proper bowel function. It helps reduce constipation and diverticulosis. Fiber-containing foods such as fruits help provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories.
- Whole or cut-up fruits are sources of dietary fiber; fruit juices contain little or no fiber. Most fruits are naturally low in fat, sodium, and calories. None have cholesterol.
- The USDA and MyPlate currently advise all people to make half of their plate fruits and veggies.
Here is something we all know: more than 66 percent of all adults are overweight or obese. As we gain weight, we increase our risks of getting heart disease and diabetes. As we gain weight, our internal fat levels go up too-yes that means our cholesterol levels. Many researchers have found that increasing the fiber in our diets is inversely related to weight gain. Simply said, the more fiber we eat, the less weight we gain. Fiber adds to the food weight without increasing total calorie intake. Most teens are eating only around 12-13 grams of fiber a day, far less than the 25-30 grams recommended.
So my parents and friends, what should you do? Get your teenagers to start eating more of a plant based diet. Yes, that means more fruits and veggies. Plant based diets are good for all of us-and maybe if we all try, we can help our kids substitute fruits and veggies for their sugar based cravings. Every little bit helps.