Which cities have the best diet, and which have the worst? To find out, we considered two dietary factors in our RealAge 2012 Youngest & Oldest Cities in America Report: fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. Eating these nutritious foods can help make your RealAge up to 6 years younger by helping prevent weight gain, diabetes, and heart attack. Did your town make the best-cities list, or is it among the worst?
Residents of cities with a young RealAge fill their grocery carts -- and their bellies -- with a wide range of colorful fruits and vegetables for a daily dose of anti-aging vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Think tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers, leafy greens, and eggplant. Keith Roach, MD, Chief Medical Officer of Sharecare and a co-creator of the RealAge® Test, recommends gobbling 10 servings of fruits and veggies a day for the youngest RealAge. "It's best to mix them up," he notes.
Why eat whole grains? They contain the bran and the germ of the grain, which have the most nutrients and are absorbed more slowly than refined or enriched grains. That helps keep blood glucose and insulin levels steady and you feeling full longer (great for weight control). A diet rich in whole grains can help you avoid diabetes, heart disease, and gum disease -- not to mention belly fat.
Did you know that San Francisco allows community gardens in its public parks? That could be why Bay Area residents rank number one for eating plenty of fruits and veggies. They're also second in the nation for eating whole grains. That helps keep their cholesterol and blood pressure down to fend off heart disease and diabetes. No wonder San Francisco nabbed the top spot overall as the best city to stay young.
Minneapolis was once the world's flour-milling capital, and its residents still love their grains. They're especially fond of whole grains and take the nation's top spot for whole-grain consumption. This simple but healthy choice is likely why they have low rates of hypertension. This, combined with adding lots of fruits and vegetables to their diet, helps make Minneapolis our second-best city for nutrition.
Boston is the third-best city for eating whole grains and seventh when it comes to fruits and vegetables. No wonder; Bostonians have been shopping for fresh produce at the open-air Haymarket Square farmers' market since 1830. That healthy diet helps them enjoy low rates of cholesterol, diabetes, and hypertension.
Ever thought about planting a fruit and vegetable garden? Sacramento, Calif. -- known for being a fresh produce farming hub -- encourages residents to grow their own produce in their front yards. Maybe that's another reason why locals call it Sacra-tomato. Plus, as a mecca for growing brown rice, residents are eating plenty of whole grains, too. All of this healthy eating helps Sacramentans have some of the lowest hypertension, cholesterol, and diabetes rates in the country.
Washington is packed with restaurants serving fresh ingredients from local, organic farms. Plus, residents can buy their own fruit and vegetables from the nearly year-round farmers' markets. D.C. residents also do a good job of eating plenty of whole grains, thanks to a wide range of ethnic eateries with teff, quinoa, and other grains on the menu. It's no wonder that Washington, D.C., has such low rates of cholesterol and hypertension.
Greenville has the dubious distinction of the nation's worst diet, thanks to coming in dead last for eating whole grains, and ranking #46 for eating fruits and vegetables. Residents' poor diet contributes to their high rates of hypertension. On a positive note, Greenville is adding more healthy foods to its schools' lunch menus and creating more farmers' markets. Changes like these can help locals live healthier -- even on a budget -- despite having some of the lowest incomes in the country.
We think there's a link between Knoxville, Tenn., residents' poor diet and their poor health (the city has the oldest RealAge overall). They have skyrocketing rates of stress and poor sleep -- both of which contribute to obesity. Stress and restless nights make you reach for junk food. Shifting toward healthier choices, such as steel-cut oatmeal or yogurt topped with fruit, can help enhance sleep and fight stress for better well-being all the way around.
Louisville may be home of the Louisville Slugger baseball bat, but it's not exactly scoring grand slams when it comes to nutrition. Residents are reluctant to eat inflammation-fighting fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. This may be why they're stressed, not sleeping well, and suffering from high blood pressure. To ease hypertension, residents can start by eating bananas, cantaloupe, or even dried peaches. They're excellent sources of blood-pressure-friendly minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
The first shopping cart may have been invented in Oklahoma City, Okla., but residents aren't filling their carts with fruits and vegetables or whole grains. This could also be why Oklahoma City is third worst in the country for high cholesterol and hypertension. Oklahomans might try swapping their chicken-fried steak for baked chicken, grits for oats, and pecan pie for fresh strawberries.
Memphis is the pork barbecue capital of the world and all that 'cue means locals are eating few fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Lack of nutrients from these foods may also be why its residents have high rates of diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol. Memphis residents might try steaming vegetables, cooking with olive oil, and eating lots of tomatoes (no, not the fried green kind) to lower their cholesterol and blood pressure, and fend off diabetes.
To eat healthy, pick foods that are the colors of the rainbow, and watch your portion sizes. Eating foods that are colorful-red apples, orange carrots, yellow squash, green salad, tomatoes, blueberries and purple eggplant-helps yo...u add fruits and vegetables to your diet. More