Overweight and obesity remain major issues in the United States. According to the latest National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, more than two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, and more than one-third are obese. Overweight and obesity are linked to many cancers and chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Moreover, over the past 30 years, childhood obesity rates in the U.S. have tripled. According to national data, one-third of America’s children are overweight or obese, and the numbers are even higher in Black and Hispanic communities, where nearly 40 percent of the children are overweight or obese.
Research shows that eating vegetables and fruits are paramount to promoting good health. They contain essential fiber, vitamins, and minerals that can help reduce your risk of chronic diseases. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only approximately 15 percent of New Jerseyans report eating at least two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables daily.
In addition, current guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, as regular participation in physical activity helps people maintain a healthy weight and prevent excess weight gain. CDC data shows that nearly 27 percent of New Jerseyans report not being physically active.
Understanding that eating fruits and vegetables and being physically active can reduce one’s risk of obesity, the Office of Community Outreach at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey has developed Body&Soul+, an initiative to increase nutrition education, physical activity, and access to healthy produce among houses of worship in central New Jersey.
Funded by a grant from Johnson & Johnson, the program is working with approximately 20 houses of worship in Middlesex and Somerset counties to bring healthy lifestyle programming to their congregations, create institutional change through the adoption of healthy food policies, and, ultimately, create an environment where spiritual and physical health are combined.
Although Body&Soul+ is a community-level program, there are steps that every person can take to live healthier, such as: eating more fruits and vegetables; eating fewer foods high in fat and sugar; drinking more water instead of sugary drinks; and becoming more physically active. Get free recipes and learn other good dietary measures at www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov.
To learn more about Body&Soul+, visit www.cinj.org/outreach and click on the Body&Soul+ logo.
Courtesy of Kiameesha Evans, DrPH(c), MPH, MCHES, program director of the Office of Community Outreach at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ).