March 20, 2009

Nutrition and Physical Activity Prevents Diseases in Latinos

By Disly Juarez
Graduate Student
SDSU’s School of Public Health

This month we celebrate National Nutrition Month. This is a perfect time to think about our own diet and make nutritional and physical activity changes to improve our health. Many of you might think that you are in optimal health because nothing seems to hurt, right? However, according to a survey by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke ranked in the top 5 leading causes of death in the Latino population. So you might ask, “Why do I have a high risk for these diseases and what can I do to prevent them?”

The fact that many Latinos are not eating healthy foods helps explain why many of them are at high risk for health problems. For example, when Latinos acculturate to mainstream society, their consumption of many healthy foods decreases and begin to eat more “American” food, for example, McDonalds, Chinese fast food, and other foods high in fat and lack nutrients. Furthermore, eating foods high in fat are very damaging to your health. So what can you do to improve your nutrition? Here are some quick tips:

Quick Tips to Improve your Nutrition:

• Order healthy choices when you eat out. Select foods such as baked fish or chicken instead of fried foods.

• Drink a full glass of water before a meal and another one with it. You’ll stay hydrated and be less likely to overeat.

• Control your portion sizes.

• Eat more fruits and vegetables. For adults, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends 2 cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables each day.

• When shopping, try to choose mostly whole grains. For something to truly be whole grain, it must contain the word ‘whole’ as the first ingredient. (

Regular physical activity is also important for preventing chronic diseases (e.g., coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, colon cancer) ( Historically, Latinos tend to have one of the lowest rates of leisure physical activity among racial/ethnic groups in the United States, despite an increase in their level of leisure-time physical activity during the past decade ( This lack of exercise is becoming a great concern that is affecting the health of our community, so here is some advice about how you can easily become more active.

Quick Tips to Becoming More Physically Active:

• Engage in a total of at least 30 minutes per day of moderate physical activity. You can break up the amount you do at one time, as long as you have bouts of ten minutes at a time. For example, 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes in the afternoon, and 10 minutes in the evening.

• Incorporate exercise into your daily activities. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park far away from your destination, or doing errands by bicycle instead of by car.

• Participate in activities you enjoy with your friends and family members, so you have support. Is there a sport or active hobby you enjoyed in the past, like dancing or gardening?

In conclusion, small changes in your nutrition and physical activity can improve your health and make you feel better. This month, begin practicing some of these quick tips, change the statistics, and enjoy a healthier life free of disease!

This message is brought to you by SDPRC/Familias Sanas y Activas.

For more info on our free physical activity programs in South Bay, please contact Sara Solaimani at 619-594-2965.

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