Editor's note: Starting this month, the Benton-Franklin Community Health Alliance will be offering monthly tips about how to reduce the risk or severity of a health problem by eating better.
Two years ago, the Tri-Cities ranked No. 9 among metro areas in the country for obesity, according to the Community Health Improvement Plan.
This column will suggest foods rich in antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that are not available in animal foods or supplements.
Eat more plants and you could decrease your risk of many diseases and maintain a healthy weight, according to many recent studies.
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Getting fruits and vegetables into your diet doesn't have to be a chore. There are simple ways to eat more plants.
Here are six tips:
-- Leave washed fruits on the counter for easy picking and eat at least 1 cup a day.
-- Add vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, pickles, onions, grated carrots and sprouts to sandwiches. Half of your food in the evening should be vegetables.
-- Instead of following a recipe exactly, add extra vegetables. If making a soup or stew, add extra onions, carrots, spinach, apples or pears.
-- Add vegetables while heating anything that is already prepared. Toss fresh tomatoes into frozen pasta dishes or add diced spinach to canned soups.
-- Roast a large batch of vegetables over the weekend to add to meals during the rest of the week.
-- Add chopped vegetables to chili, a casserole or even spaghetti or marinara sauce.
Recent studies have shown that eating more vegetables, beans, fish, poultry, fruits, herbs and spices, and less bread, pasta, pastries, fried foods, fats and dairy keeps our brains healthy.
A recent Puget Sound Veterans Affairs study found it optimum to eat a diet containing lots of fruits and vegetables, but low in fats, sugar and simple carbohydrates to slow the progression of Alzheimer's.
Another study in Norway in 2010 found all plant foods were associated with better cognitive function in the elderly, with higher intake associated with better results, while consumption of white bread and sugary desserts were detrimental.
-- The Benton-Franklin Community Health Alliance's monthly food column discusses how to reduce the risk or severity of health problems by eating better. More information at www.bfcha.org.
Pasta with Marinara Sauce
Start to finish: 30 minutes. Servings: 4.
1 chopped onion
2 cups mushrooms, quartered
2 cups zucchini, cut in bite-sized pieces
2 cups broccoli or cauliflower, cut in bite-sized pieces
2 cups bell peppers, cut in bite-sized pieces
1/2 pounds whole wheat spaghetti or other whole grain pasta
3/4 pounds ground chicken or 15-ounce can navy beans
2 cloves garlic, minced
15-ounce can diced tomatoes
15-ounce can tomato sauce
1/4 cup sliced kalamata or black olives
1 teaspoon dried oregano, basil and parsley
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place vegetables on rimmed baking sheet coated lightly with baking spray. Lightly spray vegetables with baking spray or toss with a teaspoon of oil, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and bake about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook pasta per package directions.
Brown chicken in a pan and drain off extra fat.
Place all other ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add chicken or beans and simmer while pasta cooks. Top pasta with sauce and some of the vegetables and sprinkle with basil or parsley before serving.
Serve with a green salad and the remaining roasted vegetables.
Nutrition information per serving with chicken (navy beans): 524 calories (450 calories), 12 grams fat with 2.1 grams saturated (4 grams fat with 0.3 grams saturated), 85 milligrams cholesterol (0 grams), 66 grams carbohydrate (79 grams, 13 grams fiber (19 grams), 34 grams protein (17 grams); high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Iron.