Escape the Food Swamp and Save Your Heart, Brain, and Waistline
Do you live in a neighborhood where there are more fast-food chains and convenience stores than healthy food options? If so, you might be living in a “food swamp” and that may make it harder for you to maintain your health, especially heart and brain health.
A food swamp is a community where the abundance of unhealthy eating options, such as high-fat fast food, sugary drinks, and processed snacks, far outweigh the availability of healthy food choices. This type of environment often coincides with food deserts, where access to fresh produce and nutritious foods is limited due to a lack of grocery stores.
We all know what foods are generally unhealthy, but it’s hard to make the right decision when life is busy, and you are surrounded by convenient fast food. Before we give you some ideas on how to dig yourself out of the swamp, here’s a reminder of what a diet of swamp food does to your health.
Studies have shown that individuals who live in food swamps have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, including stroke, due to the prevalence of high-fat, high-sugar, and high-sodium food options. A diet high in these types of foods can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity, all of which are risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
Additionally, a diet high in unhealthy fats and sugars can also have negative effects on brain health. Research has shown that high levels of saturated fat and added sugars in the diet can lead to inflammation in the brain, which can increase the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
Living in a food swamp can also make it difficult for individuals to maintain a healthy weight. Without access to fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, people may be more likely to rely on fast food and other unhealthy options, which can contribute to weight gain and obesity.
Living in a food swamp can make it challenging to maintain a healthy diet, but there are still steps you can take to improve your food choices.
Three Ways to Improve Your Food Choices, Even Inside a Food Swamp:
Find your Most Convenient Healthier Options
Even in food swamps, there are often healthier options available. Look for grocery stores or markets that specialize in fresh produce, lean meats, and whole grains. Some communities also have local food co-ops or community gardens where you can access fresh fruits and vegetables. Find the market that’s on your way home from work, close to your children’s school, or requires you to drive through the least amount of traffic.
Plan Meals in Advance and Reduce the Number of Necessary Shopping Trips
Planning your meals ahead of time can help you avoid unhealthy fast-food options. Make a weekly meal plan and grocery list and stick to it. This will not only help you avoid impulsive and unhealthy food choices, but it can also save you money. You can even prepare meals in advance and freeze them for easy and healthy options on busy days.
Often community leaders can create policies which will bring better markets to the area. Advocate for better food options in your community. Reach out to your local government representatives and community leaders to let them know that there is a need for healthier food options. This can include initiatives such as community gardens, farmers markets, or even zoning regulations that limit the number of fast-food restaurants and convenience stores. By working together with others in your community, you can make a difference in promoting healthier food options and reducing the risk of stroke and other health issues
The Bottom Line:
Living in a food swamp doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your health. By seeking out healthier options, planning your meals, and speaking up for change, you can improve your food choices and reduce the risk of stroke and other health issues. Making small changes can have a big impact on your health and the health of your community.