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Eat Your Heart Out, America

Californians Are Healthier Than the Rest of the Country, Thanks to Our Emphasis on Diet and Exercise

September 15, 1997|MARTIN MILLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Oh, how the rest of the country loves to ridicule surf-happy, mountain-bike-riding, designer-pasta-eating Californians.

Well, Golden State residents may now have the last laugh--literally.

UCLA researchers say Californians are in better shape and live longer than other Americans. Apparently, it's a lot more than the cheese.

Rather, it's the fruits and the vegetables, the greater emphasis on physical activity, and the earnest pursuit of a healthful lifestyle that affords Californians a greater longevity. Most notably, the better combination of diet, exercise and positive health attitudes helps Californians in preventing and treating common chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

The good news for state residents came during a two-day symposium at UCLA last week, the "Health Impact of California Cuisine."

State health officials, nutrition experts and restaurant owners credited the California diet--characterized by walnuts, tomatoes, avocados and other fresh produce--for the state's commendable health.

California cuisine borrows equally from the state's agricultural abundance and its rich ethnic resident mix. The diet consists of (in order of recommended intake) fresh-grown fruits and vegetables; whole-grain rice, cereals, breads and tortillas; all forms of protein-rich beans, including soy, kidney and pinto; lean chicken, turkey, egg whites, tofu, nonfat milk and low-fat cheeses; and avocados, olives, nuts, seeds and other alternatives to traditional oils and dressings.

These dietary recommendations were unveiled at the symposium as the "California Cuisine Diet Pyramid" and are designed to help the public eat healthfully while using traditional and nontraditional California cuisine elements.

Other findings from the symposium included:

* Age-adjusted mortality rates in California are below the national average.

* Although the number of overweight Californians has increased, the state is below national average for adult obesity.

* Californians are more likely to participate in some form of leisure-time activity, including regular and sustained physical activities, than the national average.

* Influences on our cuisine include Mexican, Chinese, Middle Eastern, Italian, Ethiopian, Indian, French, and traditional American fare.

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