I’m an exercise junkie, and, although I don’t look like the super-human sprinter Usain Bolt or the swimmer Michael Phelps, I share the same health benefits: fitness appears to trump weight loss when it comes to reducing all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. Data from a large longitudinal study show that maintaining and improving physical-fitness levels were associated with lower risks of all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality, whereas changes (lower) body-mass index were not. Long story short: weight loss may make you look and feel better, it doesn’t help you live longer without an improved fitness level. With all the attention given to weight loss (The Biggest Loser, etc.), bottom line is that if you want to live longer, you have to exercise, period.

Speaking of foods, I came across rankings for the best foods; fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, meats, and butters/spreads.

Fruits were rated by how well they scored in six categories: carotenoids, vitamin C, potassium, folate, fiber, and calories. (Carotenoids are chemicals in foods (fruits and veges) are important antioxidants, and can be converted into essential vitamins. When acting as antioxidants, carotenoids have been shown to reduce the damage caused by other molecules called free radicals. A diet rich in carotenoids helps prevent cell, tissue, and genetic damage, which means that they increase a person’s immunity to infection, reduce the risk of cancer, and protect against heart disease).

I can’t list all fruits, but I will list the top 12. They are, in order; Guava, Watermelon, Kiwi, Papaya, Grapefruit (pink or white), Kumquats, Oranges, Cantaloupe, Lychees, Strawberries, Mango, Raspberries, and Blackberries.

The healthiest veggies were rated for calories, vitamin K, Lutein, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. The top 12 are: Kale, Spinach, Collard greens, Turnip greens, Swiss Chard, Pumpkin (canned), Mustard greens, Sweet potato (with skin), Radicchio, Broccoli, Carrots, and Romaine lettuce.

Beans were rated for fiber, folic acid, magnesium, iron, copper, zinc, and protein. The top 12 are: Soybeans, Pinto beans, Chickpeas (garbanzos), Lentils, Cranberry beans, Black-eyed peas, Pink beans, Navy beans, Black beans, Small white beans, White beans, and Baby lima beans.

Grains were rated for fiber, magnesium, vitamin B-6, zinc, copper, and iron. The top 12 are: Quinoa, Amaranth, Buckwheat groats, Bulgur, Barley (pearled), Wild rice, Millet, Brown rice, Triticale, Wheat berries, Kamat, and Oats (rolled).

Meats, rated for calories, total fat, and saturated fat. Poultry, top five are: ground chicken breast, ground turkey breast, turkey breast (no skin), chicken breast (no skin), and chicken drumstick. Beef: chuck eye steak, top round (London broil), flank steak, bottom round (rump roast), and eye of round roast. Pork: tenderloin, sirloin, top loin chop (boneless), top loin roast (boneless), and loin chop w/bone. Lamb: shank, loin chop, leg, shoulder-blade chop, and rib roast.

┬áSpreads and butters, rated for calories, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium. The top five for tubs and squeezes: I can’t believe it’s not butter (fat-free), promise (fat-free), Smart beat, country crock omega plus light, and promise light. For sticks: Earth balance vegan buttery, promise, I can’t believe it’s not butter, blue bonnet light, parkay light, and Mrs. filbert’s. For butter: Land o’lakes light with canola oil, balade light, land o’lakes whipped light, land o’lakes whipped unsalted, and land o’lakes whipped.

You can get all of the foods by contacting Nutrition Action at www.cspinet.org/nah/custserv.htm

I’m still pinching myself for the fact that my son participated in a nationally run Buick commercial. The shoot was yesterday, and all went well. My wife and I are so grateful……

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.