Enjoy your fruits and vegetables
I love this time of year because gardens are getting planted so we can enjoy fresh local produce all summer long. We also easily get produce from the warmer parts of the country that let us enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables year round, as well as all of the produce that is available frozen, canned or dried. The availability of produce is important because British researchers estimate that 7.8 million premature deaths would be avoided worldwide if folks ate 10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
The study found that there was a lower risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer and premature deaths as produce intake went up. There is no definite explanation for the health benefits but previous research has shown that a higher intake of produce will lower blood pressure, reduce blood pressure and boost the immune system.
These foods seemed to provide the greatest health benefits:
- Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower
- Green and yellow produce: spinach and kale, bell peppers, carrots
- Apples, pears and citrus fruits
It is pretty cool to know that produce might be the best and least expensive health protector. There could be many reasons that produce is so healthful but it is probably not just one component. Fruits and vegetables contain, in varying amounts:
- A variety of antioxidants
- Protective substances, especially in the cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts and cauliflower
- Fiber in the peel and pulp
- Minerals such as potassium and magnesium
The bottom line - just taking a pill to get the many benefits from produce won’t do it.
Enjoy a wide range of fruits and vegetables at all meals and snacks. And if you are raising children, be sure to introduce them to a variety of produce, not just the good 'ole standbys.
Recipes to try:
- Asparagus-Wheat Berry Salad
- Spinach Salad with Grilled and Fresh Fruit
- Sweet Potatoes with Carmalized Sherry Onions
About the Author
Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.