holistic wellness

Fruits and Vegetables

Rich In Vitamins, Antioxidants and Fiber

Fruits and vegetables are nutrient-rich foods that provide a wide variety of flavors and recipe possibilities.

When I was a kid, my family used to drive out to the pick-your-own farms on weekends and load up on cherries, peaches, and apricots. Luscious fruit - picked at the primo point of ripeness.

As agriculture became more industrialized and distribution more international, nutrient value and flavor decreased. I was continually disappointed when comparing the lack of taste to my childhood memories of sweet juice dripping off my chin as I ate a divinely delicious piece of fruit.

Nutritional value of fruits and vegetables

Now, with more grocers offering locally-grown organic produce and the accelerating abundance of Farmers' Markets, taste and nutrition are on the rise again. Hooray for real food!

In some urban areas, community gardens are being tended on city lots that were previously unused.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a new idea in farming, where consumers and farmers join together in economic partnerships. In increasingly more areas, local growers are offering a subscription delivery service where, every week or so, you can have a box of field-ripened produce delivered fresh to your home, office, or food-service business.

Serving Size and Daily Amount of Fruit and Vegetables

A serving of fruits or vegetables is:

  • 1 medium fruit
  • 1/2 cup of small or cut-up fruit
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) of fresh 100 percent vegetable or fruit juice
  • 1/4 cup dried fruit
  • 1/2 cup raw non-leafy or cooked vegetables
  • 1 cup raw leafy vegetables (such as lettuce or spinach)

The most recent dietary guidelines recommend we eat five to thirteen servings daily of fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, the average American eats just three servings of vegetables and fruits a day.

What Is The Nutritional Value of Fruit and Vegetables

Most fruits and vegetables are naturally low in calories, fat, and sodium. What's more, they don't contain cholesterol, and are packed full of dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals - including vitamins A&C, potassium, and folic acid (folate).

The dark green leafy vegetables are nutritional powerhouses. Many of these are cruciferous vegetables, which contain potent antioxidant phytonutrients and protect against many types of cancer.

Eating plenty of fruits and veggies reduces the risk of many chronic diseases. Take advantage of the nutritional values of vegetables and fruit.

Tips For Eating More Fruits and Vegetables

  1. Try a new fruit or vegetable at least once a month, then add it to your rotating list of menu items. Check out unfamiliar vegetables at the market, then find a new recipe for preparing it. By eating a variety of foods, you will gain the benefit of utilizing many more valuable nutrients.
  2. Keep fruit out in plain site where you will be more apt to grab it for a healthy snack. Buy a variety of fruits and experiment with different ways to enjoy them. For instance, cut up an apple or pear and dip the slices in hummus.
  3. edamame baby green soybeans
  4. Eat at least one fruit or vegetable at every meal and enjoy them for snacks too. Organic edamame (baby soy beans in the pod), raw snap peas, or a bit of nut-butter on celery make great snacks. You can also enjoy two or three servings of fruit in your breakfast smoothie.
  5. Have a convenient access to fruits and vegetables when you're away at work or play or out doing errands. There are many choices of reusable lunch box containers and snack containers - some with built-in ice packs or thermal lunch/food jars.
  6. Incorporate more fruits and veggies into your favorite recipes. Add grilled eggplant or fire-roasted sweet peppers to a sandwich made with whole grain bread; or add apple, pear, or papaya slices to your green salad. Soups, casseroles, and stews can easily be buffed up with extra vegetables.
  7. Eat organic fruits and veggies as much as possible to avoid pesticides, herbicides, and genetically modified (GMO) food. Organic produce tastes better and you'll be more willing to eat more, knowing you aren't adding to your load of toxic chemicals.

What's So Special About Cruciferous Vegetables?

broccoli cruciferous vegetables

Cruciferous or Brassica vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and powerful phytochemicals that protect against certain types of cancer and oxidative stress from free radical damage. Regularly eating cruciferous vegetables lowers the risk of breast cancer, and lung, bladder, colon, liver, and prostate cancer.

Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, rutabaga, turnips, and bok choy. Arugula, horse radish, and watercress are also part of this group.

What Are The Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables?

Vegetables and fruits will help you avoid many chronic diseases.

  • Hypertension: A study called Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) used a diet that was rich in fruits and vegetables. Researchers found that this diet lowered blood pressure as much as medications were able to do.

    A more recent study revealed that blood pressure was further reduced when some of the carbohydrates were replaced with healthy unsaturated fat or protein. High blood pressure is a primary risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

  • Cardiovascular Disease: Data from the Nurses' Health Study and other related US and European long-term studies revealed interesting information about cardiovascular disease. The risk of having a heart attack or stroke was 20 to 30 percent lower amongst people who ate an average of eight or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables.
  • Eye Disease: A diet rich in fruits and vegetables reduces the chances of developing cataracts or macular degeneration caused by free-radical damage. The vitamin A found in bright yellow or orange vegetables, such as carrots, helps with night vision.

    Cataracts form when the protein lens of the eye becomes cloudy. The macula is the center of the retina and vision becomes blurry as the macula degenerates. Dark green leafy vegetables contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which protect the eyes from free-radical damage.

  • Gastrointestinal Health: Fruits and vegetables contain insoluble fiber that can relieve constipation and sooth an irritated bowel. The indigestible fiber soaks up water, which softens the stool and decreases pressure on the intestines. This helps prevent diverticulosis - the formation of little herniated pouches in the intestinal wall. Diverticulitis refers to the painful inflammation of those pouches.
  • Cancer: A comprehensive report by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research indicates that some types of fruits and vegetables may protect against certain cancers. Leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, garlic, onions, and fruits were thought to protect against several types of cancers. Some of these include cancer of the mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, stomach and lungs.

    Other studies suggest that increased consumption of lycopene-containing foods, such as tomato-based products, may reduce the occurrence of prostate cancer. Lycopene is a carotenoid that our bodies turn into vitamin A, and may also protect against lung, mouth, and throat cancer.

  • Diabetes: The risk of acquiring type 2 diabetes may be reduced by consuming more whole fruits and green leafy vegetables on a daily basis. The research team from Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and the Harvard School of Public Health studied data from the Nurses' Health Study, which ran from 1984 to 2002.

    The researchers also recommended using these healthy fruits and vegetables to replace refined grains and white potatoes, foods which have been linked to a higher risk for diabetes. In one study, people who suffered from nerve damage - a complication of diabetes - started on a vegan diet and reported feeling better after several days.

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