04 Sep How Do Fruits and Veggies Help Your Health?
September is National Fruit and Vegetable Month, so now is the ideal time to take a good hard look at your diet. Do you eat enough fresh food? Why is it important to include produce in your diet? It all becomes clear once you understand how fruits and veggies help your health.
Nutrients Found in Fruits and Veggies
Fresh produce should be an integral part of your daily diet because fruits and vegetables are vital sources of many nutrients, including potassium, dietary fiber, folic acid, vitamin A, and vitamin C.
Help maintain healthy blood pressure by eating fruits and veggies high in potassium, including:
- Peaches and apricots
- Cantaloupe and honeydew melon
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes
- Lima, soy, kidney, and white beans
When eaten as part of a healthy diet, fiber helps reduce cholesterol and may lower the risk of heart disease. Fiber also helps promote a healthy digestive system and reduces constipation.
Most fruits, vegetables, lentils, and legumes are excellent sources of dietary fiber. Just remember, since juice doesn’t contain the skin or pulp of the fruit, it doesn’t have as much fiber.
This important nutrient helps the body form red blood cells. While folic acid is important for everyone, women looking to become pregnant should be particularly conscious about consuming enough of this nutrient to reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy. Fruit and vegetable sources of folic acid include:
- Leafy greens
- Brussels sprouts
- Citrus fruit
This vitamin is essential for maintaining healthy teeth, soft tissues, and skin. It also promotes good low-light vision and plays a role in ensuring healthy pregnancies.
An active form of vitamin A called retinol is found in animal products, but these also tend to have high saturated fat and cholesterol content. However, the body can turn beta carotene, a carotenoid found in plant foods, into retinol. As a result, these are often the healthiest choices for ensuring adequate vitamin A intake.
The best sources of beta carotene that the body can convert into the active form of vitamin A include:
- Orange and yellow fruits and veggies
- Broccoli and spinach
- Dark green leafy vegetables
This antioxidant helps heal cuts and other wounds, promotes the repair of all body tissues, and supports healthy teeth and gums. Fresh foods rich in vitamin C include:
How Fruits and Veggies Help Your Health
People who eat more fresh food have a lower risk of many chronic diseases. Here are some specific ways that fruits and veggies help your health:
- Reduce the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
- Protect against certain kinds of cancer.
- Reduce the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
- Decrease bone loss.
- Help prevent kidney stones.
- Maintain healthy blood pressure.
- Promote weight loss.
Eat a Variety of Fresh Produce
Fruits and veggies help your health the most if you eat a wide variety of them. To get the full range of health benefits, strive to eat produce from every color of the rainbow each day, including:
- Red bell peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, apples, and watermelon
- Orange and yellow bell peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, and oranges
- Green spinach, kale, lettuce, avocado, zucchini, kiwi fruit, pears, apples, and grapes
- Blue and purple eggplant, cabbage, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and grapes
- White cauliflower, potatoes, onions, parsnips, and mushrooms
How to Select Fruits and Vegetables
As you browse the produce section at the grocery store, let these tips help direct your buying decisions:
- Consider the season: Not every fruit and vegetable is available all year-round. This seasonal food guide can help you know what to buy when.
- Buy locally: The tastiest, most nutritious fruits and veggies are those grown locally because they can be picked closer to the peak of ripeness. Check farmer’s markets in the summer for access to produce grown right here in Colorado.
- Try something new: If you’ve got the broccoli blues, or you’re bored with bananas, branch out and try a new fruit or vegetable this week.
- Let the colors be your guide: Fill your grocery cart with at least one fruit or vegetable of each color listed above (red, orange/yellow, green, blue/purple, and white).
Tips for Adding More Fresh Food to Your Diet
The American Heart Association recommends eating four servings of fruits and five servings of vegetables daily. This may seem difficult when you only eat three meals a day! However, with a few tricks and tips, you can fill your meals and snacks with fresh produce without getting tired of it. Here’s how:
- Add bananas, strawberries, or blueberries to your morning oatmeal, yogurt, or waffles.
- Freeze fruit to use in smoothies.
- When you need a snack, eat an apple or carrot sticks.
- Buy ready-made salads for a fast, convenient lunch.
- Load vegetables onto your sandwiches, including sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado, bell peppers, and zucchini. Then, eat a serving of fruit on the side.
- Add spinach, tomatoes, onion, mushrooms, or bell pepper to your pizza.
- Stir canned vegetables and legumes into noodle dishes and soups.
- Plan a meatless meal once a week, such as vegetarian lasagna, portabella mushroom “burgers,” or grilled veggies and rice.
- Serve fruit for a healthy, sweet dessert.
- Keep frozen and canned fruits and veggies on hand for when you run out of fresh produce.
Visit Mile High Spine & Pain Center for a Nutritional Assessment
Most Americans don’t eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. If this includes you, your health could be suffering in ways you’re not aware of. A nutritional assessment at Mile High Spine & Pain Center in Broomfield could be the key to understanding your nutrient deficiencies so you can take steps to correct them.
To learn more about how fruits and veggies help your health, or to schedule a free consultation at our clinic, please contact us at (720) 507-0080 today.