Diets high in fresh fruits and vegetables are widely recommended for their health-promoting and disease prevention properties. Regular consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of developing a wide variety of diseases including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. In fact, researchers believe some of these bioactive compounds may be just as effective – if not more effective – than prescription medications in disease prevention and treatment.
Eat the Rainbow
When it comes to eating more fruits and vegetables, it’s important to focus on eating a greater variety of different plants in order to optimize intake of micronutrients and bioactive compounds.
Tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon, which are rich in the carotenoid lycopene, a potent free-radical scavenger that likely protects against prostate cancer as well as heart and lung disease.
Red and Purple
Red and blue grapes, blueberries, strawberries, beets, eggplant, red cabbage, red peppers, plums and red apples are loaded with powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins believed to delay cellular aging and help the heart by blocking the formation of blood clots.
Carrots, mangoes, cantaloupe, winter squash and sweet potatoes are rich in the cancer-fighter alpha and beta-carotene; which, protect the skin against free-radical damage as well as promote the repair of damaged DNA.
Orange and Yellow
Oranges, peaches, papaya and nectarines are high in beta-cryptothanxin; which, supports intracellular communication and may help prevent heart disease.
Yellow and Green
Spinach, collards, corn, green peas, avocado and honeydew are sources of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants are associated with a reduced risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration; which, is the leading cause of preventable blindness in developed countries.
Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, and bok choy are rich sources of several anti-cancer compounds including sulforaphane, isocyanate, and indoles.
White and Green
Garlic, onions, leeks, celery, asparagus, pears and green grapes contain bioactive compounds including allicin, quercetin, and kaempferol.
20 Ways to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
Fiber is naturally found in plant-based foods (not animal products) and populations who consume diets high in fiber are at lower risk of developing obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
When increasing fiber intake, consider increasing intake gradually (e.g., 5 – 10 grams per week) in order to reduce the side effects associated with rapid fiber intake. Symptoms frequently experienced by individuals who increase their fiber intake too rapidly include gas, abdominal bloating, feelings of fullness, nausea, and diarrhea; however, these side effects are temporary and decrease over time.
Eat Your Water
Increasing intake of fresh fruits and vegetables also contributes to improved hydration. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a natural source of water and electrolytes. As such, populations with high intakes of fresh fruits and vegetables often drink less free water. Why drink your water if you can eat it?!
Produce Storage and Handling
You can learn more about produce storage and handling by visiting the page titled Produce Storage and Handling.
What about fresh smoothies?
Fresh fruit and vegetable smoothies are considered healthful when they are prepared without added sugar and fat. Whenever possible, include the peel and other edible parts of fruits and vegetables in your smoothies for added health benefits. With this being said, it is important to understand that food processing; which, includes mechanical blending, increases the energy available from food. In simple terms, this means the energy provided by an equivalent amount of whole fruits and vegetables when consumed either whole or as a smoothie is greater with the smoothie. My point is, consume fresh fruits and vegetables whole, with the peel, whenever possible for optimal health benefits (including weight management).
What about dried fruit?
Consumption of naturally dried fruit (without added sugar or oil) appears to be healthy. In a recent study, the glucose response after consuming 50 grams of carbohydrate from raisins resulted in a significantly different glucose and insulin response than an equal amount of carbohydrate in the form of white bread. If you are a fan of dried fruit, opt for naturally dehydrated products free of added sugar and oil, or simply dry your own.
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Posters and Charts
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