Produce has certainly earned its healthful reputation. It is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber, while being low in calories and fat. All of these factors contribute to many health benefits, such as:
- Reducing the incidence or onset of Alzheimer's Disease
- Lower blood cholesterol levels
- Decreased risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease
- Decreased risk of certain types of cancer
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower risk of overweight and obesity
A total of 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day may sound like a lot, but a serving is probably smaller than you think. One serving of fruit equals:
- 1 medium piece of fruit, such as an apple, banana, orange, pear, or peach
- 1/2 grapefruit
- 1/2 cup chopped, cooked, or canned fruit, including berries and grapes
- 1/4 cup dried fruit
- 3/4 cup 100% fruit juice
One serving of vegetable equals:
- 1 cup raw, leafy vegetables, such as spinach, romaine lettuce, and broccoli
- 1/2 cup of other vegetables, cooked or chopped raw
- 3/4 cup 100% vegetable juice
Within your daily servings, try for one rich in vitamin A or beta-carotene and one rich in vitamin C. Produce rich in vitamin A and beta-carotene (which is converted to vitamin A in the body) include:
- Sweet potatoes
- Tomato juice
Produce rich in vitamin C include:
- Bell pepper
- Oranges and orange juice
- Tomatoes and tomato juice
- Collard greens
To reach five a day, eat some at each meal
- Fresh or dried fruit mixed with cereal or oatmeal
- Bagel or English muffin topped with onion and tomato or cucumber and cream cheese
- Glass of tomato juice with a spear of celery
For lunch and snacks:
- Bake a sweet potato (microwave on high for 5-8 minutes) and top with black beans
- Stir fresh fruit into yogurt
- Pop open a can of mandarin oranges
- Dip carrot, celery, red pepper, and zucchini sticks into hummus, yogurt, or low-fat dip
- Roast vegetables—onion, squash, peppers, and eggplant—and spread on a pizza crust with tomato sauce and cheese
- Top baked potatoes with steamed broccoli, beans, and salsa
- Add dried fruit to rice and stuffing
- Grate carrots and zucchini into pasta sauce
- Top frozen yogurt with sauteed apples, fresh peaches, or canned pineapple
- Choose a fruity dessert, such as a cobbler, over a heavier treat, such as cheesecake
While it may be tempting to just pop a supplement instead of eating more produce, this is not the best way to go. The majority of the research has shown positive health effects from foods rich nutrients, not from isolated nutrients. Experts think it may be the package of nutrients in fruits and vegetables that delivers the biggest health benefits. Additionally there are hundreds of phytochemicals in each bite of fruits and vegetables that are not available in pill form.
- American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.americanheart.org .
- Jiang R, Jacobs DR Jr, Mayer-Davis E, et al. Nut and seed consumption and inflammatory markers in the multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis. Am J Epidemiol. 2006;163(3):222-231.
- Kuriyama S, Shimazu T, Ohmori K, et al. Green tea consumption and mortality due to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all causes in Japan: the Ohsaki study. JAMA . 2006;296(10):1255-1265.
- US Department of Agriculture website. Available at: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usdahome .
- US Department of Agriculture. Versatile vegetables. US Department of Agriculture website. Available at: http://www.cnpp.us.... Accessed June 14, 2010.
- Vlachopoulos C, Aznaouridis K, Alexopoulos N, Economou E, Andreadou I, Stefanadis C. Effect of dark chocolate on arterial function in healthy individuals. Am J Hypertens . 2005;18(6):785-791.
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