Not getting the message
Over the last several years, the U.S. Department of Health has recommended eating at least five portions of fruits and vegetables a day. Yet, only one in seven achieve this quota. In fact, one-third of American adults eat only two servings of fruits and vegetables a day and are four times more likely to choose a processed snack instead. On any given day, about half the population eats no fruit at all.
A bushel of reasons
There is a rainbow of reasons to eat a variety of colors from the produce aisle. Fruits and vegetables are virtually fat free, low in salt and an excellent source of fiber. Some fruits and vegetables, such as carrots and cantaloupe, provide Vitamin A, which maintains eye health and immunity. Other fruits and vegetables, such as bananas and spinach, contain potassium, which is necessary for proper nerve and muscle functioning. Green vegetables, such as broccoli and asparagus, provide B Vitamins, which are necessary for converting food into energy. But all fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients, the health-promoting components of plants. Scientific studies show that phytonutrients can help protect seven key organs, including the eyes, heart, liver and skin and they may also serve as antioxidants.
Current research has measured the total antioxidant power of various foods, citing fruits and vegetables at the top of the list. Antioxidants protect our bodies from free radicals that can cause damage to cellular membranes. Antioxidants also boost our immunity, help make our muscles stronger and support bone and skin health. Since eating the recommended daily servings of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables is not always realistic, try supplementing your diet with appropriate products.
So try to get in the habit of eating plenty of produce each day. It’s one of the biggest favors you can do for your body.
By Luigi Gratton, M.D., M.P.H.