I want you to think about some common vitamins and minerals. Now think about foods or beverages that are associated with them. A few that come to my mind are calcium and milk, and vitamin C and orange juice. Did you know that getting your daily dose of vitamins and minerals can actually be achieved through eating fruits and vegetables? Plus, many fruits and vegetables also have several other nutrients that can help keep your health in tip, top shape! Here’s a list of a few reasons why it is so important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables:
1. Many fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that can lower your risk of certain cancers. Eating red fruits and vegetables like apples, cherries, red peppers, red onions, red grapes, strawberries, and watermelon can help to reduce the risk of prostate cancer, the leading cause of cancer for men in the U.S.
Blue and purple fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants that can help protect cells from damage. These nutrients are found in blueberries, blackberries, eggplants, purple grapes, plums, and raisins.
2. Fruits and vegetables are also loaded with fiber. Fiber is so important to our body to help us feel full, keep us regulated, and to decrease the incidence of hemorrhoids, diverticular disease of the colon, and cardiovascular disease. Consuming fiber through eating vegetables can help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Natural fiber can also help get rid of the bulky or bloated feeling if consumed regularly.
3. Eating fruits and vegetables can help you cut calories. When we eat oranges rather than drink orange juice, we can avoid the high sugar that is typically added to the juice. This also gives our bodies fiber from the oranges that we don’t get from drinking the juice. Eating broccoli or other dark green vegetables can provide a low calorie snack that is loaded with calcium. Although milk is a great source of calcium, eating raw or steamed broccoli can help cut the fat that you often get from one percent or greater dairy products.
It is so important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables in order to achieve all the health benefits they offer. Multi-vitamins are also a way to increase vitamin and mineral levels, but we often miss out on several of the health benefits achieved through eating the real thing. MyPlate recommends loading half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Try throwing fruits and vegetables in a smoothie for breakfast to start your day off right!
Here’s my breakfast smoothie that I try to consume every day:
½ cup of reduced sugar orange juice
½ cup water
½ frozen banana (or fresh and add ice)
1 cup frozen fruit of choice (strawberries, mangos, and pineapples are great)
1-2 cups fresh spinach
Put all ingredients in a blender in this order and BAM, you have a tasty delicious smoothie with your morning dose of fruits and vegetables. Enjoy!
For more information, contact Sydney Johnson, Family & Consumer Sciences agent, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, at 910-592-7161.