by Karen Schroeder, MS, RD Here's Why: Produce has certainly earned its healthful reputation. It's 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: Lower blood cholesterol levelsDecreased risk of atherosclerosis and heart diseaseDecreased risk of certain types of cancerLower blood pressureLower risk of overweight and obesity Here's How: A total of five 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 peach1/2 grapefruit 1/4 avocado Note: There's more fat here than in your average fruit (about 30 grams for a whole avocado), but the majority of this fat is the healthful, monounsaturated kind. 1/2 cup chopped, cooked, or canned fruit, including berries and grapes1/4 cup dried fruit3/4 cup 100% fruit juice One serving of vegetable equals: 1 cup raw, leafy vegetables, such as spinach, romaine lettuce, and broccoli1/2 cup of other vegetables, cooked or chopped raw3/4 cup 100% vegetable juice Within your five 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
- Fresh or dried fruit mixed with cereal or oatmeal
- Bagel or English muffin topped with avocado 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 vegetablesonion, squash, peppers, and eggplantand 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 pineappleChoose a fruity dessert, such as a cobbler, over a heavier treat, such as cheesecake No Cheating! While it may be tempting to just pop an antioxidant 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 in antioxidants, not from isolated antioxidants. Experts think it may be the package of nutrients in fruits and vegetables that delivers the biggest health benefits. Still, since green tea, dark chocolate, and nuts have all been suggested to be particularly healthy treats, you might convince yourself to try some of these along with your fruits and veggies. RESOURCES: American Dietetic Association http://www.eatright.org References: American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.americanheart.org . US Department of Agriculture website. Available at: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usdahome . 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. Feb 1, 2006;163(3):222-31.
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 . Sep 13, 2006;296(10):1255-65. 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 . Jun 2005;18(6):785-91. Last reviewed November 2006 by Lawrence Frisch, MD, MPH Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.