Fruits and vegetables are a very important part of a healthy diet. We should make half the food on our plates fruits and vegetables. We can do this by eating a variety of colors, especially deep green, red, and orange.
Fruits and vegetables are great sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid, potassium, and fiber. These nutrients and others found in fruits and vegetables are important to our health, because they may reduce the risk of some cancers, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. The best thing about fruits and vegetables is that, while they are loaded with so many important nutrients, they are naturally low in fat and calories. Eating fruits and vegetables promotes overall good health and a healthy weight.
By including a mix of colors in your low-fat diet, you can help maintain a healthy heart; healthy vision; strong bones and teeth; and a healthy weight. Red fruits and vegetables are important for heart health and may help reduce the risk of some cancers. Orange and yellow fruits pack a powerful punch. They are important for healthy eyes and our immune system as well as providing vitamin C and folate or folic acid. Folate helps reduce the risk of birth defects in pregnant women. Many green fruits and vegetables help lower blood pressure and are a good source of potassium. The blue and purple fruits and vegetables may provide us with protection from cancer and promote a healthy heart and memory. The white and tan fruits and vegetables may not be flashy as some of the other colors, but they still provide healthy nutrition.
Here are some ways to eat more fruits and vegetables:
— Keep a bowl of fruit on the counter.
— Make fruit smoothies for a quick breakfast or snack.
— Top baked potatoes with salsa.
— Keep baby carrots or other ready-to-eat vegetables on hand.
— Add corn, carrots, peas, sweet potatoes, or beans to soups and stews.
— Top sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, and other vegetables.
— Add bananas or berries to cereal or yogurt.
— Add peppers, onions, or other vegetables to spaghetti sauce.
— Make a stir-fry — experiment with different vegetables or use what you have on hand.
It all counts — fresh, frozen, canned, dried, and 100 percent juice.
Remember to wash fresh fruits and vegetables before preparing or eating them. Rub fruits and vegetables briskly with your hands under clean, running water to remove dirt and bacteria; dry after washing. Keep fruits and vegetables separate from raw meat, poultry, and seafood while shopping, preparing, or storing.
Buying fruits and vegetables in-season is a great way to get the best for your family for less money. Try shopping at local farm stands or farmers markets. Fruits and vegetables are always a perfect choice. No matter what kind you choose, you’ll get healthful benefits.
Rosemary Crumb-Pipkin is the Extension Adult Expanded Food and Nutrition Education program assistant with North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s Robeson County Center. She can be reached at 910-671-3276 or by E-mail at [email protected]