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Fruits & Veggies – More Matters

September 08, 2015

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, and apparently so does a generous helping of every other fruit and vegetable.

Between jam-packed work schedules and family obligations, proper nutrition may be near the bottom of your to-do list. But eating more fruits and vegetables is critical to maintaining a healthy weight and potentially lowering your risk for certain chronic diseases, like high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

With fruit and vegetables, more matters. Here’s why:

Why More Matters

The American Heart Association recommends four to five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. The easiest way to meet this requirement is to fill half your plate with these foods at every meal. Obviously, this is easier said than done, but the benefits you get outweigh the effort.

First, fruits and vegetables are whole foods created by nature that are naturally low in calories and high in fiber, which helps to fill you up and maintain a healthy weight. They’re also rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, all of which the body needs to maintain strength and proper function.

How to Get More Fruits & Veggies Into Your Diet

Small substitutions throughout the day can increase your fruit and vegetable intake. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Think Color First: Pigments that give veggies and fruit their bright colors represent a variety of protective compounds and components that are essential to our health. a phytonutrient that gives them their color and may help to improve brain function and heart health.

Eat a Rainbow Every Day: If everything on your breakfast or dinner plate is the same color, then your diet is probably not balanced enough. Every meal should look like a rainbow. Eat a vegetable salad at lunch filled with things like green and red bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes. Opt for a fruit salad for dessert or breakfast filled with strawberries, blueberries, cantaloupes, kiwis and pineapples. For dinner, fill half your plate with an assortment of roasted vegetables. Brussels sprouts, parsnips and sweet potatoes compliment just about anything, so toss them with a bit of olive oil plus fresh herbs such as rosemary or thyme and grill or roast as a side dish to go along with chicken or fish.

Sideline Sweets in Favor of Fruits: Most desserts and candies are filled with sugar and are high in calories. Added sugar makes up 10 percent of the average American’s diet, which is far too much. Eating excess sugar—in the form of soda, cakes, cookies and other sweet treats—increases your risk for heart disease and makes it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight.

If you love sugar, eating more fruit could help you curb these cravings. Instead of a piece of strawberry cheesecake, opt for a bowl of strawberries with a dollop of whip cream on top. Rather than a big slice of pineapple upside down cake, grill some pineapples and top them with a little bit of nonfat greek yogurt or a drizzle of dark chocolate, which contains nutrients that benefit heart health. These options allow you to satisfy your sweet tooth, but without all the unnecessary calories.

Eating fruits and vegetables every day will improve your overall health. Fresh is always the best way to go, but frozen or dried fruits and vegetables also have their benefits. Just make sure to select items with the lowest amounts of sodium and sugar. We all like to indulge every so often, but making a consistent effort to incorporate more of these foods into your diet will keep you healthy for years to come.