Fruits and Vegetables: Why More Matters
Many people already know that fruits and vegetables are critical to a healthy diet, yet most of us are not getting enough. With September being “Fruits & Veggies – More Matters Month,” we’ll share some of the benefits that come from consuming fruits and vegetables, as well as ways to add more to your diet.
Benefits of fruits and vegetables
First, it’s important to understand why fruits and vegetables matter to your health. Fruits and vegetables provide a particularly strong mix of various vitamins and nutrients. Some examples of key nutrients (and the fruits and vegetables that are rich in them) include:
- Vitamin A: Carrots, spinach, cantaloupe, bell peppers, apricots, and broccoli.
- Vitamin C: Berries, grapefruit, oranges, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, brussel sprouts, pineapple, and watermelon,
- Potassium: Apricots, bananas, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, celery, winter squash, and spinach.
- Folate: Spinach, broccoli, avocado, asparagus, brussel sprouts, peas, lettuce, and kidney beans.
With these nutrients, a steady diet of fruits and veggies can provide the following health benefits:
- Reduced risk of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke
- Protection against certain types of cancer
- Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduced risk of developing kidney stones
- Decreased bone loss
- Decrease overall caloric intake, since many fruits and veggies are low in calories.
Adding fruits and vegetables to your diet
According to the USDA’s MyPlate, men should eat 2 cups of fruit per day and 2.5 to 3 cups of vegetables per day, while women should consume 1.5 to 2 cups of fruits per day and 2 to 2.5 cups of vegetables per day. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Only 12.2 percent of American adults are meeting the standard for fruits.
- Only 9.3 percent of American adults are meeting the standard for vegetables.
- On average, Americans are only eating fruit once per day and vegetables 1.7 times per day.
With these stats in mind, here are some quick, easy tips for adding more fruits and veggies into the diet of you and your loved ones:
- Keep a bowl of fruit where the whole family can see it. This might encourage them to choose fruits more often as “snack foods.”
- Cut up fruits and vegetables ahead of time, so they’re available for quick, “ready to go” snacks.
- Consider steamed vegetables as a side at dinner. Add flavor with low-calorie or low-fat dressings, herbs, and spices to make sure they’re tasty to eat.
- Stay stocked on fruits and vegetables (whether fresh, canned or frozen) for quick meal prep. If you choose canned or frozen fruits and vegetables, pick ones without added sugar, syrup, cream sauces, or other ingredients that add calories.
- Consider adding some veggies and fruit to your morning omelet, cereal, and oatmeal.
- Reduce the amount of meat and cheese in your lunch sandwich by a bit and add vegetables as a replacement.
- Eat a salad as a meal once or twice each week. If you’re devoted to improving your health, aim for a salad at 4+ meals per week.