Make Your Plate a Rainbow!
Vegetables and fruits are packed full with a long list of essential nutrients, and research has proven time and time again that these nutrients are crucial to living a long, healthy and happy life. With their endless list of health benefits, from cardiovascular disease prevention to cancer prevention to simply making your skin glow, it is no wonder that health professionals are constantly reminding clients to add more vegetables and fruits to their diets!
So what exactly is it about vegetables and fruits that makes them so healthy?
Antioxidants are a type of nutrient found in foods which help to prevent the formation of free-radicals in our bodies caused by the natural process of oxidation. When not protected by antioxidants, free-radicals cause damage to many cells in our bodies which increases risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. A diet high in antioxidants helps to prevent this free-radical damage and thus reduces your risk of these diseases. Antioxidants found in foods are:
- Vitamin C-is a water soluble vitamin that acts as an antioxidant and is important in wound healing and prevention of infections. Vitamin C can be found in foods such as sweet pepper, oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, broccoli, strawberries, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and tomatoes along with many other fruits and vegetables.
- Beta-carotene- is a form of vitamin A important for normal vision and immune function and is found in red, yellow, orange and dark green vegetables and fruits such as kale, sweet potato, swiss chard, yam, spinach, carrots, pumpkin, mango, apricots, butternut squash and sweet peppers.
- Vitamin E-is a fat-soluble vitamin important for immune function and can be found in foods such as spinach, broccoli, kiwi, almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, peanut butter, and wheat germ oil.
- Selenium- although not largely found in many vegetables selenium is a trace element that has antioxidant properties and is important for reproduction and thyroid function. Selenium is naturally present in many other foods such as brazil nuts, tuna, halibut, oatmeal, cottage cheese and chicken.
Other Essential Nutrients
Antioxidants are not the only nutrients found in vegetables and fruits. Other important nutrients found in vegetables and fruits are:
- Folate- is a B vitamin necessary for healthy red blood cell formation and cell division in the body. In pregnancy, adequate folate is crucial for fetal spinal cord formation. Folate is found in foods such as kale, spinach, swiss chard, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, green peas, oranges, avocado and papaya.
- Potassium- is an important mineral for blood pressure control and keeping your kidneys healthy. High sources of potassium include swiss chard, broccoli, sweet potato, yams, spinach, edamame, potatoes, oranges and bananas.
- Calcium- is an important mineral for bone health and although it is traditionally thought that only milk products contain calcium, many fruits and vegetables also contain calcium. Vegetable and fruit sources of calcium include kale, broccoli, collard greens, spinach and edamame.
- Magnesium-is an important mineral for many processes in the body including regulating muscle and nerve function, blood sugar control and blood pressure control. Magnesium is found in artichoke hearts, beet greens, butternut squash and spinach.
- Iron- is an essential nutrient for life as it is an essential component of hemoglobin, the protein found in red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. Vegetable and fruit sources of iron include spinach, lentils, dried apricots, swiss chard, beans and kale.
Fibre fibre fibre!
Fibre is your friend! Fibre provides many benefits helps to keep you feeling full longer after a meal. There are two different types of fibre that have different important roles in a healthy diet:
Soluble fibre helps to lower your blood cholesterol and control your blood sugar levels by reducing the absorption of cholesterol and glucose following a meal. Soluble fibre can be found in fruits like apples, strawberries, citrus fruits and vegetables like avocados, sweet potato, asparagus, turnip, edamame and broccoli.
Insoluble fibre helps to keep your bowels regular and may protect against colon cancer through fermentation by the friendly bacteria in your intestine. Insoluble fibre can be found in vegetables and fruits like cabbage, lettuce, onions, corn, cucumbers, grapes and peas as well as the bran portion of whole grains.
Putting this into practice
As you can see the benefits of adding more vegetables and fruits to your diet are endless. Here are some easy ways to add more vegetables and fruits to your everyday life:
- Always fill half your plate at meal times with vegetables and/or fruits and try to always include at least one vegetable or fruit at snack time.
- When grocery shopping, fill your cart with a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables. Make your cart (and your plate) a rainbow!
- Buying vegetables and fruits that are in season will not only save you a ton of money but these veggies and fruits will also taste so much better. Go to this website to find out which vegetables and fruits are in season now: http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/what-fruits-and-vegetables-are-in-season
- Frozen vegetables are a convenient and cheaper way to enjoy vegetables and fruits in the winter months and are equally as healthy as fresh vegetables because they are frozen at their peak ripeness which locks in the nutrients.
- Add fresh, frozen or no-salt canned vegetables to your usual soups, stews, chilis, stir-fries, casseroles, homemade pizza and pasta sauces to give them an extra nutritional punch.
- For a quick and tasty breakfast throw a banana, ½ cup frozen berries, yogurt and orange juice into a blender for a delicious smoothie.
- Apples, bananas, pears, oranges and plums are an easy snack to take with you and eat on the go. Healthy fast food!
- Make vegetables easy to grab and go by cutting up a bunch of fresh veggies and fruits on Sunday afternoon to have throughout the week when things get busy. Chop up fresh carrots, bell peppers, celery, broccoli and cauliflower and keep them in water to keep them fresh and easy to grab for lunches and snack time.
- Include healthy snacks throughout the day like raw carrots and bell peppers with hummus or light ranch dressing, apple slices with natural peanuts butter, yogurt with fresh or frozen berries mixed in or a trail mix with almonds, plain cheerios, dried cranberries and apricots.
Want to learn more about protecting your own health or the health of your loved ones? Contact us.