The American diet is making progress as people change their food choices
for the better and eat more fruits and vegetables to improve their overall
health and well-being. That said, most Americans are still not eating
enough of them.
People who make fruit and vegetables a big part of their diet reduce their
risk of many chronic health conditions. The USDA generally recommends
that adults eat between five to thirteen servings of fruits and vegetables
per day, and the USDA's
MyPlate encourages making half of your plate fruits and vegetables.
So what are you waiting for?
Fruits and vegetables are nutritious and tasty in practically any form
– fresh, frozen, dried, blended or juiced. It should be noted that
various fruits and vegetables offer different vitamins and nutrients,
so it's important to incorporate a wide array into your diet. Some
varieties, like kale, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes and garlic are so loaded
with nutrients that they are popularly called superfoods.
Fruits and vegetables also contain fiber, which absorbs water and, because
it isn’t digestible, expands as it passes through your system. Fiber
can calm symptoms of irritable bowel and is important in preventing constipation.
Insoluble fiber’s bulk and softening action also decreases pressure
inside the intestinal tract and may help prevent diverticulosis.
Of the major food groups, vegetables are the lowest in calories, so they're
the only things you can eat with abandon without worrying about weight
gain. But certain vegetable dishes are much healthier than others, depending
on the way they are prepared. French-fried potatoes are not a healthy
side dish and you should not count them as a vegetable toward your recommended
daily servings of vegetables. Sorry. Instead, potatoes, and sometimes
corn, are starchy foods that are more akin to a grain serving than a vegetable
serving. When choosing your vegetables, keep in mind that, in general,
brightly colored vegetables are higher in nutrients than less vivid choices.
For example, spinach contains more vitamins and antioxidants than iceberg lettuce.
Soups are an excellent way to savor vegetables without the fat that comes
from frying and buttery sauces. And soup, like other foods that are low
in energy density or calories per gram, will help fill you up with fewer
calories. This promotes a healthy weight because you can eat a greater
volume of food without going over your daily calorie budget. Eating soup
before meals, including both pureed and chunky versions, can help you
eat less during the main course. Soup may also increase the body’s
levels of leptin, a hormone that regulates fat storage.
You might have had an easier time eating your vegetables when you were
a child if they were part of a smoothie that blended apples, cucumbers,
greens, lemons, and chia seeds. Fruit and veg smoothies can be a quick
and easy way to nourish your body, but store-bought drinks can load you
up with added sugar if you’re not paying attention. The best way
to keep track of the ingredients in your smoothie is to add them to the
blender yourself at home. All you need is fruit and a liquid base like
water, milk or yogurt. And making your own smoothies can prevent overripe
fruit from going to waste. Stick a straw in a homemade smoothie and get
on the right track towards good health.
If you would have questions about how to incorporate more fruits and vegetables
into a healthy diet, ask your doctor or consult a registered dietician
Robert Eller, DO, specializes in internal medicine at Mission Heritage
Medical Group in Laguna Niguel. Learn more about Mission Heritage Medical Group.
Learn more about Dr. Eller.