In the nutrition world much information is thrown around. One thing that remains certain is that fruits, vegetables, whole grains and minimally processed foods are the best nourishment for our bodies.
Fruits and vegetables are amazing foods that contribute beneficial nutrients and other important food components, such as phytochemicals, antioxidants and fiber, to our diets. Although you can replace some of them with supplements, no dietary supplement can substitute for all the compounds found in fruits and vegetables nor can they mimic the synergetic healthful effects.
Not including enough of these foods in your diet can have significant health consequences. These include:
- Nutrient Deficiencies. Fruits and vegetables contribute B vitamins that help you derive energy from your diet, vitamin C to assist with wound healing, vitamin A to keep your skin and eyes healthy and vitamin K to support blood clotting. Minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium are needed for skeletal, nerve and cardiovascular health.
- Digestive Issues. Fruits and vegetables contain an indigestible carbohydrate called fiber. Fiber improves intestinal health. Insoluble fiber increases the bulk of waste products in your large intestine, speeds up the waste as it passes through your system and helps you avoid constipation and hemorrhoids. Lack of fiber in your diet can have the opposite effect.
- Disease Risk. Soluble fiber swells as it passes through your gut and slows the absorption of nutrients such as glucose and cholesterol. It can help regulate your blood levels of these molecules and may lessen your risk of diabetes or elevated cholesterol levels. In addition, fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals, helping to reduce inflammation and even slow or prevent tumor growth. In addition, eating fruits and vegetables help maintain cardiovascular health.
- Weight Gain. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and provide bulk to our diet. The water and fiber content in produce help us feel full and may help us from overeating, this is particularly helpful if one wishes to lose weight.
Consider making a New Year’s Resolution to eat more fruits and vegetables. Make your goals positive and specific. Instead of making goals such as, “I will eat less food” or “I will not eat candy and sweets” make achievable goals such as, “I will eat at least one fruit or vegetable serving with each meal” or “I will eat one green leafy vegetable each day.”
Remember we serve as our children’s role models. Be sure to eat and enjoy lots of fruits and vegetables in front of your children and have them help with shopping and food preparation. Encourage your child to try new foods but remember it can take up to 20 tries for a child to accept and enjoy a new food. Encourage them to keep trying and to emphasize the importance of healthful foods. Think of examples that would motivate your child. For example, you could say, “Healthful foods will make you stronger and faster on the playground” or “Eating healthy food will make your skin, hair and nails look better” or “Healthful food will make you grow tall and healthy and give you more energy.”