So many reasons!
Here’s the background … the Standard American Diet (SAD) is very low in fresh fruits and veggies, and this is often thought to be a contributing factor to the abundance of chronic disease in our country. Several diseases including coronary artery disease (CAD), cardiovascular disease (CVD), ischemic stroke, diabetes, and even some cancers have dietary implications, so let’s start getting this right!
So, reason number one to eat more fruits and veggies …they contain phytonutrients! Phyto – what???
Phytonutrients are substances produced by plants that give them their color, such as the red of a cherry, the purple of an eggplant, the green of a kiwi, or the white of a cauliflower. These very important and healthful chemicals provide antioxidants and protect against the effects of aging and against the risks of several diseases.
Did you ever hear the phrase “eat the rainbow”? That’s what we’re talking about! Eat as much variety in colors that you can every day.
Reason number two …they are naturally low in calories. Let’s compare a few items in terms of total calories:
Broccoli – one cup 35 calories
Red Bell Pepper – medium size 37 calories
Apple – medium size 95 calories
Grapes – 1 cup 98 calories
Triscuits – 6 crackers 120 calories
Nacho Cheese Doritos – snack bag, 12 chips 150 calories
Oreos – 3 cookies 160 calories
Grab a snack of a fruit or veggie and see the calorie difference!
Another reason … as well as having phytonutrients, they are also loaded with vitamins and minerals.
And another … they provide fiber which is essential for not only the health of your digestive tract but also for all that healthy bacteria that is living inside of you!
And yet another … they are great for weight management. With the combination of being low in calories and high in fiber, combined with a meal of healthy protein and fat, a person can feel very satiated with a meal that has lots of produce, and is naturally lower in calories.
So, how much should you be eating every day? The goal for fruit and veggie consumption should be approximately half of what you eat, so if you can picture a plate of food, fill one half with produce and leave the remaining half for protein and starches. If possible, always tend to portion your produce more heavily toward vegetables as they are lower in calories and natural sugars than fruit.
Now that you see why and how much to eat, how do you pick the best source? You may wonder about fresh vs. frozen vs. canned. Typically, I would recommend fresh and frozen over canned only because there is minimal processing that takes place in either of those options compared to canned. Also, in a canned product there may have been preservatives, stabilizers, sweeteners and sodium added. In this case, it’s very important to be reading your labels so that you know exactly what you and your family are eating. If it’s a matter of economics and the canned version is the only option financially, then it would be better to have some produce, even if it’s canned than none at all.
In terms of fresh vs. frozen, here are some things to think about. Where does the produce come from? If it’s a type of produce that is coming from the region that you live in (locally sourced), and that produce is currently in season, then fresh is your best option, nutritionally speaking.
However, if it’s the middle of the winter and your strawberries are coming from South America for instance, then they will be picked before they are fully ripe so that they can complete their journey over the miles before spoiling. This fruit will not have obtained is nutrient potential so it would be more beneficial to select a frozen product as the fruit would be picked at the peak of ripeness and then frozen immediately.
If you are concerned about your own fresh produce spoiling before you can consume it, consider that most produce can be frozen … so wash it up, place in a freezer bag or container and place in the freezer for later use. Consider using any of your frozen produce, even veggies, in a smoothie … it works great! I even freeze greens like baby spinach and kale and then use later in a smoothie.
So here’s lots of info on that incredible food group fruit and veggies, but if you have more questions, please feel free to reach out to your friendly dietitian nutritionist, and contact me!
Have a happy and healthy day!