Why Is It Important to Eat Fruits and Vegetables?

Why Is It Important to Eat Fruits and Vegetables?

Mother Nature provides us with an abundant supply of fruits and vegetables to satisfy our bodies with the necessary nutrients. It is important for us to eat these natural produce, but for some reason, we prefer to pop into our mouths the supplements that are being sold in the market.

The Benefits of Eating Fruits and Vegetables

The average American is not eating enough fruits and vegetables. While the guidelines published by the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommend that we eat 5 to 13 servings of fruits and veggies everyday, most individuals only eat 3 servings.

Why is that? Is it difficult to understand why we need to eat fruits and vegetables? If you don’t know why we should consume fruits and vegetables and not just supplements, let me tell you why in the next paragraphs.

Get More Healthful Nutrients

Fresh fruits and vegetables are the best sources of nutrients, because they are naturally present in the food together with other natural substances, such as carotenoids and flavonoids. Research studies conducted in the past 5 to 10 years reveal that consumers who are taking vitamin supplements are actually missing out on a host of other benefits that only fresh fruits and veggies can give.

Research nutritionist Kristine Wallerius Cuthrell, MPH, RD who is also the senior project coordinator for Hawaii Foods at the Center on the Family at University of Hawaii, states that there are still many undiscovered substances present in food. So, when you eat, you don’t consume just one single nutrient, but more.

In addition, it is believed that these substances are synergistic, thus eating them together seems to promote better health. One example of synergistic foods are spinach and orange juice. Spinach is rich in iron, while orange juice contains the iron-absorbing enhancer vitamin C. A person who eats both will experience better iron absorption, which is quite beneficial to individuals who have iron deficiency.

Disease Prevention

Eating more fruits and vegetables can help keep illnesses at bay. According to the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study, which involved approximately 110,000 participants over a period of 14 years, those who ate more fruits and veggies everyday had a lesser probability of having cardiovascular disease. Though not covered in this research, it’s most likely that other diseases, such as stroke and type 2 diabetes, can also be avoided.

The prevention of cancer by eating fruits and vegetables has not been proven yet. However, there are studies on certain types of produce that point to a lower incidence of some cancer types. Red tomatoes, for example, are being associated to the prevention of prostate cancer because of its inherent carotenoid called lycopene. The American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund are promoting the high consumption of leafy greens, cabbage, broccoli and other non-starchy foods to reduce the risk of cancer in the mouth, stomach and colon.

Weight Control

Weight watchers need to include eating fruits and vegetables on their list. Aside from the low fat and low calorie content of these foods, they can keep you feeling full longer because of their high fiber and water content. In addition, fiber helps clean the digestive tract and keep bowel movement regular.

Tips for Getting More from Eating More Fruits and Vegetables

Choose produce of varying colors to get a variety of nutrients. There’s plenty to sample and they will make your meals look more appealing as well.

Your daily caloric requirement will dictate how many servings of fruits and vegetables you need. There’s also an online serving calculator courtesy of CDC to quickly find out your number of servings. Better yet, just eat a fruit or vegetable every time you eat a meal or snack.

Sometimes, it’s difficult or more expensive to get fresh produce. You can opt to buy frozen, canned or dried fruits and vegetables. You can also count in 100 percent juices, but it won’t give the benefit of more added fiber.

Don’t ignore the nutrient power that a plate of fresh fruit or a salad bowl can give you. It packs a lot of benefits not to mention spares you from the trouble that many illnesses bring.

 

Photo Source: Honolulu Media via Flicker, CC by 2.0

Categories: Nutrition

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