Eat Fruits and Vegetables

Kimberly A. Evans  |  9/16/2011 7:15:39 PM

Research shows that eating fruits and vegetables are important to promoting good health. Yet, the majority of Americans are not getting the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables they need each day.

Fruits and vegetables contain essential vitamins, minerals and fiber that may help protect you from chronic diseases, including stroke, other cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers. However, it can be difficult for many Americans to eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables because they might not be easily accessible, available or affordable.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture 2010 guidelines recommend eating beans, peas and a variety of vegetables, especially those that are dark green, red or orange. Eating fruits and vegetables of different colors gives your body a wide range of valuable nutrients. Usually, the deeper the color, the more health benefits they provide. The dietary guidelines also recommend filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables.

For optimum health, try to create a colorful plate with these choices:

  • Tomatoes, red peppers, cranberries, cherries and other naturally red foods help maintain a healthy heart, memory function and urinary tract.
  • Blue and purple foods such as blueberries, plums, blackberries, purple grapes and purple cabbage help maintain healthy aging, memory and urinary tract.
  • Yellow and orange foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, yellow peppers, oranges and pumpkin also help maintain a healthy heart, immune system and night vision.
  • Green fruits and vegetables like spinach, broccoli, kiwi, green grapes and green peppers help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts.
  • White foods like bananas, garlic, apples, onions and cauliflower help maintain heart health and lower the risk of some cancers.

Substituting fruits and vegetables for higher-calorie foods also can be part of a healthful weight loss plan. You can create lower-calorie versions of some of your favorite dishes by substituting low-calorie fruits and vegetables for higher-calorie ingredients.

The water and fiber in fruits and vegetables will add volume to your dishes, so you can eat the same amount of food with fewer calories, she says. Most fruits and vegetables are both filling and naturally low in fat and calories.

Instead of a high-calorie snack from a vending machine, bring some cut-up vegetables or fruit from home. One snack-sized bag of corn chips – 1 ounce – has the same number of calories as one small apple, 1 cup of whole strawberries or 1 cup of carrots with 1/4 cup of low-calorie dip.
Select one or two of these choices instead of the chips, and you’ll have a nutritious, satisfying snack with fewer calories.

The USDA MyPyramid program recommends 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables each day based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day meal plan. For the most health benefits, consume a wide variety of fruits and vegetables of different colors each day.

The LSU AgCenter offers additional information about healthy food selections. The Smart Portions program is a series of classes on helping people make healthy lifestyle changes to stay below the overweight or obese category.

For more information, contact Kim Evans, Extension Agent with the LaSalle Parish Office of the LSU AgCenter. This office is located in Room 22 of the Courthouse. The telephone number is 318-992-2205.

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