We've all been told by our grandmothers to eat our fruit and veggies. Some of us munched happily on vegetables like carrot and celery sticks with ranch dip growing up, others of us chewed on the nasty ones (lima beans) and spit them into our napkin when our mom wasn't looking. Whatever stance you took, you now know that vegetables are good for you, so you try and add a few to your plate at mealtime. Just remember, it is okay not to like them all, so eat the ones you do like the taste of. Raw or cooked, their benefits are undeniable. Most fruits are pleasing to the palate because of the natural sugars found in fruit. So, that one is a little easier. Plus, many of them come in their own natural packaging so are easy to toss in your backpack and take with you without much preparation, like bananas, oranges, and grapefruit. Here a few of the highlights as to why you should pick up a few colors of each every day:
1. help regulate your body's digestive process, providing fiber and roughage to help rid your body of wastes.
2. act as a protection from illness. They contain important vitamins that your body needs in order to stay healthy, such as vitamins C, A and E which are important anti-oxidants, protecting your body from the damage caused by free radicals.
3. contain phytonutrients, the reason fruits have such bright colors. Phytonutrients are extremely powerful antioxidants that protect your body against cancer-causing free radicals and may even slow down some of the effects of aging.
4. may protect against diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and other deteriorating conditions of the brain.
5. are low in sodium so they prevent gaining weight from excess water. Plus, if you are satisfying your sweet tooth with vitamin rich fruits (natural sugars), chances are you won't crave low-nutrient foods like doughnuts and candy bars (processed sugar) nearly as much, if at all.
1. are low in fat and calories, helping us control weight effectively.
2. have a lot of dietary fiber helping to digest your meals more easily, keeping your bowel movements regular and healthy. On a long-term scale, eating vegetables regularly can help you avoid a painful intestinal ailment called diverticulitis.
3. have many vitamins and other chemicals which supply the body with nutrients necessary to boost energy production within the muscle cells. This gives you a natural feeling of vitality and the energy to become more active, and in turn helps your body to burn more energy each day.
4. can help you ward off heart disease and stroke, control blood pressure and cholesterol, prevent some types of cancer, and guard against cataracts and macular degeneration (two common causes of vision loss).
5. can be added to almost any breakfast, lunch, or dinner recipe to add color, texture, and flavor. You can find them at every grocery store, and many go on sale during their "peak" season, so keep your eye out for those.
In order to get enough of both fruits and vegetables each day, the US government started a campaign of "Five a Day". This is a really easy way to remember how much of each to have. Think of the size of your palm, or one hand in a cupped position. That is one serving--half a grapefruit, a medium banana, 10 baby carrots...it is not as much as you think, and the benefits are immeasurable. Plus, one serving of each costs about as much (if not less than) the same quantity of junk food. An apple at a convenience store is about 75 cents, the same as a candy bar. So leave those for a special occasion, like when you are sitting around a campfire eating s'mores. The other times, pick up a brightly colored fruit or vegetable and crunch away.