Fruits and vegetables are showcased all through the summer at local farmers markets, backyard gardens, and roadside fruit stands. People who consume generous amounts of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet are likely to have reduced risk of stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain a healthy blood pressure. Furthermore, fruits and vegetables help combat free radicals, support digestive health, and reduce the chances of developing cataracts or macular degeneration. Vitamin C, for example, helps heal cuts and wounds and keeps teeth and gums healthy.
At your next trip to buy groceries take advantage of the remaining weeks of delicious summer produce. Enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables raw or lightly cooked to get the most nutrient value. Fill up on what nature has provided us to stay healthy, including:
- Peek summer fruits that are high in Vitamins C and A include cantaloupe, watermelon, and tomatoes. Cherries are a good source of potassium. Also try peaches, blueberries, and honeydew melon.
- Eggplant, zucchini, and green beans are good sources of dietary fiber. Summer squash is a good source of manganese and molybdenum. Other tasty summer vegetables include bell peppers, snap peas, corn, onion, and broccoli.
- Most produce is low in calories. Cut back on the amount of cereal in your bowl to make room for cut up fruit. If you do not have time to sit down for breakfast in the morning, make a fruit smoothie to go.
- Snack on raw vegetables or fruits instead of chips or pretzels. Mix your favorite nuts with dried fruit such as cranberries, raisins, or apricots for a homemade trail mix to keep at your desk.
- Eat a salad for lunch one or two times a week. Add vegetables to a sandwich or wrap.
- Visualize your dinner plate. Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains should take up the largest amount of space. They also add flavor and texture to your dish. Try vegetable stir-fry, vegetable fajitas, or pasta primavera.
- Pick fruits and vegetables in a range of colors to ensure that you get a variety of minerals and vitamins.
The Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) offers creative ways to stretch your fruit and vegetable budget including planning ahead, healthy recipes, buying in season and minimizing waste; visit www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org for more tips. To find a farmers market near you, go to www.localharvest.org. You can also visit the Environmental Working Group to view their shopper’s guide to pesticides and produce list to see their recommendations on which fruits and vegetables to purchase organic and which are less susceptible to pesticides.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Environmental Working Group, Produce for Better Health Foundation, LifeWork Strategies EAP, Washington and Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Centers.