There are so many different diets and food fads out there, but most of them can agree on one thing: fruits and vegetables are really good for us! This element of healthy eating made simple is really pretty obvious. Most of us could easily admit that we feel better when we are eating lots of fresh, real produce. I know I do!
Like all areas of health, knowing why something is important can be a great motivator for making positive changes. Let’s take a quick look at some of the fantastic health benefits that fruits and veggies offer, shall we?
I should first admit that I wasn’t always so excited about fruits and veggies; well, mostly veggies. I’d eat iceberg salad with some shredded carrots and those purpley cabbage shreds, but I’d steer clear of any suspicious toppings like cherry tomatoes or raw green peppers.
However, as I got older, I decided that I would learn to enjoy new vegetables (fruits are generally easy to eat), and though some took time, it’s really worked. Even just recently after moving into our current house, I learned we had an asparagus batch, became determined to develop a taste for it, and now I truly like it. So if you, your children, or your husband aren’t big veggie or fruit eaters, don’t fear! You really can learn to enjoy them.
Why Fruits and Vegetables Matter
Produce selections are a crucial addition to our diet because they supply so many vital vitamins and minerals in a natural, usable state. Unlike most multivitamins that are composed of synthetic nutrients, fruits and vegetables offer the real deal and in God’s designed form.
We are often told to eat diets high in whole grains in order to get lots of fiber in our meals, but fruits and vegetables also offer a great dose of dietary fiber. This helps keep our digestive system moving and functioning as it should. No one feels well when things get sluggish.
Phytochemicals are found in all but the most refined foods, but fruits and vegetables are some of the richest sources. That’s all well and good, you say, but what in the world are phytochemicals? So glad you asked. They aren’t nutrients, but are natural chemicals found in the foods that have disease-preventive properties. When you hear about antioxidants being in fruits like blueberries, you are hearing about the phytochemicals in the fruit.
Fruits and vegetables add so much color, variety, and flavor to our diets, too! I love seeing the bright green of steamed broccoli, the cheerful hue of a cut orange, or the deep red of a sliced beet. I can’t imagine my kitchen without lots of onions and garlic to add to meals or crunchy apples to snack on in the afternoon. Our plates would be so lacking without fruits and veggies!
Getting More Servings
Depending on where you look, you generally come across suggestions for 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. A newer recommendation is to try to make half of your plate fruits and vegetables when at a meal since the term servings can be confusing.
I’ll be honest. I don’t keep track of our servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Call me crazy, unmotivated, or disorganized, but I find myself pleased to have a decent meal plan for the week done with a baby and four other children under my care now. Shocking, I know!
However, I do try to be mindful of the fruits and vegetables we are eating to make sure we’re not slacking in this area. These are some things that help me keep produce a focus in our diets:
- Sneak cooked winter squash or dehydrated greens into our morning smoothies along with lots of frozen fruit.
- Make snacks carrot sticks, apples, or garden veggies instead of crackers or pretzels.
- Add cooked onions and sliced avocado to my morning eggs, though I can’t convince the children of it!
- Choose a different vegetable for each dinner of the week.
- Try new recipes, cooking techniques, and varieties so that the standard green beans and bananas don’t get boring.
Using Color As a Guide
Did you know that the color of a fruit or vegetable can tell you a lot about its nutrient content? I think this is so neat! Though there are always exceptions, here are some common traits:
- Blue and purple foods contain the antioxidant anthocyanin (one of those phytochemicals mentioned earlier) which may help to prevent cancers and heart disease.
- Red and orange foods often give your body a boost in Vitamin C.
- Green foods can be a good source of plant-based iron as well as other key vitamins and minerals.
When I read about certain vitamins being in certain colors of food, I think about the ingenuity and kindness of God. All of those beautiful colors, textures, and flavors found in different fruits and vegetables also bless our bodies with a variety of needed nutrients. The more variety we eat, the more variety our body gets. Isn’t God good?