You’ve probably heard it since you were young: eat more fruits and vegetables! At that point, they were probably the last things that you wanted to have on your plate at the dinner table. As we grow older and more aware of what we are putting into our bodies, we slowly learn the benefits of what our parents once encouraged us to eat.
As summer begins, I have found that it’s easier for me to eat more fruits and veggies as they seem like refreshing snacks on a hot day. They are an integral part of a healthy diet, and we should be consuming several servings of them daily. Do you get enough of them?
According to researchers from Johns Hopkins University, within a 24-hour period containing 24,000 test subjects, only 11% received the recommended number of servings (two or more of fruit and three or more of vegetables) per day. A study from 2005 showed that less than a third of American adults received the proper serving of fruits and about a quarter reported eating the recommended amount of vegetables.
According to Harvard’s School of Public Health, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables “can lower blood pressure, reduce risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect upon blood sugar which can help keep appetite in check.” They suggest mixing it up by trying out different types and different colors of fruits and vegetables to attain the most nutrients.
A long-term study by Harvard University found that there was a direct link between consumption of fruits and vegetables and decreased risk of heart disease and stroke. Those who had 8 or more servings a day were 30% less likely to suffer from heart attack or stroke, compared to those in the lowest category at 1.5 servings or less. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension study found that people with high blood pressure who followed a diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products reduced both their systolic and diastolic blood pressure to numbers similar to what medications can achieve.
While data on the link between cancer and consumption of fruits and vegetables is variable, researchers typically agree that certain fruits or vegetables can lessen the likelihood of developing certain types of cancer. For example, fruit may help to prevent lung cancer and tomatoes may aid in preventing prostate cancer in men. In 2007, the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual meeting showed that among smokers, those who ate the most food rich in flavonols (spinach, apples, onions, and berries), were 59% less likely to develop pancreatic cancer.
To work on increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables, go out of your way to purchase them at the grocery store and keep them out in your kitchen for you to grab when you are hungry. Make a conscious effort to eat them while you are out at restaurants. Mix it up by buying different fruits and veggies so that you don’t get “bored” with the same ones. Continue to look up new recipes to spice up your diet as well. Try adding fruits and vegetables to dishes that you already like!
Image credit: Roma Foods