Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to help maintain your health
STILLWATER, Okla. – We all know fruits and vegetables are good for us. Even so, many of us fall short on a daily basis in getting enough of those healthy foods.
“Fruits and vegetables provide some important nutrients that play a key role in our health,” said Janice Hermann, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension nutrition specialist.
Usually low in calories when prepared without added fats and sugars, eating your fruits and vegetables is linked with reducing the risk of several chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke. Also, some fruits and vegetables could protect against certain types of cancer.
Although specific recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables each person needs varies on age, sex and physical activity, the government’s dietary guidelines outlined at www.choosemyplate.gov generally encourage us to fill half our plates at each meal with fruits and vegetables.
If that sounds like a challenge, do not worry. There are easy and creative ways of incorporating the foods into your daily diet. For instance, microwave fresh or frozen vegetables for a side dish at lunch or dinner and keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the table, counter or in the refrigerator.
“Think about tossing black beans, sliced red pepper or chopped red cabbage in a salad or adding orange sections, grapes or dried cranberries,” Hermann said.
Other strategies for increasing your fruit and vegetable intake include asking for an extra side of vegetables or a small salad instead of a fried side dish when dining out and topping your breakfast cereal with bananas, peaches or strawberries. You also could try mixing fruit with fat-free or low-fat yogurt.
Enjoying a bowl of tomato, butternut squash or garden vegetable soup is another slick way of getting in some vegetables, while dried fruits make great snacks that are easy to carry and store.
It does not matter whether vegetables are fresh, frozen or canned – all are valid options. Similarly, most of the fruit you consume should be fresh, canned, frozen or dried, instead of from juice. When juice is on the menu, Hermann said 100 percent juice is the healthiest choice.
Also, before you eat any fresh fruit, it should be rinsed under clean, running water, scrubbed to remove any dirt or surface microorganisms and dried with a clean towel.
“When you’re shopping, buy fruits and vegetables that are in season,” Hermann said. “Not only is there a chance the produce will be less expensive, they also will be at their peak flavor.”
Oklahoma State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, State and Local Governments Cooperating: The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, or status as a veteran, and is an equal opportunity employer.
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