This is National Fruits & Veggies Month — a great time to boost your intake and improve your health at the same time. Collectively, fruits and vegetables give a boost to our minds, our bodies and our souls.
While we often single out certain ones as superfoods — blueberries, strawberries, pomegranates, broccoli — in reality, a healthy diet needs variety from all different kinds of fruits and vegetables.
A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition explored the relationship between consumption of flavonoid-rich foods and flavonoid compounds and the risk of all-cause mortality in a group of more than 93,145 young and middle-aged U.S. women (average age 36) in the Nurses’ Health Study II.
Flavonoids are bioactive compounds found in foods such as tea, red wine, fruits and vegetables. Higher intakes of specific flavonoids and flavonoid-rich foods have been linked to reduced mortality from specific vascular diseases and cancers. However, this study looked at the importance of flavonoid-rich foods and flavonoids in preventing all-cause mortality.
During the follow-up period, 1,808 participants died. When compared with nonconsumers, frequent consumers of red wine, tea, peppers, blueberries and strawberries were at reduced risk of all-cause mortality. Researchers said the findings support the rationale for making food-based dietary recommendations.
The bottom line? Fruits and vegetables not only keep you healthy, but also can help you live longer. Choose them often and choose variety.
How do you increase your intake? Add them to each meal: berries on your oatmeal or yogurt, spinach in an omelet, lettuce and tomato on a sandwich, salad with your pizza, fruit for dessert, smoothies for a snack.
I often plan two vegetables for dinner rather than just one. Keep fruits and vegetables within easy reach, and your intake will increase.
Clean the cauliflower and broccoli when you bring it home, so it’s ready for snacking. Keep a veggie tray that can be pulled out for an appetizer. Plan a fruit salad at dinner.
Soon, you’ll be filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables, the recommended amount in the latest Dietary Guidelines.
Q: How do you know if you’re getting enough vitamin C?
A: Most of us do. Adult women (who aren’t pregnant or breastfeeding) need 75 milligrams of vitamin C per day. Adult men need 90 milligrams.
A half-cup of raw red bell pepper or ¾ cup of orange juice will provide what you need, and a half-cup of cooked broccoli provides half of what you need.
Your body doesn’t make or store vitamin C, so you must eat it every day. Some people are more at risk of deficiency. These include those with an overall poor diet, those with kidney disease who get dialysis, heavy drinkers and smokers.
Smokers need an extra 35 milligrams of vitamin C per day to help repair the damage caused by free radicals that form from smoking.
If you’re among the 7% of Americans who aren’t getting enough vitamin C, you’ll notice symptoms within three months. Those symptoms can include bleeding gums, dry skin, fatigue and a weakened immune system.
The best sources of vitamin C include citrus such as oranges and grapefruit, strawberries, red bell peppers, cantaloupe, mango and tomatoes.
Apple-Cranberry Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese
When fall falls like the leaves on my grass, my husband thinks football, but I think fall foods. Apples, cranberries (and of course anything pumpkin) are first in my thoughts. Here’s a recipe that brings fall to the table for me. It’s from EatingWell magazine. You can make it a main meal by adding grilled chicken or chickpeas.
» 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
» 4 teaspoons spicy brown mustard
» 4 teaspoons pure maple syrup
» 1 tablespoon minced shallot
» ½ teaspoon kosher salt
» ½ teaspoon black pepper
» 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
» 1 (10-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
» 2 large Pink Lady apples, thinly sliced
» ½ cup sweetened dried cranberries
» ½ cup chopped toasted pecans, divided
» 2½ ounces semi-soft goat cheese, crumbled, about 1/3 cup
Whisk together vinegar, mustard, syrup, shallot, salt and pepper in a small bowl; slowly whisk in olive oil until completely blended. Toss together spinach, apples, dried cranberries, half of the pecans and dressing in a large bowl.
Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with goat cheese and remaining pecans. Serve immediately.
Serves 8. Serving size: 1½ cups
Per serving: 214 calories; 4 grams protein; 22 grams carbohydrates; 13 grams fat (3 grams saturated); 4 grams fiber; 16 grams sugars (9 grams added); 210 milligrams sodium
— Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois. Contact her at email@example.com, or follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd, or click here for additional columns. The opinions expressed are her own.