One of my favorite verses to recite in the morning is “This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).
What a wonderful way to start the day! As we bloom into spring, it is a great opportunity to encourage people to eat plenty of vegetables and fruits. They have so many health benefits.
People who eat an overall healthful diet, including plenty of vegetables and fruits, are likely at a reduced risk for developing heart disease, including stroke and heart attack.
Some vegetables and fruits as a part of a healthful diet may protect against some types of cancer. Diets rich in foods containing dietary fiber, which includes many vegetables and fruits, may reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity. Dietary fiber can also help reduce blood cholesterol levels and is important for healthy bowel function.
Most vegetables and fruits are low in calories and contain no cholesterol since they are plant based instead of animal based. In general, they are a source of many nutrients, some of which include carbohydrates, vitamins A and C, folate, potassium, dietary fiber and a wide range of phytonutrients.
It is important to eat a wide variety, since different vegetables and fruits provide different nutrients and phytonutrients. There are five sub groups of vegetables, including dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy and others. Make most fruit servings whole fruit instead of the juice to reap the benefits of dietary fiber.
Vegetables and fruits are “nutrient dense” foods. The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 explains that “nutrient dense” indicates the nutrients and other beneficial substances in a food have not been “diluted” by the addition of calories from added solid fats, sugars, or refined starches, or by the solids fats naturally present in the food.
Tips to enjoy more vegetables and fruits include:
• Start your day off by including fruit with breakfast. Add sliced bananas, peaches or blueberries to cereal. Add sliced strawberries or peaches to yogurt.
• In a hurry for breakfast? Combine a cup of vanilla yogurt, a banana, cup of berries or other favorite fruit and about a ½-cup of ice in a blender and blend until smooth. Add some skim milk for a thinner consistency. Pour into a glass and enjoy!
• Serve a leafy green side salad often with meals. Try a variety of greens and toss in a few other vegetables like sliced radishes, diced cucumber, cherry tomatoes, shredded carrot, bell pepper strips or other favorites. Sliced strawberries, blueberries, kiwi slices or other fruits can also be added. Dress lightly with a vinaigrette.
• Add lots of vegetables to sandwiches. Spinach leaves and thinly sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, purple onion and avocado slices are good options.
• Keep a bowl of fresh whole fruit visible on the counter. And keep a clear plastic container of ready-to- eat raw vegetables in the refrigerator.
• Main dish salads are a wonderful option. In hot weather, they can include something from every food group. Dress lightly.