Fruits and Vegetables – Eat to your health!
Did you know that fruits and vegetables have more than just vitamins and minerals? There are compounds called phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables that keep us healthy and free of disease. In fact, the term “phyto” originated from a Greek word meaning plant. Phytochemicals are not essential to life like proteins and fats, but they are beneficial and offer benefits to those who eat them. They may protect against certain cancers, heart disease, high blood pressure, and vision impairment. This means that there is even more reason to eat your fruits and vegetables.
Citrus fruits are a good example of a fruit loaded with phytochemicals.
Many of us know that they provide vitamin C, potassium and fiber, but they also have more than 170 phytochemicals. They contain flavonoids, a type of phytochemical, that may protect you from blood clots and act as powerful antioxidants in the body.
Many phytochemicals are found in the pigments of fruits and vegetables.
Anthocyanin is the red pigment in strawberries, cherries, cranberries, raspberries, blueberries, grapes and black currants. Early research indicates that this pigment may protect against heart disease.
Carotenoids are the yellow-orange pigments found in fruits and vegetables like mango, cantaloupe, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Carotenoids may also reduce your risk for heart disease and cancer.
Lutein is another example of a carotenoid but this particular nutrient is found in green leafy vegetables like spinach and turnip greens. Lutein is important because low levels have been linked to a greater incidence of macular degeneration, or eye disease.
Available research on the nutrient content of fruits and vegetables has found that these nutrients work best in food form, due to the synergistic nature of phytochemicals. In other words, taking specific phytochemicals as a supplement likely does not provide the same benefit of eating the whole fruit or vegetable. Each different color of fruit or vegetable found across the spectrum of your produce department offers different health benefits. Make sure your meals are in color and savor the goodness.
– Jon Vredenburg, MBA, RD, CDCES, LD/N
Check out our previous edition of Food for Thought!
February 27th, is National Strawberry Day keeping up with February’s heart-shaped and red-themed month. Learn more about the nutritional value of strawberries in our previous Food for Thought post below!
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