The sweet side of life (fruits and veggies)

Ahh who doesn’t love fruit? It makes the perfect snack. Plus fruits and veggies offer so many nutritional benefits, vitamins and minerals and fiber. There is a reason they should make up half of your plate at each meal. So let’s get to it.

How much should I be eating?

Each day you should strive for 2 cups of fruits and 2 1/2 cups of fruits and veggies (amounts based off a 2000 calorie meal plan).

Which should I choose when shopping

It is important to consider all types of fruits and veggies (by this I mean canned, fresh, and frozen). Each can offer nutritional benefits.

The best way to explain this is to just do a “pros” and “cons” set up.

  • Fresh

Pros

  1. greater variety
  2. able to touch, smell, and see before buying
  3. can cost less when purchased in season (farmer’s markets are great ways to not only support your local community but also know that you’re getting “fresh” produce. Many “fresh” produce in the stores come from other states or even other countries which means they are traveling a long way before making it to your table).

Cons

  1. Must be used quickly before going bad
  2. Need to learn about ripeness and storage
  3. can be expensive if not in season

Pros

  1. Frozen at peak freshness
  2. can cost less compared to out of season produce
  3. long shelf life (up to 6 months)
  4. little preparation required
  5. available year round

Cons

  1. May have added sodium, sugar, and/or fat
  2. texture changes with freezing (I have noticed this especially with fruits. We will buy butt loads of strawberries when they are in season and then freeze them for later. But I have noticed a huge texture and flavor change after they’ve been frozen. I make sure to use frozen strawberries with certain recipes to adjust for the flavor and texture change).
  • Canned

Pros

  1. Canned at peak freshness
  2. can cost less compared to out of season produce
  3. long shelf life (2-4 years)
  4. little preparation required
  5. available year round

Cons

  1. May have added sodium, sugar, and/or fat (beware with fruit especially. Look for fruits that are canned in 100% fruit juices instead of syrups which are loaded with added sugars)
  2. texture changes with canning

Seasonal fruits and veggies

As mentioned above, fruits and veggies are seasonal. Most grocery stores have many fruits and veggies year round but they won’t always taste the same as they would if you bought them in season.

Taste the rainbow (of fruits and veggies)

So hopefully you have noticed that fruits and veggies come in an array of colors (I apologize to those who may have eye problems and cannot see certain colors and cannot see color at all). There is a reason for those different colors. Each color does something differently in the body. Pretty cool huh?

Color Group:

  • Red: memory function, lower your risk of some cancers, help with urinary tract health
  • Orange/yellow: lower your risk of some cancers, assist with heart health, vision health, improve the immune system
  • White: improve cholesterol levels, assist with heart health
  • Green: assist with vision health, lower your risk of some cancers, help keep your bones and teeth strong
  • Blue/purple: lower your risk of some cancers, assist with urinary tract health, assist with memory function, healthy aging

Different parts of fruits and veggies can be eaten as well.

Part:

  • Seeds: found in lima beans, pinto beans, pumpkin seeds, kidney beans, black beans, sunflower seeds, peas, dry split peas, butter beans, corn
  • Roots: found in beets, onions, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, radishes, rutabaga, sweet potatoes, yams, turnips
  • Stems: found in asparagus, bamboo shoots, bok choy, broccoli, celery, rhubarb
  • Leaves: found in brussels, parsley, cabbage, spinach, collards, turnip greens, kale, chard, lettuce, endive, mustard green, watercress
  • Flowers: found in broccoli and cauliflower
  • Fruit: found in apples, appricots, artichokes, avocados, grapes, cucumbers, bananas, pumpkins, squash, bell peppers, dates, grapefruit, berries, pears, pineapple, eggplant, plums, tangerine, kiwi, mangoes, melons, oranges, papaya, peaches, pomegranate, strawberries, tomatoes

As mentioned above, different colors of fruits and veggies do different things in the body. This is because they contain different nutrients.

Nutrient:

  • Vitamin C: important because it helps heal cuts and wounds, keeps teeth and gums healthy, helps your body absorb iron. Found in red and green peppers, kiwi, strawberries, sweet potatoes, kale, cantaloupe, broccoli, pineapple, brussel sprouts, oranges, mangoes, tomato juice, cauliflower
  • Vitamin A: keeps eyes and skin healthy and helps protect against infections. Found in sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, spinach, turnip greens, mustard greens, kale, collard greens, winter squash, cantaloupe, red peppers, chinese cabbage
  • Potassium: helps to maintain a healthy blood pressure. Found in sweet potatoes, tomato paste, tomato puree, beet greens, white potatoes, white beans, lima beans, cooked greens, carrot juice, prune juice
  • Folate: helps your body make red blood cells. Also very important for developing brains (very important for pregnant women to take before and during pregnancy so their babies develop properly). Found in black eyed peas, cooked spinach, great northern beans, asparagus
  • Fiber: aids in digestion and decreases risk for certain diseases. Found in apples, beans, blackberries, peas, raspberries, lentils, broccoli. More on fiber and other carbs here.

How to eat more fruits and veggies

If you’re like me and have a small appetite, it may be overwhelming trying to figure out how to eat 2 cups of fruits and 2 1/2 cups of veggies everyday. 100% fruit and veggies juices count towards these amounts so you can start your day with some 100% fruit juice (or veggie juice, personally I can’t stand veggie juice). Along with your juice you can eat some oatmeal with some added fruit. If oatmeal isn’t your cup of tea you could always add fresh fruit to your cereal, pancakes, waffles, etc. Or you could go for eggs and make a veggie omelette. There are lots of possibilities for breakfast.

For lunch you could try having a salad and top it with carrots and apples. Or you could have a veggie sandwich by layering spinach, tomato, onion, carrots and if you feel the need, you can add a lean meat (like turkey) and use a whole grain bread. If you’re like me and like pasta, you can try a whole grain pasta and top it with homemade tomato sauce and add spinach as well as other veggies like broccoli (one of my faves). Or if you have a craving for cheese, you could always make a quesadilla and load it up with lots of veggies. Soups (homemade soups) are also a great way to get a ton of veggies into one meal.

For dinner, you could try having steamed veggies with your main dish. Or just make a meal of steamed veggies (I’ve done that before). You could make a burrito using a whole wheat tortilla and add grilled veggies to it. Try a vegetarian style pizza instead of the meat lovers pizza (which may be good, but not always so good for your heart). As mentioned above, soups are a great meal. You can throw all kinds of veggies in soups and not even taste half of them. Grilled slices of fruit can make great side dishes or even dessert.

What counts as a cup

Fruit

– 1 small apple or orange

– 1 banana

– 1 cup chopped, cooked, or canned fruit

– 1 cup 100% fruit juice

– 1/2 cup dried fruit

– 1 medium grapefruit

– 8 large strawberries

– 32 grapes

Vegetables

– 2 cups raw leafy vegetables

– 1 cup chopped vegetables

– 1 cup vegetable juice

– 1 cup tomato sauce or spaghetti sauce

– 2 cups vegetable soup

– 12 baby carrots

– 1 large baked sweet potato

– 3 spears broccoli

the sweet side of fruit
As mentioned above, fruits contain all kinds of nutrients. They are high in vitamins and minerals which can help facilitate the metabolism of sugar thereby transforming it into energy but they are also high in fiber, which slows the absorption of sugars. For this reason, less insulin is required when eating fruit than when eating sugar alone or in refined products lacking fiber. The less insulin is secreted, the less fat is produced, since one if insulins effects on the body is promotion of lipogenesis aka thr synthesis of lipids or fats in the body. So basically, the natural sugar in fruit is less fattening and also better handled by diabetics. It is not processed or refined so our bodies are able to utilize it better. Fruits are naturally sweet and can help satisfy that sweet tooth. Many times I will use dried fruit (such as dates) to replace refined sugar in recipes. Dates are quite sweet and they contain a good amount of fiber (3 g for 5 to 6 dates).

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