The truth about the health of most Americans is pretty dismal. Overweight, undernourished, constipated, suffering from diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, we are not a well nation by many estimates. The vast majority of people in this country are not eating the right foods and they are not getting enough daily activity. But there’s a secret weapon to combat all of these health maladies and it’s likely lurking in your fridge right now. Produce.
The research supporting increased consumption of fruits and vegetables is astounding! A plant-based diet – that is, a diet mostly made up of fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and nuts and seeds – is the most healthful way to eat. That doesn’t mean you have to give up meat and dairy completely, but it does mean that these other foods should make up the bulk of your diet – and the more the merrier according to recent research out of the UK.
In the study, actually an analysis of lots of other studies, researchers found that the more fruits and vegetables eaten, the lower the risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and deaths due to all causes combined. Cardiovascular disease and cancer are the two top killers in the U.S. today! In fact, according to the researchers, “Inverse associations were observed between the intake of apples and pears, citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, and salads and cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality, and between the intake of green-yellow vegetables and cruciferous vegetables and total cancer risk. ” Ten servings of fruits and veg was the level recommended by researchers. But even at half that, much suffering could be avoided and lives may be saved if people simply ate more fruits and vegetables.
Ten per day may seem completely insurmountable to many people. Don’t let that discourage you! With every increase serving of fruits and vegetables eaten, benefit is gained. So, if today you’re only eating 2 servings per day (like many people), add one more as a snack or at breakfast and so on. And remember a serving is 1 cup of leafy greens or 1/2 cup chopped cooked or raw fruits or vegetables (1/4 cup for dried). Here’s how I like to tackle this issue and get in as many servings as I can every day:
- Start at breakfast. Don’t miss the opportunity to add fruits and vegetables to your breakfast. Eggs are perfect for tossing in a handful of spinach, some onions and peppers, and/or mushrooms. Fresh fruit is delicious served alongside a zucchini muffin or topping plain yogurt.
- Eat produce for snacks. Celery with peanut butter, apples with a slice of cheese, and smoothies packed with any manner of fruits and veg are a great option.
- Eat big salads. These are perfect for the mid day meal and at my house often include leftovers from the night before – leftover roasted vegetables are my favorite. Stuffing sweet potatoes with salad fixins is also a tasty way to eat more vegetables at lunch or dinner.
- For the supper meal, always serve at least two vegetables and a fruit. Salad, sweet potato, and sliced apples works perfectly and is super easy.
One last tip: Keep fruits available on the counter in a fruit bowl and eat them often. Hide the things you want to eat less (or don’t buy them in the first place). Out of sight, out of mind. Want more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram to see what’s on my plate – I promise you’ll see lots of color and be encouraged to do the same.
What are your tips for eating more fruits and vegetables every day?