Study after study shows compelling evidence that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, macular degeneration, obesity, high blood pressure, some cancers and depression, while increasing natural immunity and longevity. Yet most Americans don’t even come close to getting enough in their daily diet.
Fruits and vegetables – fresh and frozen – are true concentrates of vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients, as well as fiber and antioxidants.
It is recommended that adults consume one and a half to two cups of fruit and three cups of vegetables each day. Did you know that the vast majority of fruits and vegetables contain no fat or cholesterol? As a result, they are a healthy alternative to salty, fatty, sugary and processed foods and can help you maintain or achieve a healthy weight.
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If you eat many different types of fruits/vegetables, you are guaranteed to get all the types of nutrients you need. Set a goal to fill at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables to reach the recommended 4½ cups per day.
Eating seasonal fruits and vegetables helps you enjoy delicious flavors and nutrients. Here are some of the riches of fall:
Apples are a tasty fruit that comes in different colors, flavors and textures and are powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants help disarm or neutralize harmful waste products that would otherwise cause inflammation, atherosclerosis (fatty plaques inside artery walls), dementia, and DNA mutations that can lead to cancerous growth.
Mushrooms. Most wild edible mushrooms appear in the fall and offer many health benefits. They’re high in protein, for a vegetable, low in carbohydrates and high in fiber, iron, calcium and other compounds thought to ward off cancer. Research shows that a diet rich in mushrooms can inhibit the production of estrogen, a major factor in the development of breast cancer.
Pears are one of the highest fiber fruits and contain more nutrients per calorie than calories per nutrient. Eating fiber provides a feeling of fullness – a feeling of fullness – which often results in consuming fewer calories to satisfy a hungry belly. They make a reasonable snack for everyone and are a great option for pre-diabetics/diabetics who want to satisfy a sweet craving. For what? Because fiber reduces the absorption of carbohydrates from the pear and thus prevents an increase in blood sugar levels. Pears are also a fruit of choice when introducing pureed foods to infants because they are considered “hypoallergenic,” meaning they have a very low likelihood of producing an allergic response.
While there is still much to learn about the immune system, here are science-backed tips for strengthening and maintaining your immune response.
Pumpkin. Its vibrant orange color results from high amounts of beta-carotene, an essential nutrient that helps maintain eye and skin health as well as neurological function. And it’s high in fiber, vitamin K, and even some protein while still being low in calories. Studies show that its delicious seeds can help reduce an enlarged prostate as well as the risk of kidney stones and depression.
Sweet potatoes. Sweet on their own, yet nutrient-dense, these orange potatoes are rich in beta-carotene; vitamin B6, which helps reduce the risk of heart attacks; vitamin C, which can help your immune system fight off nasty germs (especially this time of year); and iron, which contributes to the production of red blood cells.
Citrus. This diverse group of fruits ranges from oranges and tangerines to lemons and limes to grapefruit and more. Although best known for being a good source of vitamin C, citrus fruits also contain antioxidants from the flavonoid group. In a study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a diet rich in flavonoids reduced the risk of dying from heart disease by 40%. Although the reason is not entirely clear, flavonoids are thought to improve blood flow in the coronary arteries and decrease the formation of blood clots and levels of “bad” cholesterol.
Butternut squash is rich in nutrients, antioxidants and fiber while being low in calories. It is also a remarkable product in terms of vitamin A.
Kale. Some call it a superfood because it contains high amounts of vitamins A, C and K as well as calcium. Compared to spinach, kale contains more vitamin C and its iron is more absorbable by our digestive system.
Cabbage. Like other members of the cruciferous vegetable family (kale, broccoli), cabbage is high in nutrients. Research shows it can help with weight loss; promote heart, brain and skin health; and even help fight cancer. It contains sulforaphane, a compound that blocks an enzyme that plays a role in the growth of cancer cells.
And let’s not forget that edamame, grapes, green beans, celery, cauliflower, broccoli and carrots are also packed with nutrients. Appreciate!
Dr. Nina Radcliff, of Galloway Township, is a medical anesthesiologist, television medical contributor and textbook author. Email your questions to Dr. Nina at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Dr. Nina” in the subject line.
This article is intended for general information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical problems and cannot replace the advice of your healthcare professional.