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With September right around the corner, it's time to kickstart our healthy eating habits into high gear. September is "Fruit and Veggies - More Matters Month," and the goal is to bring awareness of how beneficial fruits and vegetables are in our every day diets.
During the month, the challenge is to start substituting fruits and vegetables in place of higher calorie foods in your diet. Doctors and nutritionists suggest to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables at every meal, and to choose fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables in place of empty calorie foods when snacking.
Studies show that more than 90% of both adults and children do not eat the amount of fruits and vegetables that are recommended by the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and the My Plate nutrition guide. However, remembering to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables at every eating occasion, including snacks, and all forms - such as: fresh, frozen, canned, dried, 100% juices, etc., - all count toward daily intake.
Every step taken towards eating more fruits and veggies helps you and your family be at their absolute best because eating fruits and vegetables may reduce your family's risk of many diseases. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating more fruits and veggies than any other food group, and rightly so. There are incredible nutrients found in fruits and vegetables, all of which may play a large role in your overall health.
- Calcium: is essential for healthy bones and teeth. It is also needed for normal functioning of muscles, nerves, and some glands. Examples of fruits and veggies that provide a good source of calcium include: collard greens, cowpeas, edamame, spinach, and turnip greens.
- Fiber: Diets rich in fiber have been shown to have a number of beneficial effects, including decreased risk of coronary heart disease. Examples of fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber are: blueberries, apples, brussels sprouts, blackberries, raspberries, spinach, broccoli, green beans, kiwi, lentils, and more.
- Folate: Diets with adequate folate may reduce a woman's risk of having a child with a brain or spinal cord defect. Examples of fruits and veggies that are high in folate include: asparagus, broccoli, chickpeas, spinach, strawberries, beets, cantaloupe, lettuce, and cauliflower.
- Iron: Iron is needed for healthy blood and normal functioning of all cells. Fruits and veggies that are high in iron include: lentils, spinach, white beans, winged beans, apricots, chickpeas, green soybeans, lima beans and pigeon peas.
- Magnesium: is necessary for healthy bones, and is involved with more than 300 enzymes in the body. Inadequate levels may cause muscle cramps, high blood pressure, and anxiety. Fruits and veggies rich in magnesium include: spinach, artichoke hearts, beet greens, black beans, butternut squash, pinto beans, chickpeas, lentils, lima beans, okra, and soybeans.
- Potassium: Diets rich in potassium helps to maintain a healthy blood pressure. Some examples of fruits and vegetables that are rich in potassium include: cherries, bananas, tomatoes, kiwi, broccoli, and sweet potatoes.
- Sodium: is needed for normal cell function throughout the body. Most diets contain too much sodium, which can lead to high blood pressure. Examples of fruits and vegetables that provide adequate sodium include: bell peppers, artichokes, carrots, celery, radish, sweet potatoes, apricots, honeydew, papaya, and pineapples.
- Vitamin A: keeps eyes and skin healthy, as well as helps to protect against infections. Fruits and veggies that are rich in Vitamin A are: spinach, oranges, watermelon, sweet potatoes, mango, cantaloupe, grapefruit, carrots, and lettuce.
- Vitamin C: helps to heal cuts and wounds, and keeps teeth and gums healthy. Examples of fruits and vegetables high in Vitamin C are: bell peppers, blackberries, broccoli, strawberries, apricots, kiwi, cauliflower, pineapple, oranges, and spinach.
Everyone knows that fruits and vegetables are good for you, but you may be wondering why you need to eat MORE of them. Here's a few good reasons:
1. Nutritious AND Delicious: Fruits and veggies not only provide you with the proper nutrition that your body needs to survive, but they also have exciting tastes that can stimulate your palate.
2. Vitamins & Minerals: Fruits and veggies contain a wide variety of essential vitamins and minerals that will help you feel healthy and energized.
4. Fiber: Fruits and veggies provide fiber that helps keep you full, all while keeping your digestive system happy, as well.
5. Low Calorie: Fruits and veggies are naturally low in calories, therefore you can enjoy a delicious tasting snack without all of the empty calories.
6. Color and Texture: Fruits and veggies add color, texture, and appeal to the palate.
7. Convenient & Quick: Fruits and veggies are nature's treat and are easy to grab for a snack. They are ready and nutritious in any form - fresh, frozen, canned, and dried!
8. Variety: They say variety is the spice of life, and that is one thing that fruits and veggies have! There is always something new to try.
Eating more fruits and veggies matters to adults and children when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, and proper nutrition. There are several ways to incorporate fruits and vegetables into your every day life, without making it seem boring. There are numerous recipes that contain fruits and/or veggies, that will be pleasing to even the pickiest eater! Let's all join together and work towards a healthier lifestyle - not just for us, but for our families, friends, and children!