Summer is one of my favorite times of year. The days are longer, the schedules seem lighter, and the options for summer produce is great and abundant. In Northern Florida we are so fortunate to be surrounded by Farms that grow fruits and vegetables, Food Co-ops, Outdoor Markets, Roadside Stands and our own favorite grocery purveyors. Local produce is everywhere and full of delicious opportunities to purchase and eat.
From the Nutrition perspective- there are so many reasons to eat fruits and vegetables. First of all, your mother told you so- which stands out as a great beginning. What did she know that you need to remember? While fruits and vegetables do not provide every single nutrient you need- they certainly hit the mark on many great nutrition values that protect us while tasting delicious at the same time. These include, fiber, water, vitamins, minerals and pure mouth watering delight.
According to the American Cancer Society a diet rich in 9-11 servings of fruits and vegetables has the potential to reduce Cancer risk. It is best to eat fruits in a variety of colors, because the colors themselves have Cancer protective benefits. These different colors are eye appealing and full of Nutrients called phytochemicals. Chemicals from plants that are good for you.
Phytochemicals in Foods and Possible Health Benefits
Some of the names include: Isoflavones (genistin, daidzein), types of flavonoids;
Anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid; Proanthocyanidins, a type of flavonoid; resveratrol
Sulfides, thiols, Carotenoids, such as lycopene, and beta-carotene;Isothiocyanates (sulforaphane) and Catechins, epicatechins, types of flavonoids
These beautiful compounds are found in our favorite fruits and vegetables and products made from them including: Soybeans, soy milk, tofu, strawberries, red wine, blueberries,
Red wine, grape juice, grape extracts, cocoa, peanuts, garlic, onions, leeks, olives, scallions
carrots, tomatoes and tomato products, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and kale, horseradish, green and black tea, cocoa.
Don't let the sounds of their names fool you- they assist in protecting you against disease by
Reduction in blood pressure and increased blood vessel dilation,induction of cancer cell death, improved insulin sensitivity, neuroprotective effects,nhibition of LDL oxidation and inflammation,decreased LDL cholesterol, anticancer effects,neutralization of free radicals that cause cell damage, neutralization of free radicals that cause cell damage and protection against some types of cancer, and vasodilation, improved blood flow to the brain, improved insulin sensitivity.
According to the DASH® Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is a dietary pattern promoted by the U.S.-based National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) a diet rich in healthfully prepared fruits and vegetables can be part of a Heart Healthy approach to lower blood pressure. There guidelines include 4-5 servings of fruits and
4-5 servings of vegetables. This food plan assists adults to lower hypertension while eating healthful delicious foods.
So how do we up our fruits and veggies and maintain our healthy wonderful bodies at the same time?
You can eat your produce plain, in a salad, as a snack, add it to an entrée, make it the main course, cook it for dessert, add it to a smoothie, drink it, stew it and the list goes on and on.
My favorite summer fruits are the ones you can pick and eat after rinsing. We are so lucky to have all sorts of beautiful berries, melons, citrus and fruit trees in our region. What a great opportunity to eat a fresh local peach or a big bowl of berries. Yum! You can add yogurt or another low fat topping and enjoy yourself a fruit parfait made of nature’s goodness. You can even grill your fruit and add it to your favorite summer meals.
As for eating our veggies- this is the best news yet. When we add or increase our intake of vegetables at our meals, we decrease the ratio of fat and cholesterol to fiber and add so many nutritious benefits. We have abundant opportunities to add those colors to our plate in the form of tomatoes, peppers, green beans, eggplant, all of the squashes and even our delicious starchy vegetables grown near by- the potato- which also comes in rich colors). Did you know that neighboring Palatka is the Potato capital of Florida?
So eat your fruits and veggies! Put a smile on your face and a virtual smile in your body. Protect your health, eat light, eat in colors and know you are on the right path for a healthy and delicious summer.
Nancy Cohen RDN LDN
Licensed Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
Feeding The Body Feeding The Soul LLC St Augustine
Serving Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Northern Florida.
Nutritionist, Dietitian & Energy Worker