We all hear about the importance of eating a variety of fruits of veggies. I say, shoot for 10+ per day. This might seem like an impossible amount to some, but given that an official serving is smaller than you might think (a small apple or medium-sized banana), it’s easy to do, as we’ll discuss in a moment.
The quick way to get the full spectrum of nutrients out of your fruits and veggies is to shoot for a variety of colors each day. Here’s why:
• There are approximately 4000 different phytochemicals in plant life. These substances give each fruit and vegetable their distinctive color, flavor and scent and help protect them from air pollution, insects, radiation damage and disease.
• Flavanoids, carotenoids, and antioxidants are among the most studied groups of phytochemicals and are unprecedented in their benefit to human health.
• Antioxidants are absolutely critical for optimal health and fruits and veggies are loaded with them. Some of the top (most common) antioxidant-rich fruits are: blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and plums. Some of the top antioxidant-rich vegetables are: kale, spinach, brussell sprouts, alfalfa sprouts and broccoli.
• Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower are renowned as anti-cancer foods because they contain a compound called I3C (indole-3-carbinol). This is a potent antioxidant that breaks down estrogen in the body and reduces the risk of estrogen-sensitive cancers, in particular.
• Beta-carotene, another powerhouse antioxidant, is largely found in yellow and orange fruits and veggies like carrots, squash, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, apricots and mangoes.
• Anthocyanins comprise the beautiful blue or purple plant pigment found in blueberries, plums, cabbage and eggplant, and represent some of the most potent concentrations of antioxidant flavanoids in the plant kingdom.
• Citrus flavanoids, which are found in the white part or pulp of citrus fruit, have significant anti-inflammatory properties.
• Lycopene is mainly found in certain red fruits, most notably in tomatoes (with four times the bio-availability when cooked, like in pasta sauce), but also in watermelon, papaya and pink grapefruit. It’s often cited as a crucial nutrient in the prevention of prostate cancer. One study proclaimed that just 10 tablespoons of pasta sauce per week could reduce a man’s risk of prostate cancer by nearly 50%.
• Leafy green vegetables remain the heavyweight champs of the veggie universe. But let’s not ignore the other nutrient-dense green staples like bell peppers, celery, asparagus and cucumbers.
• Even more flavor? Don’t forget about your top antioxidant-rich herbs: oregano, sage, peppermint and thyme. Or, the valuable phytonutrients found in ginger or even onions and garlic (which are rich in allium).
• While some of these phytonutrients can be effectively extracted and presented in supplement form, there is an undeniable synergistic effect that happens when these hundreds of phytochemicals are consumed in their natural ratios in whole fruits and veggies.
Here a few quick tips for cranking up the quantity of daily servings:
1. Enjoy a superfood smoothie everyday using a variety of fruit. And depending on how you make it, don’t forget that handful or two of spinach. You won’t even taste it. (See blog entry 6-29-08.) No need to add spinach if you use The Ultimate Meal smoothie mix.
2. Check out one of the “Ultimate Salad System” recipes from several entries in December ’08. Focus on using different colored veggies for extra variety.
3. Don’t forget fruit salad. You can combine four or five of your favorite fruits in a large salad, then store in your fridge for a quick snack anytime.
4. Add a side of lightly cooked veggies to any entree whenever possible.
5. Snack on single servings of fruits or even veggies throughout the day. These add to your total, as well.
If you are hardly eating ANY fruits or veggies these days, don’t be overwhelmed by the idea of 10 or more servings per day. Start with one or two then add from there. Begin where you’re at. For everyone else, try to sneak in a few more servings here and there. This is one of the greatest strategies in the world for long-term health and wellness…
Until next time,