Make Half your Plate Fruits and Vegetables, Part 1

To get the nutrition you need, fruits and vegetables should be part of every meal! It’s no wonder why the MyPlate guidelines specify that half of every meal should be comprised of fruits and vegetables.

Healthy Food

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization, the National Cancer Institute, and the American Cancer Society, along with many other health agencies and organizations, emphasize the strong relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and health.  Research has shown that people who eat even 2½ cups of these healthy foods a day have only half the cancer risk of those who eat less than one cup of fruits and vegetables daily. Hundreds of studies show that increased fruit and vegetable consumption as part of a healthy diet may also help prevent heart disease, stroke, hypertension, birth defects, cataracts, diabetes, obesity and other serious conditions. Additionally, fruits and vegetables are particularly helpful in weight management, due to their high-fiber, high-water and low-fat content.

In other words, to get the nutrition you need, fruits and vegetables should be part of every meal! It’s no wonder why the MyPlate guidelines specify that half of every meal should be comprised of fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and Vegetables are also rich sources of vitamins and minerals, which are essential in many of the body’s vital functions. This includes maintaining the health of the brain, heart, bones, teeth and nerves and regulating the body’s balance of fluids.

  • Many fruits and vegetables are particularly good sources of vitamins A, C, E and K, some B vitamins, and many important minerals needed for a healthy body.
  • Beta-carotene and related compounds called carotenoids are converted by the body to vitamin A. Carotenoids (from the word “carrot”) are found in high concentrations in carrots and other orange and yellow vegetables and fruits, such as winter squash and cantaloupes. Dark green, leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, broccoli, and other members of the cabbage family, also contain high concentrations of carotenoids.
  • Dark green vegetables, one of the healthy foods we hear so much about these days, are also excellent sources of folic acid (a B vitamin needed during pregnancy to reduce the risk of birth defects), vitamins E and K, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron, and potassium. Many fruits are also a good source of minerals in the diet, such as chromium (grapes), iron (cherries), manganese(pineapple), and potassium (apricots, bananas, orange juice, peaches and prunes).
  • Citrus fruits are good sources of vitamin C, as is the family of plants that includes tomatoes, red and green peppers, potatoes, and eggplant. Other good sources of vitamin C include papayas, strawberries, kiwis, cantaloupe, and the cabbage family, including broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.

While there is some overlap in the vitamins and minerals supplied by the fruits and vegetables listed above, you need a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to fully benefit from the various nutrients they contain.  A wide variety of these healthy foods in your diet will contribute to your overall health and vitality.

So how do you increase your fruit and vegetable intake while dining out? Here are some helpful tips:

  • Order a salad with dressing on the side to begin your meal.
  • Request an extra serving of vegetables as a side dish.
  • Order smoothies with fresh or frozen fruits and 100% juices.
  • Order meals that include vegetables or fruits as a major component. Request vegetables steamed without butter, oil or cream sauce.
  • Order pasta with a tomato based sauce as opposed to a cream based sauce.
  • Ask for extra lettuce, tomato and other vegetables on sandwiches and burgers.
  • Choose desserts such as fresh fruit, sherbet or sorbet, or angel food cake with fruit topping.