Eat Your Fruits and Veggies | Dietitian Holly White, RDN, LDN, CDE

Eat Your Fruits and Veggies | Lenoir Wellness

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating more fruits and vegetables than any other food group.

You should strive to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain important nutrients that are essential for an overall healthy body. They provide essential vitamins and minerals, fiber and a variety of phytonutrients (plant chemicals) that may play a role in preventing certain diseases. Water found in fruits and vegetables helps keep you hydrated. Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, which improves digestion and helps you feel full. Fiber also helps you use the energy from your food for a longer period of time, reducing the feelings of hunger.

Examples of some of these nutrients are:

  • Calcium: Calcium is essential for healthy bones and teeth. It is also needed for normal functioning of muscles and nerves.
  • Fiber: Meal plans high in dietary fiber can decrease risk of coronary heart disease, among other things.
  • Iron: Iron is needed for healthy blood and normal cell function.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium is necessary for healthy bones and is involved with more than 300 enzymes in your body. Inadequate levels may result in muscle cramps and high blood pressure.
  • Potassium: Meal plans rich in potassium may help to maintain a healthy blood pressure.
  • Vitamin A: Keeps eyes and skin healthy and helps protect against infections.
  • Vitamin C: Helps heal cuts and wounds and keeps teeth and gums healthy.

More great benefits

Fruits and vegetables also contain phytonutrients, which is a broad term used for a wide variety of compounds produced by plants. Each phytonutrient comes from a variety of different plant sources and has different proposed effects on, and benefits for, the body. By eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, you will provide your body with a wide variety of theses beneficial compounds.

A few phytonutrients that you may have heard of include:

  • Beta-Carotene: Research suggests that beta-carotene benefits your immune system, vision, skin and bone health. This can be found in orange and dark leafy green vegetables.
  • Lycopene: Studies show that lycopene may help protect against prostate cancer and promote heart health. This is found in tomatoes, red peppers, watermelon, and pink grapefruit.
  • Lutein: Research suggest that lutein can help promote eye and heart health and can be found in collards, kale, spinach, brussel sprouts, and artichokes.
  • Resveratrol: Studies suggest that resveratrol can help benefit heart and lung health and reduce inflammation. This can be found in peanuts, red wine, and grapes.
  • Anthocyanidins: May help promote blood vessel health and is found in berries, plums, red onions, radishes and strawberries.
  • Isoflavones: May help lower cholesterol, decrease joint inflammation and improve bone health and is found in soybeans.

So, we know how important fruits and vegetables are, let’s go shopping!

When buying your fruits and vegetables don’t forget about your local farmers market. The fruits and vegetables at farmers markets are the freshest and ripest available – no long distance shipping or sitting in storage. Shopping at farmers markets also helps support your local farmers and community. Farmers markets offer more than just food; they can also offer cooking demonstrations, recipes to help you cook the fruits and vegetables you buy, and even craft ideas. Attending a farmers market can make grocery shopping a much more enjoyable experience. Walking around an outdoor market can be a great stress reliever and great way to connect with your community.

Be sure to check out the Lenoir County Farmers Market at 100 N. Heritage Ave. in Kinston, NC.  [Google Maps]

No matter where you buy your fruits and vegetables, just remember how important it is to choose them daily. They add color, crunch, and flavor to your meals and snacks. Also, remember every time you choose to eat fruits and vegetables your body is smiling on the inside!

Holly White, RDN, LDN, CDE