Fruits and Vegetables in the News
We’ve all seen the news that eating fruits and vegetables helps us in all aspects of our lives. It seems like every day, studies emerge linking fruit and vegetable consumption to overall health and vitality like below:
Fruits and Vegetables are linked to reducing your risk of obesity, heart disease, and certain cancers. They are even linked to improving your optimism and reducing your risk of death! Is there truth to these claims? YES! While some of the statements are exaggerative, the truth is, fruits and vegetables help us in all these areas because they are nutrient dense and low calorie foods that the body needs and craves for optimal health.
When you eat nutrient dense and low calorie foods, like fruits and vegetables, you are maximizing the amount of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants you eat, while keeping your calorie intake low.
Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants help our bodies function properly and achieve optimal wellness. Vitamins and minerals in fruits and vegetables positively affect our metabolism, protein synthesis, brain function…the list goes on and on.
Antioxidants act as scavengers in our bodies, traveling through our tissues and cells, to locate the damaging free radicals that seek to harm our cells. These free radicals damage our body’s protein and fat cells, as well as our cellular DNA, increasing our risk for certain cancers and heart disease. Free radicals are unavoidable, as they are formed when we breathe in pollution or smoke, when we are stressed, or when we eat less healthy foods. We need these powerful antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables to confront these war-like free radicals and say “No, not in my body!”
Now think about what this means in terms of weight management and optimism. By eating more nutrient dense and low calorie foods, you are optimizing your health and supplying your body with what it truly needs. You can and should feel proud of yourself for treating yourself in the best possible way. I don’t know about you, but when I eat a fruit or a vegetable, I imagine my body thanking me for nourishing it. I feel healthier immediately, energized, and ready to take on the day. I feel confident that what I have just put in my body will sustain and take care of me. I feel more connected to the earth and what it provides for me, therefore, I have a more optimistic outlook on the day.
(I am fully aware of how hippie-like this sounds, but it’s true!!)
Good Nutrition Equals Mental Health
By feeling healthier and more connected, you can tackle depressive moments and pessimistic views. Many studies have linked depression to being overweight or obese. By incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your meals, you are foregoing more calorie “rich” foods laden with starchy carbohydrates and saturated fat which have been shown to increase your risk for obesity as well as weigh you down physically and emotionally.
In this vicious circle, overeating unhealthy foods can lead to depression, and depression can lead to overeating unhealthy foods. It’s not science.
Putting This Into Action
So how do we do this? Fruits and vegetables have a stigma, one that desperately needs to be eradicated. As a dietitian, I hear all the time, “fruits and vegetables are expensive…they are hard to prepare…I don’t know how to use them…I know I should eat them, but…”
I don’t want to try and convince you that fruits and vegetables are cheaper than fast food, but if thoughtfully planned out, they can be a very affordable part of your diet, especially if you utilize the produce the Foodbank offers, or if you grow your own. Fruits and vegetables also are less expensive if you buy them in season, because you don’t have to pay for the cost of transportation as well as other hidden costs.
And they are not hard to prepare! As long as you have a knife and a cutting board, the time it takes to cut up a lettuce, carrot, cucumber, broccoli, and avocado salad is less than 5 minutes! That’s less time than it takes to go through a drive-through window. And at the same time, you are breaking this “vicious circle” of poor diet and unhappiness.
I am confident, if you continue to tune into The BEET: All Things Nutrition, you will change the way you think about fruits and vegetables. They will become staples in your kitchens, the center of your family dining experience, and important components of your everyday health.
Stay tuned for more of The BEET: All Things Nutrition. And make sure to sign up for the Foodbank’s e-mail newsletter to discover great new resources for our entire community.