By Natalie Mathiowetz, Redwood Area Hospital Registered Dietitian
As gardens start to produce harvest and summer produce abounds, let’s take a moment to highlight some of the ways your body can benefit from filling your plate with a rainbow of produce this summer and all year long.
Healthy blood vessels— Did you know eating colorful berries, such as strawberries, raspberries and blue berries can improve healthy heart, memory function and vision, and decrease risk of cancer. You can also decrease blood pressure by eating veggies high in potassium, such as potatoes, spinach and broccoli.
Healthy Eyes— Orange veggies and fruits are a good source of beta carotene, which may slow progress of macular degeneration. Your body converts beta carotene to vitamin A, a nutrient that helps prevent dry eyes and night blindness. Beta carotene and vitamin A also help reduce the risk eye infections.
Healthy Liver—Detoxing is all the rage right now, but the good news is that your liver is detoxing for you all the time—especially with the help of some leafy greens such as kale, romaine lettuce, spinach, collard greens and herbs! Other green foods that can boost your liver’s power include cruciferous veggies, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage; Asparagus, zucchini, green beans, onions, green bell peppers. Fruits like apples, pears, grapes, kiwi are also great choices.
Healthy Cells—Okay, we realize everything is made up of cells, so this is a big one! One of the most amazing things that eating fruits and veggies can do is fight free radicals that cause cell damage throughout the body. Cancer, plaque build-up in arteries and wrinkles are all thought to be a reaction to free radicals. The good news? Fruits and veggies are full of phytonutrients that attached to free radicals and remove them from the body! A study completed by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute studied men and women over 9 years, and those who ate 1.5 servings more of fruits and vegetables per day had a decreased incidence of developing cancer.
What about canned and frozen veggies?
Frozen and canned foods are a convenient and affordable way to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet.
The amount of minerals, fat-soluble vitamins, protein, fat and carbohydrate remain relatively unchanged by the process of canning. But, because the canning process requires high heat, canned goods may have less water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin C and B vitamins. However, the heating process that may harm some vitamins can actually increase the antioxidant absorption. For instance, canning increases the absorption of lycopene in tomatoes. When selecting frozen foods, look at the Nutrition Facts label and ingredients list and avoid those with added sauces.
The best thing to remember about eating fruits and veggies is that eating any fruits and vegetables are better than eating none, and eating more colors is better than one.