Color Your Health with Fruit and Vegetable Goodness
Although eating five servings of fruits and veggies a day is important, the variety and color spectrum is very important too. The newest food pyramid encourages Americans to “eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables” each day for the best health benefits. Fruits and vegetables are whole foods that are created by nature and are rich in a variety of nutrients, including: fiber, vitamins, and enzymes. Processed foods are no match for the amount of health benefits that strawberries or broccoli contain.
When eating fruits and vegetables, get as much color variety in your diet as possible, this will maximize your intake of a large variety of nutrients. The colors of fruits and vegetables tell you which unique vitamins and healthy substances are contained. In getting a variety of colors, one will get a variety of essential nutrients to keep your body strong and healthy.
Some of the most important nutrients in fruits and vegetables are: quercetin, ellagic acid, beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein. Quercetin, which is found in apples, onions, and citrus fruits, prevents LDL cholesterol oxidation and also helps the body deal with allergies as well as other lung and breathing problems. Fifty percent of this nutrient appears in the small intestine, while at least forty-seven percent is metabolized by beneficial bacteria in the colon. Ellagic acid contains anticancer properties, which helps to decrease ATP production of cancer cells and thereby depriving them of their fuel. It is found in many fruits, such as raspberries, strawberries, pomegranates, and walnuts. This nutrient also acts an antioxidant and an anticarcinogen in the GI tract. Even in frozen packs of strawberries or raspberries, the benefits are still strongly present. Beta-Carotene is converted by the body into vitamin A and is found in many orange and yellow vegetables such as summer squash, yams, and carrots. This nutrient helps to improve eyesight as well as decrease cholesterol levels in the liver. Lycopene is mostly found in tomatoes, but it can also be found in watermelon and other fruits. Studies have shown that it decreases the risk of prostate cancer and helps against heart disease as well. Lutein, found in blueberries and members of the squash family, as well as many other fruits and vegetables, helps eyesight significantly and high intakes also help prevent coronary artery disease. Cooking or processing foods with lutein actually make it more easily absorbed.
Other important nutrients included are vitamin C, potassium, fiber, flavonoids, and anthocyanins. Vitamin C is one of the best known nutrients. No only does it keep our immune system strong and speed wound healing, but it also prevents oxidative damage to tissues, builds strength in collagen and connective tissue, and reduces joint pain. Vitamin C can be found in oranges and other citrus fruits, as well as tomatoes, berries and cherries. Potassium is a valuable mineral which most Americans are probably deficient of. Potassium can lower blood pressure in as little as four weeks, help to change the pH balance in the body to a more alkaline environment, and increase bone density. Fiber can be found in almost all fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. However, a good fruit or vegetable drink that is rich in fiber must be derived from inulin and chicory root. Fiber provides an area for the beneficial bacteria in the intestines and also helps the body absorb calcium. Flavonoids, which includes flavonols, anthocyanidins, flavones, isoflavones, proanthocyanidins, and quercetin, can be found in fruits, vegetables, grains, herbs, nuts, seed, wine, coffee, and tea. They help stop the growth of tumor cells, reduce inflammation, and are potent antioxidants. Anthocyanins, which cause fruits and vegetables to be colored purple, blue and red, are member of the flavonoid family. They are found in their highest amounts in berries such as: blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. Anthocyanins protect cell membranes from damage, and battle neuronal decline, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Free radical activity, which occurs when oxygen radicals, which are unstable atoms, grab electrons from other cells to use for themselves, sometimes causing damage, plays a role in the developments of diseases including: heart disease, cancer, and aging. Antioxidants, which are found in many fruits and vegetables, prevent this damage by stabilizing these oxygen atoms and therefore help to ward off chronic disease states and reduce the harmful side-effects of aging.
The main excuse from many Americans for not buying fruits and vegetables is that they are too expensive. Although foods that aren’t in season can be a bit expensive, one can get a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables for approximately the same price that they are spending on fast food or processed food. For example, frozen fruits and vegetables contain most of their nutrients and can be used as a substitute when those certain foods are not in season. Also, fruit and vegetable drink mixes have excellent supplemental sources of some of the nutrients that our body needs the most. A survey by the American Institute of Cancer Research discovered that many adults don’t eat their vegetables because of a fear of flatulence. For those people who are not used to the fiber in fruits and vegetables, they may experience this problem, but people who eat fruits and vegetables daily don’t experience this problem because their systems are already used to it. Starting slowly or cooking vegetables can help the body to adapt.
Although fruit and vegetable drink mixes aren’t meant to replace whole foods, they are supplements made from whole foods, which happen to absorb very easily in the gut, and contain healthy doses of fiber as well. These supplements, which are very helpful during a nutritional gap or a tough schedule, contain vegetables, fiber, and sometimes grasses. Even if you are already eating a healthy 5-a-day diet, these drink mixes can provide you with an extra dose of fiber. The best fruits and vegetable drink mixes are offered in a large spectrum of colors and are also great-tasting.
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