SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The summer month of June is a great time to celebrate the health and flavor that fresh fruits and vegetables offer according to Dr. Pam Duitsman, nutrition and health education specialist, University of Missouri Extension.
“Variety can be as important as quantity because each vegetable or fruit has its unique signature of healthy components – yet none provides all of the nutrients we need to stay healthy,” said Duitsman.
The basic goal, according to Duitsman, should be to eat more vegetables and fruits. There are a variety of reasons to do so.
WHY FRUITS AND VEGGIES?
For starters, fruits and vegetables provide many nutrients – both traditional nutrients like vitamins A, C and K; potassium, fiber and magnesium — and also many phytonutrients that promote health beyond that of traditional nutrients.
A broad body of scientific evidence indicates that the risk of many types of diseases may be decreased by simply eating a variety of different produce. Such benefits include reduced risk of heart disease and stroke, reduced blood pressure, and even prevention of some types of cancer.
Fruits and veggies are low in calories. They also happen to be delicious, especially when in season.
Eating more fruits and vegetables also makes it easy to follow the US Dietary Guidelines which advises to reduce sodium, solid fats and refined grains, increase consumption of plant foods, and fill half our plate with fruits and vegetables.
TIPS FOR EATING MORE
“There are several things you can do for yourself or family to making eating more fruits and vegetables a reality,” said Duitsman.
First, make them the easy choice. Wash, cut up and package produce in easy-to-grab-and-go containers. Try doing this on the weekend so that you have healthy to-go snacks available throughout the week.
Keep fruit out where you can see it. A fruit basket on the table or counter is inviting and beautiful.
Add veggies to recipes, or try recipes that use only vegetables, substituting veggies for meat.
Use up vegetables that are starting to age by throwing them into a stir-fry for a delicious meal.
Visit the Farmers Market or produce aisle with a goal to try something new each week.
FRESH OR FROZEN?
When it comes to good nutrition, Duitsman says it is important to note that all forms of fruits and vegetables matter (fresh, frozen, and canned). There are pros and cons to each.
“Most frozen and canned foods today are harvested and preserved at their peak of ripeness, allowing them to retain their flavor and nutrients,” said Duitsman. “Fresh produce tends to start losing nutrient value once it is picked. For canned foods, the heat processing may result in loss of some nutrients.”
However, some phytonutrients, such as those in the carotenoid family, are more bioavailable after cooking, so may be present in higher quantities in canned produce. Minerals and fiber maintain their qualities whether heated or frozen.
“Bottom line, if we avoid frozen and canned options that contain added fats, sodium, and sugars, studies have shown the differences in nutrient levels between fresh, frozen and canned are minor,” said Duitsman.
The most nutritious and flavorful produce will be what is in-season, picked at the peak of ripeness, and eaten while still fresh. That is why locally sourced produce, or produce from your garden, tastes so great.
Finding fresh in-season fruits and vegetables is easy with the University of Missouri Extension’s Seasonal and Simple App. The App is free, and can be downloaded for iPhone and Android in your App store, or more information can be found at http://missourifamilies.org/features/nutritionarticles/nut435.htm.
The App provides an excellent guide to finding, selecting, preparing and storing fresh fruits and vegetables in Missouri right from the palm of your hand.
For more information on nutrition contact any of these nutrition specialists in southwest Missouri: Dr. Pam Duitsman in Greene County at (417) 881-8909; Lindsey Gordon Stevenson in Barton County at (417) 682-3579; Stephanie Johnson in Howell County at (417) 256-2391 or Mary Sebade in Dallas County at (417) 345-7551. The regional office of the Family Nutrition Education Program is located in Springfield and can be reached at (417) 886-2059. Nutrition information is also available online http://extension.missouri.edu.
— Dr. Pam Duitsman, University of Missouri Extension
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