New studies link certain produce to protecting from cancer and other health risks
Most people are no doubt aware that they should be consuming more fruits and vegetables. It’s nearly impossible to escape the message that produce is an essential part of a healthy diet.
“Many studies link diets high in fruits and vegetables with lower risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and lower blood pressure,” says Registered Dietician Nancy Ulm, LD/N CNSC at Watson Clinic in Lakeland. “Eating more fruits and vegetables can also help with maintaining a healthy weight. The daily recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables is 2 ½ to 3 cups of vegetables and 2 to 2 ½ cups of fruit.”
But the recommendations may become even more specific as nutrition experts study the link between produce and cancer risk.
“Science has proven a strong relationship with fruit and vegetable intake and health risk,” Ulm says. “Studies show that people who eat few fruits and vegetables experience almost double the cancer risk as those with high fruit and vegetable intake. Significant protection for lung, stomach, colon, ovarian and breast cancers has been shown with increased fruit and vegetable consumption. Fruits and vegetables have a health protective benefit by acting as antioxidants, promoting normal cell growth, and maintaining and repairing DNA.”
When it comes to eating vegetables, the more colorful your plate, the more nutrients you are consuming. “Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is the most beneficial,” Ulm says. “Eat a colorful range to get the many nutrients available: green fruits and vegetables such as kale, spinach, honeydew melon and kiwi; yellow/orange fruits and vegetables such as cantaloupe, mango, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and carrots; red/purple fruits and vegetables such as berries, plums, red peppers and tomatoes, and white fruits and vegetables such cauliflower, mushrooms and bananas.”
The nutrients available in fruits and vegetables often are ones lacking in the average person’s diet. “Folate, magnesium, potassium, fiber and vitamins A, C and K are some of the many nutrients provided by fruits and vegetables,” Ulm explains. “Most Americans do not get enough of these in their diet. These nutrients are needed for many functions in the body and may reduce the risk for heart disease, diabetes and obesity. They also help maintain normal muscle and nerve function, bone and eye health as well as give a boost to your immune system.”
If you’ve never cozied up to vegetables, you may be tempted to try dietary supplements that promise the active ingredients in the plant foods.
Unfortunately you may not get the same positive benefits as a person who eats their veggies, based on research. Ulm offers some tips for picky eaters.
“Try preparing vegetables in different ways (roasting or grilling); add them to soups, stews, and casseroles,” she continues. “Keep washed and cut fruits and vegetables in a bowl on the counter or in the refrigerator where they will be visible and easy to grab and eat. Shop at a local farmer’s market to find a variety of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables and also help boost the local economy. Buy a food magazine, use recipe cards provided at the grocery store, ask friends and family or search the internet for recipes. Evidence shows that taking supplements is not as beneficial as getting nutrients from foods.”
story by BEV BENNETT