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Your Mom Was Right ...

when she was advising you to eat your fruits & veggies to grow big & strong.

As reported in the recent State of the Plate report, after a brief rise thru 2009, per capita fruit and vegetable consumption has declined 7% over the past 5 years. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise that we eat a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. According to USDA's dietary guidance system MyPlate, more than half of our plate should be made up of fruits and vegetables. So for a 2,000-calorie diet, eating at least five portions of fresh fruits and veggies (one portion is about the size of a tennis ball) each day is advised.

Benefits of Eating Fruits and Vegetables

Fresh fruits and vegetables have minimal salt content, helping you keep  your blood pressure low.

As they contain large amounts of fiber and water, fruits and vegetables contain few calories and they  keep you fuller longer, helping you maintain a healthy  weight.

While fruits and vegetables are carbohydrates, they are the good kind (low-glycemic index carbs). These carbs do not stress your pancreas and  reduce your chance of becoming diabetic later in life. Eating these healthy bits helps your body avoid the insulin peaks that  simple sugars (candies, sweets, white bread) cause. Insulin peaks lead to a mild hypoglycemia and hunger pangs an hour and a half after simple carbs are consumed and  that makes you eat again.

Eating veggies and fruits helps your body  fight inflammation and prevent cancer and the buildup of cholesterol plaques in your arteries.

Remember that frozen fruits and vegetables offer similar amounts of vitamins, fiber, antioxidants and minerals as their fresh versions.

Explore the rainbow of fruits and vegetable options out there!  Eating from a colorful assortment of vegetables is best, because every color offers its own benefits. The orange color of carrots, pumpkins and sweet potatoes is due to the antioxidant beta-carotene; the deep red pigment in tomatoes is reflects the antioxidant lycopene, which is linked to prostate health.

While all fruits and vegetables are healthy, here is a short list of some nutrition powerhouses:

Vegetables

Broccoli is rich in phytochemicals with antioxidant properties. It is chock full of fiber, vitamins A and C, and calcium and contains sulforaphane, a compound that can fight cancer.

Carrots are a good source of fiber, which helps to maintain bowel health, lower blood cholesterol, and keep a healthy weight. The orange pigment found in carrots is due to the antioxidant beta-carotene, also found in other deep orange foods such as sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, papaya, and cantaloupe. Beta-carotene is converted in the body to vitamin A, essential for healthy eyesight. Vitamin A also supports  your immune system, keeps your skin healthy, and protects against certain cancers.

Spinach is a year-round staple in grocery stores, rich in vitamins and minerals. This super veggie contains iron and potassium, the B-complex vitamin folate as well as vitamins A, K, C. Spinach also contains flavonoids, antioxidants that help against certain cancers and a variety of phytochemicals that boost your immune system.

Sweet Potatoes are full of fiber, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin C, as well as the antioxidant beta-carotene and potassium. Be sure to eat them with the skin on, as they are especially nutritious. Contrary to a popular diet myth, sweet potatoes aren’t fattening!

Fruits

Cantaloupe. This melon family member is rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene. It is also rich in potassium, which, by lowering blood pressure, reduces  the risk for stroke.

Citrus fruits are a robust source of vitamin C, potassium, and folate, as well as fiber. Pink grapefruits are especially rich in the antioxidant lycopene. You benefit even more by eating these fruits whole because they yield more nutrients than drinking them as juice.

Avocados are rich in heart-healthy MUFAs (monounsaturated fats), which help lower LDL (bad cholesterol) while raising levels of HDL (good cholesterol). These little powerhouses are also high in vitamin E, a very important  antioxidant.

Grapes. Nibbling on grapes may lower LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), reduce the risk of blood clots, and prevent damage to your heart's blood vessels. Grapes contain  resveratrol that has  may help prevent cancer.

Healthy Tip

It is best to eat your fruits and vegetables from whole foods. Shop local, choose produce that's in season and don’t forget to go organic whenever you can!