September is Fruits & Veggies—More Matters Month, a nutrition awareness program sponsored by the USDA.
The program is mostly targeted at parents of young children. After all, if we teach kids from an early age to enjoy healthy foods and understand how what they eat affects their health, they are much more likely to grow up to be healthy adults.
But any adult can benefit from the information on the USDA’s website. It provides nutrition facts, recipes, storage tips, shopping tips, and graphics that help show how many servings a day we should eat, and what a serving size looks like. (An average apple, for example, counts as two servings.)
If you want to teach your children about healthy eating, check out my post about “Dining Decisions.” It’s a program offered by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Childhood obesity is considered a public health epidemic, and the CDC wants to help kids and parents make healthier food choices.
Why fruits and vegetables matter
There are many reasons why eating more fruits and vegetables is important to our health.
They are significant sources of fiber, both soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber can help lower LDLs, or bad cholesterol, which lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Insoluble fiber keeps our intestines working (that is, it prevents constipation). Diets that are low in insoluble fiber are associated with an increased risk of colon cancer.
In addition to fiber, fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and other disease-fighting phytochemicals.
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables tends to be lower in calories, lower in sodium, and higher in nutrients.
It’s easier to lose weight and prevent type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and some cancers when you eat a more plant-based diet and skip the processed foods.
Tips to include more fruits and vegetables in your diet
Fresh, frozen, canned, and dried varieties of fruit and vegetables all count. But I like fresh best, and I love to eat and cook with seasonal fare.
If you have a local farmer’s market, that’s a great place to start. Some even take EBT.
Fermented foods are packed with pre- and probiotics. We know these compounds can keep our intestines working smoothly and enhance absorption of nutrients. They may play an even greater role in regulating our emotions, boosting our immune systems, improving our brain health, and preventing disease. We don’t fully understand probiotics yet.
But it appears that homemade fermented foods provide the most benefit. Perhaps because they contain hyperlocal organisms that are unique to our home and our bodies. It’s food for thought, anyway, and it’s fun and easy to make kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt at home.
Try some new recipes
These are some of my favorite cookbooks!