Health Benefits of Eating More Fruits and Vegetables
If you’re aiming to improve your health, making adjustments to your diet may be the first step. We often think that eating healthier solely means eliminating foods out of our diet, such as desserts, pizza and hamburgers. While this step is important to the overall journey of a healthier lifestyle, we must also consider what we will add to our diets. Introducing healthy foods into your diet will aid you in achieving your goals, whether they be about weight loss, disease prevention, or wellness. The truth is this: increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables improves your health. Diet changes can be difficult to navigate, but Ochef is here to help as your ultimate guide to the culinary world. With innovative recipes and kitchen tips and tricks, Ochef provides you with the resources you need to not only make cooking easy, but to also make it enjoyable. Let’s talk about fruits and veggies.
Fruits and vegetables are an integral part of one’s diet, as they are full of vitamins and minerals that are key elements to a healthy lifestyle. Low in calories and high in nutrients, fruits and vegetables are the perfect addition to any meal. Many fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, which have been proven to help fight off various forms of cancer. Additionally, other nutrients, such as fiber, vitamin A, and potassium, are linked to lowering cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, and improving cognitive health and muscle function. Each fruit and vegetable provides a unique array of health benefits that contribute to a healthy lifestyle, which is why it’s best to diversify your consumption and support as many of your body’s functions as possible.
To help you get an idea of which fruits and vegetables to consider, we’ve listed the world’s most nutritious fruits and vegetables, their nutritional value, and how they can help you lead a healthier lifestyle.
Most Nutritious Fruits in the World
|North America, Scandinavia, & Asia
|Dietary FiberManganeseVitamin K
|Bone strengthHealthy digestion
|Monounsaturated fatsPotassiumVitamin A
|Reduce risk of strokeLower cholesterol levelsPrevent Osteoporosis
|Collagen productionReduce inflammation
|Folic acidVitamin E
|Improve cognitive functionImprove digestion
|Strengthen nervous systemHelp overcome depression
Deliciously plump and juicy, blueberries are the epitome of a small yet powerful and filling snack. Native to North America, Asia, and Scandinavia, blueberries average 80 calories per cup, making it a low-calorie option that all can enjoy. What makes blueberries so nutritious is that they contain anthocyanin, which is responsible for heart health, cancer prevention, bone strength and mental health. According to Medical News Today, just one cup of blueberries provides you with 24% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C, which helps with collagen production in your skin. High in vitamin K, iron, and zinc, blueberries can help prevent bone fractures by strengthening bones and joints. Blueberries are also high in dietary fiber, which is a key nutrient for digestive health and constipation prevention, as well as weight loss.
By adding a burst of sweetness with every bite, blueberries are a great addition to many main dishes, making it easy to include them in your diet. For breakfast, try adding blueberries to your cereal, oatmeal, and pancakes or waffles. They also add a pop of color and sweetness to smoothies and yogurt. For lunch, incorporate them in a chicken salad with similar fruits, such as strawberries and raspberries.
Many people tend to steer clear of avocados once they hear that they are high in fats—but avocados contain 15 grams of healthy fats (monounsaturated fatty acids) that are pertinent to maintaining good health. Avocados are low in saturated fats, which are the fats we want to avoid, and have no sodium, which is great for your cholesterol levels. Another benefit of avocados is the high amount of potassium, which is even higher than the amount in a banana. Potassium has been linked to lowering blood pressure, which aids in preventing kidney failure and strokes.
Avocados are easy to incorporate in dishes because they have a subtle flavor and can pair well with other foods, which is why we often find them in our salads. Cooking with avocados can be fun, especially when making homemade guacamole, which also uses other healthy vegetables like onions and tomatoes. Another delicious and trendy way to use avocado is with avocado toast. There are three simple yet wonderful ingredients: toast, eggs, and avocado. Avocado oil is also a great source of nutrients and can be added to salads, as well as used as an alternative to other oils used in baking.
Oranges are a bright and sweet citrus fruit that are known for their high amounts of vitamin C, but they also contain powerful antioxidants that help with inflammation and disease prevention, especially Type 2 diabetes. One orange contains nearly four grams of dietary fiber, which according to Medical News Today, improves how the body responds to insulin and reduces the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Oranges are also a good source of potassium, which improves your heart health and lowers your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.
Oranges are great as an on-the-go snack because they are relatively small and can be transported easily. Pack them in your lunch or in your kid’s backpack for a quick and energizing refreshment. Oranges also make great use for natural, homemade juices that contain less sugar than those purchased at the store. Adding them to a lemonade, syrup, or sauce is a great way to include the orange’s nutrients in your diet without having to eat them whole.
Pomegranates, which are slightly sour in flavor, are one of the most nutritious fruits in the world because they are full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that not only help to lower blood pressure and prevent cancer, but also help with chronic illnesses and other health issues. Pomegranate seeds and pulp contain antibacterial properties that can help combat viruses and other infections. Additionally, the antioxidants in pomegranates have anti-aging properties and also help reduce inflammation and prevent the production of enzymes that cause pain in those who have arthritis.
People often want to eliminate carbohydrates from their diets, but fruits and vegetables contain healthy carbs that give us energy throughout the day. Pomegranates contain healthy sugars and vitamins that boost your energy, which is why they make the perfect pre-workout snack. Substitute your sports drink for a healthy pomegranate to energize your body before exercising. You can also enjoy pomegranate seeds by scooping them out and adding them to yogurt, oatmeal, and cereal.
Bananas are most commonly known for being full of potassium, and like other nutritious fruits, they are full of vitamins and minerals that improve digestive health, prevent heart disease, and lower blood pressure. But another benefit of bananas that is less commonly known is that they are natural mood boosters and help you preserve your memory. According to Medical News Today, the amino acid tryptophan is found in bananas. Tryptophan may help you remember and learn things, as well as regulate your mood. Although there is little research on it yet, bananas are also being studied for improving wheezing symptoms of asthma patients, due to the high amounts of antioxidants and potassium.
Because bananas tend to ripen quickly, it’s best to pick them out in the store when they are slightly green, so that they can last a while longer. Nevertheless, freezing bananas is a great option to preserve them, and this makes a great addition to a smoothie or frozen dessert. Like blueberries, bananas go well with many breakfast dishes and pair well with peanut butter, dark chocolate, and caramel.
Most Nutritious Veggies in the World
|CalciumVitamin A Iron
|Improve muscle and nerve functionReduce high blood pressure
|Increase immune functionImprove eye health
|Central & South America
|Vitamin CVitamin KVitamin B6
|Lowers cholesterolAnti-inflammatory properties
|Central & South America
|Promote healthy digestive systemSupport weight loss
|Folic acidPotassiumVitamin B6
|Reduce risk of Type 2 DiabetesFlushes out toxins in kidneys
Because of its abundance of vitamins and minerals, spinach is often referred to as a superfood. Like other dark greens, spinach is rich in iron and protein, which benefits your skin, bones, and hair. Compared to fruits, vegetables tend to be much lower in calories—especially spinach, which only has seven calories per cup. Due to the large amount of vitamin A and iron, spinach is also known for contributing to skin and hair health. Vitamin A controls the amount of oil that builds up in the skin, which can lead to acne. The iron in spinach can also prevent iron deficiency, which is one of the main causes for hair loss. Eating spinach also increases your intake of fiber and promotes a healthy digestive tract and prevents constipation.
Spinach is versatile and can be eaten cooked or raw, making it easy to add into any dish for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. If you’re not so keen on eating spinach and other healthy greens like kale and lettuce, try adding it to your smoothies. It’s a subtle taste, so it’s unlikely to overpower the other ingredients, and you’ll still receive all of the important nutrients. Spinach also goes very well cooked in an omelet, added to a sandwich for crunch texture, or mixed with other greens in a salad.
Although they’re commonly seen orange, carrots are a root vegetable that come in many colors, such as yellow, purple, red, and white. A half of a cup of carrots only has 25 calories, and they taste slightly sweet due to the small amount of sugar they contain. The most widely known benefit of carrots is that they are great for your eye health. Carrots contain a compound known as beta-carotene, which the body also turns into vitamin A. According to WebMD, beta-carotene plays an important role in protecting your eyes from the sun, as well as preventing cataracts and other eye issues. Yellow carrots are especially healthy for your eyes because they contain lutein, which fights eye deterioration that progresses with aging, as well as vision loss.
Due to the slightly sweet nature, they are often enjoyed with salty and savory dips, such as ranch dressing and hummus. They make a great standalone snack, but can also be shaved and cut smaller to be included in other dishes like coleslaws, salads, soups, and hashes. You can enjoy the benefits of carrots whether they are cooked or raw, but they are often roasted or grilled to bring out their earthy and sweet flavors. You can also consume carrot juice for many of the same nutrients and benefits.
Bell peppers are semi-sweet, non-spicy peppers that contain loads of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. They typically come in red, yellow, orange, and green, and according to the Natural Food Series, the deeper the cooler of the bell pepper, the more nutrients it contains. One of the best benefits of bell peppers is that their high levels of vitamin C means that they are natural boosters for the immune system, which is important for fighting off illnesses. Expectant mothers may also increase their consumption of bell peppers, as they contain folate, which protects the fetus and aids its development. Additionally, the magnesium, potassium, and manganese in bell peppers help your respiratory and can prevent lung infection and emphysema.
Bell peppers can be found in various sizes, some being smaller and thinner and others being large and round. Small bell peppers can be added to scrambled eggs, salads, pizzas, and tacos for extra crunch and flavor. Large bell peppers are great for roasting and provide a great vehicle for a stuffing of other vegetables, cheese, or meats.
Sweet potatoes are often considered to be too starchy, but they are a great source of nutrients when eaten in moderation. In fact, those who need to gain weight to achieve a healthier lifestyle opt to eat sweet potatoes due to their carbohydrates, complex starches, and protein. High in fiber and vitamin C, sweet potatoes are also known for treating stomach ulcers, managing diabetes, preventing dehydration, and improving digestion.
Sweet potatoes are often used in desserts, but they can also be consumed in healthy ways for meals. Replace regular french fries with sweet potato fries for a healthier alternative. You can also combine sweet potato with other root vegetables like butternut squash and beets to make a stew or soup.
Asparagus may be one of the most popular vegetables due to its naturally tasty flavor and easy cooking ability. Because it’s high in copper, and other nutrients like vitamin B, asparagus can increase cell production, improve eyesight, reduce inflammation, regulate blood sugar levels, and protect your blood vessels. The folate in asparagus also helps prevent degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. The folate in asparagus also produces serotonin in the body, which aids in cognitive and behavioral development, making it a great veggie for kids.
Asparagus is easily cooked with olive oil in the oven or on the stovetop. It’s subtly sweet notes make it a great side dish for savory meals that include chicken, sea food, and red meats. Asparagus can also be pureed and made into a delicious sauce.
Why Fruits and Vegetables Consumption Is Important for Kids
Kids are constantly developing, and the nutrients that fruits and vegetables provide are essential to their physical and mental health, as well as their growth. Like adults, kids should consume vitamins and minerals that aid in preventing disease, but that also promote bone strength and muscle growth. Many times, the eating habits that people practice as children follow them into adulthood, which means that prevention for heart disease and diabetes starts at a young age with a well-balanced and nutritious diet. Fruits and veggies benefit children in multiple aspects of their health, including weight management and intestinal health. According to Beck Bell, MS, RD, when children consume more fruits and vegetables, they are likely to decrease their overall daily caloric intake, which aids in controlling their weight. In addition to providing kids with nutrients that aid in their development, fruits and vegetables also provide them with energy and motivation to perform well in school and extracurricular activities. Studies have shown that children with unhealthy diets are more likely to underperform at school.
How to Get Kids to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
Many kids don’t enjoy eating fruits and vegetables simply because it is not fun or tasty. Getting creative with snacks and meals is the best way to encourage kids to eat them regularly and truly enjoy them.
The first idea is to pair the fruit or vegetable with another food that enhances the flavor. For instance, peanut butter (try reduced-fat for a healthier alternative) pairs nicely with fruits and veggies like apples, bananas and celery. For a healthier dessert, you can even use a moderate amount of dark chocolate, which is proven to have cardiovascular benefits. Slice a pineapple into mini chunks, dip one side in melted dark chocolate, and put them in the freezer. The result is a cool and tangy refreshment. Additionally, hummus—a healthy and savory dip typically made with chickpeas, lemon, garlic, and olive oil—is every vegetable’s dream companion. Serve a side of hummus with carrots, cucumbers, and zucchini as an energizing midday snack.
Kids may also avoid fruits and vegetables because of their appearance—they simply don’t look appetizing. To overcome this, try blending fruits and vegetables into dishes with which your child is already familiar. Smoothies present a great opportunity to mix fruits and veggies together. Contrary to popular belief, not all smoothies are too sugary to make for a healthy snack. Add spinach, low-fat milk or yogurt, and the fruit of your choice to create a splendid drink. For lunch or dinner, soups are also a great vehicle for vegetables. Try a vegetable-based soup, such as tomato soup or butternut squash soup, to add nutrients into the meal. You can so finely chop other vegetables and add them into the soup for extra nutrition and flavor.
Where to Get Answers and Recipes
Their high nutritious value and low glycemic index make fruits and vegetables one of the best ways to increase your overall health—and you can easily include them in your diet with creative recipes that are sure to satisfy the entire family. Eating fruits and vegetables doesn’t have to be flavorless and boring. In fact, there are many ways to add them to your meals, including in smoothies, salads, side dishes, and salsas. The best part is that fruits and veggies are versatile, meaning that you can use them in sweet and savory dishes. Apples make for a great addition to a warm bowl of oatmeal in the morning (add a dash of cinnamon and crushed walnuts for extra delight), but they also pair deliciously alongside a grilled pork chop in the evening. The Grilled Avocado with Strawberry-Mango Salsa is the perfect sweet and tangy side dish to accompany grilled chicken or steak for dinner. For lunch, try the Lobster, Corn & Tomato Salad—a lean and filling combination that hits all the right taste buds, especially on a hot summer day. For more information on fruits and veggies, check out Ochef’s Fruits, Vegetables & Grains.
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