By Contributor Tenisha Mitchell-Lambert, MD, MPH
Challenge: Get 5 – 10 servings of vegetables and fruits everyday.
How to do it: the key to knowing how much you’re getting is to know how much one serving is. Most fruits are easy; one apple, one pear, or one peach is a serving. When eating berries, grapes, or cut fruit, one serving is usually one cup. Put your palms face up, side-by-side and make a little bowl. That is generally your estimate for one cup (for the average-sized adult hand of course!). One serving of vegetables is the same as well – one cup. But this is one cup of raw vegetables. When cooking leafy vegetables such as spinach or kale that have the tendency to shrink in volume after heat is applied, one cup is generally equal to three.
Benefits: There are so many benefits that they can fit in one Health bite! Over the next several weeks, we will count down the top ten reasons to eat your vegetables and fruits.
- It supports your immune system.
Vegetables and fruits, particularly the ones rich in vitamin C and antioxidants help to support your immune system so your body can better fight off infection.
- It makes your hair, skin and nails healthier.
You want great skin? You want thick hair? Vitamins and minerals in vegetables and fruits provide the necessary building blocks for these parts of your body. Look for produce that is rich in vitamin D, iron and zinc.
- It helps with your vision.
Fruits and vegetables are packed with minerals that help to keeps the eyes healthy, and minimize the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
- It keeps you regular.
The fibre content in vegetables and fruits help maintain good bowel health by helping you have regular bowel movements.
- It helps you heal better.
Ever notice that some people heal from a scar faster than others? A diet rich in vegetables and fruits helps your body to heal faster, especially the ones rich in zinc.
- It helps you maintain a healthy weight.
The key here is fibre again; fibre helps you to feel fuller longer, and prevents you from loading up on other foods that are more calorie dense (high in calories, but lower in nutritional value.
- It lowers cholesterol.
All that good fibre is not only good for keeping you regular, but also good for decreasing your cholesterol too.
- It lowers your blood pressure.
Studies done on the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet show that eating a plant based (mostly vegetables and fruits) diet helps to lower your blood pressure significantly. It is so effective that it is recommended that doctors advocate for dietary change in addition to pharmaceutical treatment (treatment with blood pressure pills.)
- It prevents cancer.
Numerous studies have linked eating cruciferous vegetables (vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale and cabbage) to prevention of multiple cancers.
- It helps you live longer.
Blue Zones are areas in the world in which people live longer, healthier lives because of certain lifestyle practices. Loma Linda, California is one of them! What makes Loma Linda a Blue Zone? There are several reasons, but one of the primary ones is that many of its residents (mostly Seventh-day Adventist) follow a plant based diet rich in vegetables and fruits.