Why fruits and vegetables are important for a healthy life.

Why Eating Fruits and Vegetables Is So Important

Our bodies benefit from variety. For optimal health, we need a rainbow of nutrients and colors. The advice to “eat the rainbow” is often used with kids. And while kids especially need a diversity of fruits and vegetables in their diets, so do adults.

You should eat at least three serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit each day. Choose different colors and varieties.

  • A serve of vegetables is about one cup of raw salad vegetables or 1/2 cup of cooked.
  • A serve of fruit is about one medium piece, 2 small pieces of 1 cup canned (no added sugar).

Fruits and vegetables are for good health

Eating a diversity of colorful foods can be an easy way to get a complete range of the vitamins and minerals your body needs to thrive.

Fruits and vegetables are low in fat, salt, and sugar. They are a good source of dietary fiber. Fruits and vegetables contain many vitamins and minerals that are good for your health. These include vitamins A (beta-carotene), C and E, magnesium, zinc, phosphorous and folic acid.

Watermelon is a fruit that kids and adults love.

These biologically active substances can help to protect you from some diseases. Scientific research shows that if you regularly eat lots of fruit and vegetables, you have a lower risk of: diabetes, stroke, heart disease (when fruits and vegetables are eaten as food, not taken as supplements), cancer and hypertension.

Why Are Fruits and Vegetables Different Colors?

Each color in fruits and vegetables is caused by specific phytonutrients, which are natural chemicals that help protect plants from germs, bugs, the sun’s harmful rays, and other threats. And each color indicates an abundance of specific nutrients.

Most Americans Aren’t Getting the Range of Colorful Foods They Need

According to a 2009 phytonutrients report (based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys), 8 out of 10 people in the US are falling short in virtually every color category of phytonutrients.

Cooking colorful meals with fresh fruits and vegetables is much easier than you think.

Colors of fruits and vegetables

You will get the most health benefits and protection against disease if you eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Foods of similar colors generally contain similar protective compounds. Try to eat a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables every day to get the full range of health benefits. For example:

  • Red foods – like tomatoes and watermelon. These contain lycopene, which is thought to be important for fighting prostate cancer and heart disease
  • Green vegetables – like spinach and kale. These contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which may help protect against age-related eye disease
  • Blue and purple foods – like blueberries and eggplant. These contain anthocyanins, which may help protect the body from cancer
  • White foods – like cauliflower. These contain sulforaphane and may also help protect against some cancers.

Fruit and vegetable serving suggestions for your health

Vegetables and fruit are a handy snack food and are easily carried to work or school. Include them in everyone’s meals and snacks for a healthy, well-balanced diet. Some suggestions include:

  • Keep snack-size fruit and vegetable portions easily accessible in your fridge.
  • Keep fresh fruit on the bench or table.
  • Add fruit and vegetables to your favorite family recipes or as additions to your usual menus.
  • Use the color and texture of a variety of fruit and vegetables to add interest to your meals.
  • Think up new ways to serve fruits and vegetables.
Smoothie bowls are a great way to incorporates fruits and vegetables into your children's diet.

Some simple ways to serve fruits and vegetables to your children include:

  • Fruit and vegetable salads
  • Vegetable or meat-and-vegetable stir-fries
  • Raw fruit and vegetables
  • Vegetable soups
  • Snack pack, stewed or canned fruits or dried fruits

Limit fruit juice, as it does not contain the same amount of nutrients as fresh fruit. It also contains a lot of sugars. These sugars are not necessarily good for your health, even though they are ‘natural’. Instead, have a drink of water and a serve of fruit.

Quinoa and lentil bowl with veggies for kids.

How to Learn to Love Vegetables and Fruits

If you grew up eating only a few fruits and vegetables, you might not have developed an appreciation for produce. But don’t worry. You can retrain your taste buds to love broccoli, kale, and beets!

Here’s what you can do for yourself:

Step 1: Avoid processed food with lots of meat, cheese, salt, and sugar. These foods overstimulate your taste buds and put you into the pleasure trap, making fresh fruits and vegetables taste boring in comparison.

Step 2: Try new vegetables and fruits over and over again in different ways. It can take up to 12-18 tastes to acquire a taste for new foods. So, if you once hated arugula or mushrooms, that’s okay. Try again in a different recipe. You might surprise yourself.

Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) aids regulated home providers and centers with providing nutritious meals served to children by providing nutrition training, early care resources, and reimbursement for nutritious meals. ChildSavers is part of a nationwide network of sponsor agencies that administers the federal USDA Child and Adult Care Food Program. Any licensed child care center, licensed family home provider, or voluntarily registered family child care provider can contact us about participating in this program.

This article was written by former VSU intern, Xiaoyan Liu, while volunteering with ChildSavers’ CACFP Program.

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