I am sure that many people know the benefits of eating their fruits and veggies, but I think there may still be people out there who don’t quite know, or who avoid fruits and veg because perhaps they find them less tasty than say meat, or starchy carbohydrate foods (potatoes, rice, bread, etc). I find fruit and especially vegetables delicious, provided they are prepared in a good way. I choose steamed instead of boiled any day. But why should we really be making an effort to eat fruits and vegetables? It’s not just because it makes your plate look prettier.
Fruits and vegetables contain important nutrients such as vitamins and minerals that are essential for your body to function well. When you eat potatoes and meat for example, you are taking in fat, protein and carbohydrates, which are needed in large quantities, and take care of your energy needs and repairing and building tissue in your body, etc. Not that you can’t get any vitamins and minerals from meats, starchy carbs and grains, they do contain some, such as iron in meat and B vitamins in wheat, but you won’t be getting everything that you need. Vitamins and minerals perform various task in your body, such as metabolizing the carbohydrates, proteins and fats that you consume; regulating the pH balance of your body; enabling your body to take in, transport and utilize oxygen; help with muscle contractions; and keeping your skin, hair, nails, and eyes healthy. Those are just a few of the functions that vitamins and minerals perform.
Different vitamins and minerals are found in different fruits and vegetables. To make sure you get in all your nutrients, vary your choices. I have done the nutrition courses on Shaw Academy, and the lecturers love using the term: ‘eat the rainbow’. Just to name a few: yellow and orange fruits and veg usually contain vitamin C (boosts your immune system, produces collagen, growth and repair of various tissues in your body), and green fruits and veg contain folate (very important for growth of the developing foetus if you are pregnant, and necessary for good heart health). Fruits and veg also contain antioxidants, which help fight against diseases, and fibre which is good for your tummy. The benefits are numerous 🙂 We should be aiming to eat at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies per day.
Cooking vs Raw?
You can cook vegetables or keep them raw. You can even freeze them. When cooking, try to use methods that use the least amount of cooking time as this can destroy vitamins. In some cases cooking can actually increase or produce certain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Steaming is a good way to preserve the vitamin content in veggies, you can blanch veggies too. Try using the water you boiled the vegetables in to make soup, or gravy as the left over water contain vitamins and minerals that escaped in the cooking process. Stir frying veggies and fruits are also good, but be aware of the added calories and fat of the oil. Try to buy whole fruit where possible as the enzymes that take care of breaking down the fruits and veggies are activated when they are cut, meaning that they won’t last as long after buying them, and that they lose their nutrient content a little quicker. Generally frozen vegetables and fruits have had their nutrients preserved pretty well, and are a good option too when you don’t have much time to cook.
Getting kids to eat fruit and veg:
I don’t have any children so I am most definitely not the foremost authority on these things, but I would think that perhaps cutting the fruit and veg into shapes, or making pictures (such as faces or flowers or stick men) may be helpful. Try and introduce them to your kids early on and keep trying. You can even blend the veggies into sauces, or perhaps put the fruit in the cereal or with yoghurt. Try serving them with foods that your child enjoys, it may make them more willing to eat them. Offer fruit as dessert after meals.
In closing, try to eat fruits and veg throughout your day: in your cereal, as snacks, as part of meals, desserts, however you prefer (just go easy on the butter, sugar or salt if those are your preference). Get creative, and try different types of fruits and vegetables. Enjoy them, and stay healthy 🙂