Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Eating Well
Add some green to your diet
Christeena Haynes, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Dallas County, University of Missouri Extension
According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, vegetable and fruit consumption in the U.S. is lower than recommended. The guidelines suggest that Americans should increase their vegetable and fruit intake, as well as include a variety of vegetables in their diets.
Fruits and vegetables provide many nutrients and decrease the risk for chronic diseases. They are also generally low in calories, which helps with weight management. Start incorporating a variety of fruits and veggies in your diet by making it fun – for example, pick a color theme every month until eating a colorful variety becomes part of your normal routine.
In honor of St. Patrick's Day, here are a few examples of green fruits and vegetables and the benefits they offer:
- Artichokes and lima beans contain generous amounts of dietary fiber, the indigestible plant part that has been shown to reduce the risk of coronary artery disease.
- Folate, a B vitamin, decreases the risk of brain or spinal cord defects in infants. You can get this from cooked spinach and asparagus.
- Potassium is thought to keep blood pressure within normal range. Find this nutrient in cooked greens.
- Vitamin A improves eye and skin health while also helping prevent infections. Excellent sources include spinach, turnip greens, mustard greens, kale and collard greens.
- Vitamin C promotes wound healing and maintains healthy teeth and gums. Green peppers, kiwi, kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are all rich in this vitamin.
- Lutein, found in green leafy vegetables, may lower the risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration.
- Indoles are compounds that could assist in preventing some kinds of cancer. They can be found in broccoli, cabbage and other green cruciferous vegetables.
Use these tips to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet:
- Keep pre-washed fruits and vegetables in your refrigerator so they are ready to eat.
- Buy frozen produce for fast cooking.
- Add fruit to yogurt or cereal.
- Put shredded vegetables in casseroles, soups, pasta and muffins.
- Eat a salad as your main dish.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fruit and vegetable benefits: Nutrient information. Retrieved February 4, 2011, from http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov/benefits/nutrient_guide.html
Garden-Robinson, J. (2009). What color is your food? Taste a rainbow of fruits and vegetables for better health. Retrieved February 4, 2011, from http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/publications/landing-pages/food-and-nutrition/what-color-is-your-food-fn595
U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/
U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th Edition, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, December 2010.
Last update: Thursday, March 19, 2015