Charlyn Fargo Ware: Why Fruits and Vegetables Are Nutrional Powerhouses | Your Health

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I think we’re still learning how important adding fruits and vegetables can be to our health.

The Agriculture Department’s MyPlate, based on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, recommends filling half our plate — every time we eat — with fruits and vegetables. That’s not likely to change with the 2020 Dietary Guidelines.

Plant-based diets are currently recommended for cancer prevention and for heart-healthy diets, as are Mediterranean and DASH diets.

That’s because fruits and vegetables are nutritional powerhouses, rich in nutrients and fiber that support good health.

In a recent study in the July issue of the journal BMI, European researchers found that as little as one-third of a cup more fruits or vegetables daily could reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 25 percent. The study compared 10,000 adults with newly diagnosed Type 2 diabetes to 14,000 diabetes-free adults and found a 25 percent lower risk of developing the disease with every 66 extra grams (one-third of a cup) of fruits and vegetables eaten each day.

Researchers found it was the actual fruits and vegetables rather than supplements that were effective in disease prevention.

Think about how you can add a few more fruits and vegetables each day — berries on your cereal, a banana on your oatmeal, a veggie tray with hummus, or maybe an apple with peanut butter. Rather than reaching for a cookie, try snacking on a handful of grapes or an orange.

Don’t be afraid of the sugar in fruits. Because it’s natural sugar rather than added sugar, our body processes it differently due to the fiber and other nutrients in the fruit.

The bottom line is daily fruits and vegetables — even small amounts — can be a step toward a healthier life.

Q&A

Q: Are smoothies nutritious?

A: They can be, but they can also be fairly high in calories (250-350 calories per serving). Smoothies are a great meal replacement, but if you’re trying to lose weight, you have to consider the calories.

Smoothies do serve as an opportunity for easy meal preparation and a way to add fruits and vegetables to your diet. Because the textures of fruits, vegetables, seeds and protein sources become uniform when incorporated into a smoothie, many people are willing to be more adventurous in what they add to a smoothie.

To up the nutrition in a smoothie, try adding flaxseed, hemp seeds, spinach, precooked frozen lentils, cottage cheese or tofu along with your favorite fruit, protein powder and powdered peanut butter.

Sweet Potato and Apple Casserole

Here’s a recipe that highlights the best of fall: Sweet Potato and Apple Casserole. It makes a great holiday side dish and is from Melissa’s Produce.

Ingredients

» 3 sweet potatoes or yams

» 2 large baking apples, cored and cut into ¼-inch rings

» 2 tablespoons sugar

» ½ cup orange juice

» 2 tablespoons butter

» ¾ tablespoon cornstarch

» ¼ teaspoon salt

» ½ tablespoon ground cinnamon

» ½ tablespoon nutmeg

» ¼ cup walnuts, chopped and toasted

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scrub yams well; pat dry, and then carefully pierce all over as you would to bake a potato. Place sweet potatoes or yams on a cookie sheet, and bake in oven until tender, about 35-45 minutes.

Cool sweet potatoes or yams to touch, and remove skins. Slice and layer sweet potatoes and peeled apple rings in buttered casserole dish. Boil together sugar, water, butter, cornstarch and salt, until it begins to thicken.

Pour over yams and apples; sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg and nuts, and bake covered at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Details

Makes 5 servings

Per serving: 216 calories; 2 grams protein; 28 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams fat (3 grams saturated); 5 grams fiber; 142 milligrams sodium

— Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois. Contact her at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd, or click here for additional columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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