By Lorna G. Williams
Spring is here and summer is following close on its heels. This time of year is the perfect time for fresh produce… no matter if you grow it yourself or if you purchase it at the local produce stand or grocery store. Most of us know the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables each day as part of a healthy lifestyle. While many fruits and vegetables are available year-round, most are at their peak during specific seasons and the spring and summer months seem to offer a greater variety of options than any other time of the year. Eating seasonally means better-tasting and more nutritious fruits and vegetables.
Eating fruits and vegetables plays a significant role in disease risk reduction. The abundant, fresh offerings of spring and summer make this an ideal time to begin enjoying more of these nutritional powerhouses. Additionally, you’ll be sure to benefit from the fiber, trace minerals, and vitamins that are present in whole, fresh fruits and vegetables. Our bodies seem to respond instinctively to this colorful array with a longing for the potent vitamins and minerals that we have been lacking through most of the winter. The items you find at this time of year will offer your body exactly what it needs to shake the winter doldrums and start you on a year-round track to more healthy eating habits.
There are many benefits of eating fruits and vegetables, including possible defense against obesity, heart disease, type-2 diabetes and cancer. They are also naturally low in sodium, calories, cholesterol, and mostly fat-free. All forms of fruits and vegetables provide good nutrition. If you’re looking for potential insurance against the development of chronic disease, obesity and cancer, take advantage of the season’s vast array of deeply colored fruits and vegetables. Vivid color suggests more than ripe and delicious produce. Deep pigmentation often indicates nutrient presence that helps our body systems work well and avoid disease. Color your daily diet with bright oranges (carrots, peaches, nectarines, and mango), deep reds (tomatoes, cherries and strawberries), dark greens (broccoli, asparagus and kale), brilliant blues and purples (blueberries, eggplant and plums), and finish it off with sunny yellow (summer squash, pineapple, and corn).
With all of these options, it is not difficult to add more of these super-foods to your daily diets. Following are some tips for adding fruits and vegetables to your eating program in order to boost your nutritional intake.
- Add vegetables to soups, stews, casseroles and sandwiches.
- Add fruit to low-fat or fat-free yogurt and add granola.
- Instead of drinking coffee, start your day with 100% fruit or vegetable juice.
- Add vegetables to your morning egg omelet.
- Have fruit or vegetables as a mid-morning snack.
- Top toast with peanut butter and sliced peaches or berries.
- Dip fresh cut veggies in low-fat dips.
- Add peaches to cottage cheese.
- Though fresh is best, don’t forget about canned fruits and vegetables – they are portable.
- Choose 100% juice for a refreshing break after your next workout (select juice over carbonated beverages and even energy drinks).
- Remember, aim for the most color on your plate!
By adding a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits to your diet, you’ll not only be enhancing your meals with delicious and colorful options, but you will also boost your nutrient quotient. Incorporating the plentiful harvest of spring and summer into your daily diet is an easy and delicious way to begin good habits, not just for the warm seasons, but also throughout the year. Plant and nurture these healthy habits now and you will harvest health benefits for a lifetime.