By: DEBORAH AUGUSTIN
Edited by: KELSEY CRUZ
Growing up, we all heard (and ignored) mom when she told us to eat our vegetables. And if you’re trying to watch your waistline, you know that fruits are better for you than a chocolate bar. In fact, according to an article by Elaine Magee, MPH, RD on Medicine Net, the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables per day is now nine servings instead of the five that mom used to demand.
“All vegetables are very healthy,” says Dr. Lori Shemek, PhD, and author of Fire-Up Your Fat Burn! “That said, some have even more health benefits than others, and there are also ways to prepare vegetables that yield additional health benefits such as steaming veggies or cooking tomatoes before eating them to increase nutrient absorption.”
Not a veggie lover? Would you rather do nine straight servings of fruit? I’m afraid I have bad news for you.
“Fruits are healthy, but are no substitute for vegetables,” Dr. Shemek says. “Fruits contain fructose, which spikes blood sugar, and this can lead to weight gain if the intake is too great.”
Vegetables – even when eaten in greater amounts – do not affect blood sugar in the same way.
As someone who is a novice in the kitchen, I often find myself unsure of what vegetables I should be putting in my shopping cart. Fortunately, Mother Nature has an ingenious way of telling you what vegetables are good for you. The pigmentation of plants indicates the different types of nutrients they contain, so navigating the produce aisle is easier than you may realize.
If you’re anything like me, you love shopping. I used to feel so overwhelmed in the grocery store, but now I feel more at ease because I shop by color. For example, Eating Well recommends bright, luscious, red foods like tomatoes, watermelons, and strawberries because of their lycopene, a nutrient that can reduce the risk of various cancers. Add orange foods like sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and carrots to your cart for beta-carotene, an antioxidant that is responsible for good vision, healthy skin, and a strong immune system. For all you fruit lovers, blue and purple fruits like blueberries, grapes, and raisins can keep you looking young by protecting your cells from damage and preventing wrinkles.
“By eating fruits and vegetables of a variety of different colors, one can get the best all-around health benefits,” says Dr. Shemek. “There isn’t just one color of a fruit or veggie that is better for you than others. There are, however, more nutrient-dense fruits and veggies such as spinach, broccoli, bell peppers, berries, apples, pomegranates, and kiwi.”
If you’d rather incorporate your nine servings (I’m not letting you forget, ladies!) of fruits and vegetables into your meals, try adding strawberries to a delicious yogurt parfait or spinach and mushrooms to a morning omelet. In fact, Dr. Shemek says tomatoes, carrots, spinach, and many other vegetables are better for you when they’re cooked (as long as they’re not fried).
Next time you’re at the grocery store, consider it a beautiful summer shopping day (instead of a boring trip to the market) and focus on the colors. Think about how radiant the fruits and veggies will look on your plate and how they will benefit your body, both inside and out. Soon shopping by color will become second nature, and you’ll glow just like your bright, fresh food!