5-A-Day for Better Health

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Did you know that September 22 to 28 is 5 A Day for Better Health Week? Groups of people who consistently eat at least five to 10 servings of fruits or vegetables a day have been shown to significantly reduce their incidence of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, fluid and fiber. These are all important in the fight against many chronic and debilitating diseases.

Fruits and vegetables contain natural compounds that are thought to help in the fight against disease. These phytochemicals (plant chemicals) have names such as flavonoids, carotenoids, lycopenes and phytoestrogens. The best way to obtain these health-promoting compounds is to eat fresh, frozen, canned or dried fruits and vegetables or their juice.

Fruits and vegetables add color and crunch, flavor and fluid to soups, salads, side dishes, beverages and desserts. Every part of a meal is made a little prettier or tastier with the addition of fruits and vegetables. What would chili be without onions? How could a salad exist without lettuce or vegetables?

Since the launch of President Bush's Healthy Eating Campaign, several private agencies have linked with government agencies to encourage consumers to increase their daily produce intake. In the United States, the campaign is entitled "5 A Day: Produce for Better Health". In Canada, the campaign is "Five to Ten A Day". Why not split the difference and use your own slogan, such as "Five to Nine and Feeling Fine"? During a recent speech, President Bush said that he and his family tried very hard to eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Health professionals worldwide are encouraging everyone to eat at least five portions of fruits and vegetables every day. It is estimated that most people would have to at least double their current intake to achieve this. The first step in this direction would be to realize what a serving is. Here are some guidelines for one serving of a fruit or vegetable:
• 1 medium fruit or vegetable, such as an apple, an orange, a peach, a carrot or a small tomato
• ½ cup cooked dried peas or beans
• ¼ cup dried fruit, such as apricots, apples, figs or raisins
• ¾ cup fresh or frozen or canned fortified fruit or vegetable juice
• 1 cup fresh vegetable salad, such as spinach, romaine or mixed vegetables
• ¾ cup fresh or frozen fruit salad

Here are healthy ways to start your day:
• Add fruit to cereal
• Make a fruit smoothie
• Top toast, muffins, pancakes or waffles with fruit
• Take fruit along as a snack
• Add fruit to yogurt
• Make soup and salad part of your lunch routine

Here are some more ideas for "Five-a-Day-ing" the menu:
Lunch:
• Enjoy a large salad
• Eat vegetable soup or chili a few times per week
• Make a meal out of a baked potato and salad
• Load your sandwich with plenty of veggies
Snacks:
• Low sodium tomato juice or vegetable juice
• Celery, zucchini or cucumber sticks "stuffed" with salsa
• Whole-wheat pita filled with shredded carrots, chopped Romaine and mashed avocado
Dinner:
• Make a big taco salad using beans, rice, lettuce, chips, salsa and plenty of vegetables
• Eat spaghetti with plenty of marinara sauce and add in some mixed frozen vegetables
• Try a stir-fry dish with plenty of fresh or frozen vegetables
Dessert:
• Baked apple or pear with raisins
• Fresh seasonal fruit salad with yogurt dressing and fresh mint
• Peach or strawberry sorbet with sliced bananas and dried fruit
• Mixed fruit with lemon juice and cinnamon
Reference: "Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective," The American Institute for Cancer Research, 1999, on 6/29/02 at www.5to10day.com/eng/about.htm

By Nancy Berkoff, RD, EdD, CCE.

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