Why (and How!) to Eat Enough Veggies
With summer drawing to a close, this is the time of year when you are most likely to find the widest variety of seasonal produce at the Farmer's Market.
Plant foods, especially colorful ones, are a primary source of antioxidants. We need lots of these to curb free radicals formed in the body. Many plant antioxidants are stored in the leaves, where oxygen is active in photosynthesis. Others appear in plant pigments (for example, the anthocyanins that make the blue-purple colours of blackberries and blueberries) and the chemical defenses of plant skins (for example, quercetin in apple skins). This is one the main reasons why it is important to eat fresh produce in a variety of different colors, so that you are eating a variety of different nutrients! Studies have shown a direct correlation between the variety of fruits and vegetables eaten and the benefits seen from the nutrients.
Vegetables and fruits should make up the base of everyone's nutritional pyramid. They are the foundation of a high-quality, healthy diet. In addition to being rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fibre, and phytonutrients , they also contain lots of water to help you stay hydrated. They are alkaline producing , which can help to preserve bone mass and muscle tissue.
Leafy greens offer some of the greatest benefits, but keep in mind that most produce is good produce. You can use vegetable juice or dried greens powder if consuming the whole vegetable is a problem, but keep in mind that you do miss out on some of the benefits. Vegetable and fruit juices typically extract the fibre, which is important for nutrient absorption, regulating blood sugar, and feelings of fullness. Unfortunately, supplementing a multivitamin, as opposed to actually eating the fruits and vegetables, does not provide the same benefits.
If you struggle to get enough variety with your produce, I recommend finding a way to challenge yourself to do so. For example, view the USDA's list of seasonal produce for fall and try to eat each item at least once before winter comes! Repeat this process each season. If you have a few picky eaters in the house or prefer a simpler approach, try to plan your meals or grocery shopping list so that you have at least one item from each of the five main color categories: greens, reds, yellows and oranges, whites, purples and blues. Precision Nutrition has an excellent infographic if you would like to learn more about what produce falls into which category.
BHC Nutrition Coach