By Abigale MillerMedically reviewed by Cynthia Haines, MD
Once you start to add fruits and vegetables to your healthy eating plan, you’ll want to keep eating them. Learn what to look for when choosing produce as part of a healthy diet.
It probably doesn’t surprise you that most Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. The American Dietary Guidelines suggest that each person eat four and a half cups, or nine servings, of fruits or vegetables each day. Many people find this difficult to manage, but with a little creativity and the right information, it’s as easy as (apple) pie!
Healthy Eating: Why You Need Produce
What can a diet rich in produce do for you? Besides being a delicious part of your meals, fruits and vegetables have amazing health benefits. People who eat a variety of fruits and vegetables generally have a lower incidence of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and certain types of cancer.
Fruits and vegetables offer a spectacular variety of flavor, texture, and nutrition that is just waiting to be taken advantage of. Here are some tips to help you maximize the health benefits of eating produce:
Choose a produce rainbow. Richly colored fruits and vegetables contain more nutrients compared to paler ones. Jessica Begg, RD, of Flourish Wellness & Nutrition in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, suggests dark-colored spinach as a healthy alternative to pale iceberg lettuce. Brightly colored produce like tomatoes, carrots, pink grapefruit, mangoes, and guava are a good source of carotenoids, a form of vitamin A that may help prevent heart disease. (more…)
Vitamins and Minerals
Chili peppers are rich in various vitamins and minerals.
However, since they are only eaten in small amounts, their contribution to the daily intake is very small.
Vitamin C: Chili peppers are very high in vitamin C. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, important for wound healing and immune function. Vitamin B6: A family of B-vitamins, some of which have important functions in energy metabolism. Vitamin K1: Also known as phylloquinone, vitamin K1 is essential for blood clotting and healthy bones and kidneys. Potassium: An essential dietary mineral that serves a variety of functions in the body. Adequate intake of potassium may reduce the risk of heart disease (2). Copper: Often lacking in the Western diet, copper is an essential antioxidant trace element, important for strong bones and healthy neurons. Vitamin A: Red chili peppers are high in beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the body.
Alkaline in nature, it is used as a brain food to treat nervous disorders like epilepsy, paranoia, and insanity. In addition, it also treats mental illness. Seeing that, they have alkaline temperament and so has a cooling and neutralizing effect on stomach acids, with that said they are used to treat digestive sicknesses like hyperacidity, dyspepsia, and ulcers. Effective in the treatment of diabetes, the juice of ash gourd is a great home remedy for peptic ulcers. Spaced out from treating the above said ailments, they also help in treating respiratory disorders like asthma, blood-related diseases, and urinary diseases like kidney stones. Every single part of the fruit is considered useful and is used in treating several disorders. Leaves of the gourd are simply rubbed on bruises which are proved effective, seeds are used to eject out intestinal worms. The ash made by burning the rind and seeds are mixed with coconut oil and applied on hair to promote hair growth and to treat dandruff.
Scientific name – Benincasa hispida
Wax gourd also known as white gourd is commonly identified with the name winter melon. It is a plant grown mainly for its large fruit, as it gets mature they are consumed as a vegetable. Nebulous when young, the fruit has a chunky white flesh which is sweet to taste. The best part about wax gourd is that it provides a long shelf life and by ripeness, the fruit loses its hair and develops a waxy coat, thereby giving rise to the name wax gourd. Even though the fruit is referred to as a “melon”, the fully grown crop is not that sweet to taste and as a matter of fact the melon may grow as large as 80 cm in length.
The term “organic” refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. While the regulations vary from country to country, in the U.S., organic crops must be grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes (GMOs), petroleum-based fertilizers, and sewage sludge-based fertilizers.
Organic livestock raised for meat, eggs, and dairy products must have access to the outdoors and be given organic feed. They may not be given antibiotics, growth hormones, or any animal by-products.
Organic vs. Non-Organic
Grown with natural fertilizers (manure, compost).
Grown with synthetic or chemical fertilizers.
Weeds are controlled naturally (crop rotation, hand weeding, mulching, and tilling).
Weeds are controlled with chemical herbicides.
Pests are controlled using natural methods (birds, insects, traps) and naturally-derived pesticides.
Pests are controlled with synthetic pesticides
Organic meat, dairy, eggs:
Conventionally-raised meat, dairy, eggs
Livestock are given all organic, hormone- and GMO-free feed.
Livestock are given growth hormones for faster growth, as well as non-organic, GMO feed.
Disease is prevented with natural methods such as clean housing, rotational grazing, and healthy diet.
Antibiotics and medications are used to prevent livestock disease.
Livestock must have access to the outdoors.
Livestock may or may not have access to the outdoors.
The benefits of organic food
How your food is grown or raised can have a major impact on your mental and emotional health as well as the environment. Organic foods often have more beneficial nutrients, such as antioxidants, than their conventionally-grown counterparts and people with allergies to foods, chemicals, or preservatives often find their symptoms lessen or go away when they eat only organic foods.
Organic produce contains fewer pesticides. Chemicals such as fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides are widely used in conventional agriculture and residues remain on (and in) the food we eat.
Organic food is often fresher because it doesn’t contain preservatives that make it last longer. Organic produce is often (but not always, so watch where it is from) produced on smaller farms near where it is sold.
Organic farming is better for the environment. Organic farming practices reduce pollution, conserve water, reduce soil erosion, increase soil fertility, and use less energy. Farming without pesticides is also better for nearby birds and animals as well as people who live close to farms.
Organically raised animals are NOT given antibiotics, growth hormones, or fed animal byproducts. Feeding livestock animal byproducts increases the risk of mad cow disease (BSE) and the use of antibiotics can create antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Organically-raised animals are given more space to move around and access to the outdoors, which help to keep them healthy.
Organic meat and milk are richer in certain nutrients. Results of a 2016 European study show that levels of certain nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, were up to 50 percent higher in organic meat and milk than in conventionally raised versions.
Organic food is GMO-free. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) or genetically engineered (GE) foods are plants whose DNA has been altered in ways that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding, most commonly in order to be resistant to pesticides or produce an insecticide.