One disease that affects most everyone in some shape or form is cancer. Did you know some types of cancer (more than 13, actually) are also nutrition-related? Esophagus, pancreas, colon and rectum, breast (after menopause), kidney, thyroid, gallbladder, lung, and stomach are just a few. If there was a way to decrease your chances of getting any of these cancers, you would do it right? Well, guess what! There is a way! According to an article found here, Sharon Denny MS, RDN says that lifestyle changes and early detection can prevent nearly half of all cancer deaths. While there are several lifestyle choices that play a role in cancer prevention, I want to go into fruit and vegetable consumption.
At work last month, we did a "March into Wellness" challenge that was a good eye opener for me! I thought I was overall pretty decent at eating the recommended amounts of fruits and veggies everyday, but apparently I was wrong. I've been paying closer attention to my serving sizes and have realized that I'm not always getting my "5 a Day" of fruits and vegetables that is recommended (meaning 3 servings vegetables plus 2 servings of fruit daily). I learned it takes some planning ahead and commitment to make sure you aren't missing opportunities to pack your day with fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals and something called phytochemicals, which is a broad term for a special compound produced by plants. There are up to 4,000 different phytochemicals, according to some research. Have you heard of antioxidants? Carotenoids? Flavenoids? Maybe you have, or maybe you haven't, but those are just a few phytochemicals you may recognize.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, darker fruits and vegetables have higher levels of many carotenoids and other healthful nutrients that when obtained from food work together to make you healthy. These “darker” vegetables refer to dark-green, red, and orange varieties. These are things like spinach, romaine lettuce, sweet potatoes, carrots, and tomatoes.
Scientists can't replicate phytochemicals in a pill, so you have to eat actual fruits and vegetables to get them. No shortcuts here!
In general, men need about 2 c fruits per day and 3 c vegetables per day (5 a day!) Women need 1 ½-2 c. fruit per day and 2 ½ c vegetables per day. These numbers will change depending on your BMI and physical activity level, so go to Super Tracker at choosemyplate.gov and create your own! The "5-a-day" recommendation is just a catchy way to remember the general number of servings to eat each day. When creating a meal, try to visualize a plate and make half of your plate full of fruits and vegetables. They can be fresh, frozen, or canned—just get them on your plate!
How do I measure serving sizes?
One cup of a fruit is the amount that would fill a measuring cup to equal one cup. Eight ounces of 100% juice counts as a one-cup serving of fruit well. An exception to this rule is ½ cup of dried fruit equals a one c fruit serving because dried fruits do not have as much water in them, so there are more calories and nutrients in a piece of dried fruit than in a piece of whole fruit; dried fruit is more concentrated.
Here are a few more examples: 1 cup fruits=
· 1 large orange
· About 8 strawberries
· 1 medium pear
· About 32 seedless grapes
One cup of vegetables is the amount that would fill a measuring cup up to one cup of raw or cooked vegetables.
One exception is that one cup full of leafy greens, like romaine lettuce, only equals ½ c serving size. Lettuce has a lot of water in it, so you need more to get the nutrients (kind of the opposite of dried fruit).
Here are a few more examples:
1 cup vegetables=
· About 12 baby carrots
· 1 large ear of corn
· 2 large stalks of celery
And remember, fruits and vegetables can be fun for all ages!
Consider eating more fruits and vegetables as an investment in your future. If you don't take the time to be healthy now, you will have to take the time to be sick later. Who has time for that?!