The Power of Fruits

Choosing to utilize the power of fruits is one of the most important and enjoyable ways to stay healthy.


| October/November 2005


The Power of Fruits

The phrase “Eat your vegetables, they’re good for you” springs out of the parent’s mouth unbidden, like wisdom that must be passed from generation to generation. That’s actually pretty accurate. “Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables” is timeless advice that science is only now catching up to.

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can decrease the chances of having a heart attack or stroke; lower blood pressure; help you avoid constipation; guard against two common aging-related eye diseases — cataracts and macular degeneration; help you feel full with fewer calories; add variety to your diet and enliven your palate.

Potatoes Don’t Count

To a botanist, a fruit is any plant part that contains seeds. In this article, I will stick with the culinary concept of fruits as sweet dessertlike foods, and vegetables as savory salad- or dinner-type foods. I am not including potatoes in the vegetable category, even though they are the most popular vegetable in America. Like rice and pasta, potatoes are made up mostly of easily digested starch. Studies show that eating potatoes isn’t linked with the same health benefits as is eating other vegetables and fruits.

Back in 1991, the National Cancer Institute launched its 5-a-Day public health campaign, urging us to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. This campaign has been incorporated into the government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Five a day is a good start, but it gives no real guidance on what qualifies. Two glasses of orange juice, an apple, an order of french fries at lunch and potatoes with dinner meets the 5-a-Day target. While that’s better than no fruits and vegetables at all, it doesn’t offer the full dose of health benefits described here. Use five a day as a minimum, not a goal. Don’t include potatoes in your daily tally, and try to vary the fruits and vegetables in your diet.

While any one fruit or vegetable contains dozens, maybe hundreds, of different compounds that your body uses for something besides energy, no single fruit or vegetable contains all the substances you need. It’s a good idea to eat for color variety as well. Painting your diet with the bold colors of ripe red tomatoes, crisp orange carrots, creamy yellow squash, emerald-green spinach, juicy blueberries, indigo plums, violet eggplants and all shades in between not only makes meals more appealing, but also ensures that you get a variety of beneficial nutrients.





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