As we have visited the Farmer’s Market or vegetable stand, we are reminded how colorful and fresh the produce has been during the summer season. However, even with the wonderful variety we have had, I find that few appreciate and understand how vital this food group is to our health. Unfortunately, even the USDA food plate recommendations fall short in providing a truly nutrient dense diet that can potentially prevent many of the chronic disease states we are battling in the United States. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), as a nation, 75% of health care dollars goes to treatment of chronic disease such as heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders and cancer. Some of these persistent conditions could have been prevented including lifelong disability, compromised quality of life which then strains our burgeoning health care.
Unfortunately, the medical system is usually set up for patient’s visits to be in a forced quick paced conveyor belt method due to insurance constraints and the pressure to bring in as many patients as possible to offset costs and produce profits. This lends to little interaction with the patient’s concerns and no time for a much needed diet intake review. I am, though, grateful for these doctors because there is a place for their intervention. However, they are caught up in a system that is set up to not provide personal assessments and true preventative help. Here at Forum Health Knoxville, however, there is more care for the patients, with time and personal health evaluations given, thereby providing a more comprehensive plan that includes a nutrient dense diet that emphasizes fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables are an essential and integral part of your diet. There is no other food group that can provide what these super foods can. They provide antioxidants and phytochemicals that maximize preventative protection against the chronic disease states that we are struggling with. In fact, fruits and vegetables are the two foods with the best correlation with longer life in humans. Not whole wheat bread or bran, nor even a typical vegetarian diet shows as powerful a correlation as a high level of fresh fruit and raw green salad consumption. The National Cancer Institute has reported on at least 337 different studies that showed this information to be validated. ( Nelson, NJ. Is chemoprevention research overrated or underfunded? Primary Care and Cancer 168:29-30)
What are the best nutrient dense fruit and vegetables (though not all inclusive) that provide these protective compounds that do phenomenal changes in your health and immune system?
- Dark green leafy vegetables ( highest) – kale, spinach, Swiss chard, mustard, collard, turnip greens, arugula, watercress.
- Other green vegetables – romaine, red/green leaf lettuce, green peas, green beans, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, bok choy, snow peas, celery, green peppers.
- Non-green nutrient-rich vegetables- beets, eggplant, mushrooms, onions, radishes, bean sprouts, red, orange and yellow bell peppers, raw carrots, tomatoes, artichokes, radicchio, cauliflower, garlic.
- Fruits – berries, apples, pears, oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, kiwi, melons, etc.
These foods should be added to your diet at each meal, and eating a variety of these essential foods will definitely improve your health decreasing your risk of chronic health conditions. You want to eat at least 9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Always include green salads with a variety of greens–optimally lunch and dinner. Organic, non-GMO, raw as well as lightly steamed or sautéed in a small amount of a healthy fat (olive or coconut oil) are your best ways in eating your fruits and vegetables!
Here is a fresh fruit and veggie salad to enjoy!
Green Salad with Fresh Fruit
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, organic
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, organic
- 1-2 tablespoons of filtered water
- 1 tablespoon raw honey
- 1/4 teaspoon whole mineral salt
- 2-3 cups torn fresh spinach, organic
- 1/3 cup chopped apple, organic
- 1/2 cup broccoli florets
- 2 tablespoons raisins, organic
- 2 dried apricots, organic, chopped (optional)
- 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
- 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted (optional)
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the oil, vinegar, water, honey and salt; shake well. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Drizzle with dressing and toss to coat. Yield: 1 serving. Note: all organic is preferred and you can add your favorite herbs and spices in the salad dressing as well.
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