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Nutrient Density: The Fruit and Vegetables Group

Posted Aug 19 2009 6:32pm
Your mother was right when she told you to eat your vegetables – they are an integral part of a healthy, well balanced diet. Fruits and vegetables provide a variety of nutrients important for a strong immune system, good digestion, muscle building and fat loss, as well as properties which help maintain a youthful feeling and appearance.

The USDA recommends that people eat three to five servings of vegetables and two to four servings of fruit a day. Fruits and vegetables are two different food goods, but contain many similar nutritional properties. Especially in their healthiest form - raw – they can be an excellent portable snack, making it easy to eat the daily amount recommended for good health.

As with the whole grains mentioned previously, vegetables are an excellent source of dietary fiber, which aids in digestion and healthy elimination. Vegetables provide as many antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients as the shapes and colors they come in. You can often guess many of the nutrients they have just by their color. They are also an excellent source of phytochemicals, plant chemicals which fight cancer, heart disease and other illnesses.

Vitamin A: This fat soluble vitamin is good for your bones, eyes, hair skin, soft tissue and teeth. It helps fight allergies, appetite loss, blemishes, dry hair, fatigue, itching burning eyes, loss of smell, night blindness, rough, dry skin, sinus trouble, soft enamel and susceptibility to infections. It is found in many red, green, yellow and orange vegetables and fruits as well as liver, fish, eggs and whole milk. Some sources high in Vitamin A are raw carrots, bell peppers and spinach. Vitamin A can be depleted by alcohol, coffee, cold weather (inhibits metabolism) cortisone and diabetes.

Vitamin C: The captain of the vitamin team. This wonder-vitamin aids the adrenal glands, blood, capillary walls, connective tissue (skin, ligaments bones), gums, heart and teeth. It helps with collagen production, digestion, fine bones & tooth formation, iodine conservation, healing burns and wounds, red blood cell formation and infection resistance. A lack of Vitamin C can lead to anemia, bleeding gums, breath shortness, easy bruising, dental cavities, colds and poor digestion. Vitamin C can be found in almost any fruit and vegetable but green vegetables, raw cabbage and citrus fruits such as grapefruit and the juice of the lemon or lime, which can be used as a healthy alternative seasoning for salads, fish and meats.

Folic Acid: Also a B complex, folic acid can be found in citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, but also in milk products, organ meats, seafood, whole grains, eggs and salmon. It is good for the blood, glands, liver and acts as an appetite stimulant, promotes cell growth and reproduction, circulation, DNA production, hydrochloric acid production, liver performance, nucleic acid formation, protein metabolism and red blood cell formation. A deficiency of this vitamin can lead to anemia, digestive disturbances, graying hair, growth problems, insomnia, tongue inflammation and memory impairment. It is depleted by alcohol, celiac disease, coffee, fever, oral contraceptives, stress, and tobacco.

Potassium: Potassium aids in the conversion of glucose to glycogen for muscle growth. It can be found highest in potatoes and bananas, but also in dates, figs, peaches, peanuts, sunflower seeds, raisins and tomato juice. The sweet potato is a healthy source. Potassium has excellent effects on the blood, heart, kidneys, muscles, nerves and skin. Its benefits for muscle contraction can aid in both muscle growth and prevention of muscle twitching and spasm. It is often depleted by alcohol, coffee, stress and excessi

Aside from the vitamins and antioxidants mentioned above, fruits and vegetables also contain phytochemicals. These plant chemicals are key in fighting many types of cancer and illnesses.

• Allyl Sulfides: Found in garlic, onions and shallots, these phytochemicals fight stomach and colon cancers.

• Sulforanafanes: They are found in broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. They help lower risk of breast, stomach and lung cancers.

• Carotenes: These are found primarily in orange and red-colored vegetables such as carrots and peaches, sweet potatoes and cantaloupe, but also in dark green leafy vegetables. They fight lung cancer and protect against exercise-induced tissue damage.

• Lycopene: Though it is found in fresh tomatoes, the best source of lycopene is actually canned tomatoes. It aids in the prevention of prostate and stomach cancers.

• Alpha-linolenic acid (Vitamin E): Vitamin E resides in muscle cell membranes and can scavenge the free radicals produced by exercise, saving the tissues from damage. It is also shown to prevent the destruction of oxygen which carries red blood cells. Muscles then benefit from improved or sustained oxygen delivery during exercise. Best found in the protein group, Vitamin E is in nuts, seeds, raw wheat germ, polyunsaturated vegetable oils, and fish oils. It also lowers inflammation and risk of heart disease.

• Monoterpenes: Found in cherries, dill, spearmint, lemongrass and citrus peel oils, monoterpenes, aid in the resistance of breast, skin, liver, lung, stomach, pancreatic cancers.

• Polyphenols: These are found in green tea, an excellent health-beverage. It builds resistance to skin, lung and stomach cancers.

Phytoestogens: Phytoestogens are found in tofu and other food products made from the soy bean. It is recommended to eat at least one soy product a day. These help fight cancer and cholesterol, as well as promote bone strength. They decrease the chance of breast and prostate cancers, lower blood cholesterol, prevent bone loss, and help with the symptoms of menopause.

The adage that says that an apple a day can keep the doctor away just may be true. There are practically countless health benefits to be gained by a diet rich in a balanced mix of fruits and vegetables. On the exterior, they will help you maintain a youthful, slim, healthy body, while on the interior working to resist cancer and a variety of other illnesses.

For more information on nutrition, come see what's going on atBOOTCAMP 619!
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