Of course I don’t need to tell you that fresh fruits and vegetables play a vital role in healthy eating habits. At the very minimum, you should eat five servings of produce each day. Seven is even better, and nine is really great.
The reason fruits and vegetables are so important is that they are packed with micronutrients that help your body to support specific systems.
They are also a great source of fiber. Plus fruits and vegetables are your best source of carbohydrates. Your body needs carbohydrates to produce energy. The carbs you get from produce are easier to digest than those you get from grains. (Carbs in grains are denser and “sticky,” which makes them hard for your body to use.)
Here are five recommendations for the types of fruits and vegetables you should reach for most often. These will help your body fight disease, they’ll lower your levels of inflammation, and they’ll generally improve your health.
Brightly-colored berries like cranberries and blueberries are packed with antioxidants that help your body to fight disease and lower inflammation. In fact, when it comes to antioxidants, berries deliver the most of any fruit or vegetable.
Research shows that compounds in blueberries help your brain to stay healthy.[i] As you age inflammation and oxidation take a toll on your brain, even if it is disease-free. Your motor skills, cognitive function, and memory may all suffer. However, blueberries can make a difference. The polyphenols in blueberries help protect against diseases like Alzheimer’s, they prevent age-related declines in function, and they may even help the brain to work better by enhancing its neuronal communication.
In addition to all this, berries are rich in soluble fiber, which can improve your digestion and help to lower cholesterol levels.
Cherries are rich in the antioxidant compound, anthocyanin. This compound may help relieve the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. In animal studies, researchers found that anthocyanin significantly improved the symptoms of arthritis.[iii]
In addition to anthocyanin, cherries contain a broad spectrum of flavanoids and phytochemicals—these are micronutrients that work as very specific antioxidants in your body. Together they can make a positive difference to your health at the cellular level.
Vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and asparagus are rich in a compound called diindolylmethane, or DIM for short. DIM converts into indole-3-carbinol in your body. This compound helps to remove aggressive estrogen from your system. It also helps prevent new aggressive estrogens from being absorbed into the body.
This does your body two favors. First, it helps to bring your hormones into better balance. Second, aggressive estrogens are associated with breast and prostate cancers, so cruciferous vegetables help protect you from these deadly diseases.
These tasty, versatile vegetables (or fruits, depending on who you ask) are rich in lycopene. Lycopene may reduce your risk of a number of cancers including colon, breast, prostate, and skin cancer.
Tomatoes are also a good source of vitamin C, an antioxidant that serves many purposes in your body. It boosts the immune system, improves the health of your skin, and fights against many cancers.
Okay, nuts aren’t technically a fruit or a vegetable, but they do grow on trees, so I’m making an exception. Nuts are a rich source of minerals. Brazil nuts, for example, are one of the best available sources of selenium. Nuts can also provide calcium, zinc, iron, copper, and manganese. In fact, a 100 gram serving of mixed nuts a day delivers your daily-recommended amounts of all these important minerals.[iv]
Food is your absolute best source of the many nutrients your body needs for optimum health. These five foods will give you a wide variety of micronutrients, antioxidants, and minerals—the building blocks for a healthy, disease-free body.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
[i] Lau FC, et al. “Nutritional intervention in brain aging: reducing the effects of inflammation and oxidative stress,” Subcell Biochem 2007; 42: 299-318
[ii] Neto CC. “Cranberry and blueberry: evidence for protective effects against cancer and vascular diseases,” Mol Nutr Food Res 2007; 51(6): 652-54
[iii] He YH, et al. “Anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects of cherries on Freund’s adjuvant-induced arthritis in rats,” Scand J Rheumatol 2006; 35(5): 356-58
[iv] Malinowska E, Szefer P. “[Investigation of the contents of essential elements in nuts, almonds and dry fruits]” Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig 2007; 58(1): 339-43
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