Welcome back to You Are What You Eat! 

Let food be they medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food.
— - Hippocrates (460 - 377 BC) 

If you've ever wanted to find the fountain of youth, head to your produce department or farmers market. Today, we're talking all about fruits, veggies and why they are so critical to our bodies function.  Food contains nutrients that affect our cells and DNA which affect every organ system in our body. What we feed ourselves has a tremendous impact on our health.


You Are What You Eat!

Lesson of the Week: The Fountain of Youth is in Your Produce Section: Fruits and Veggies

I know. I know. You've been being told to eat your veggies since you can remember. There's a reason why though - they're awesome.

I remember when I was at a conference a little while ago and 3 top doctors in the United States were asked, "what do you do to stay healthy?".  One doctor said, "It's hard to make a case against eating vegetables." So true! If you're curious, the other 2 habits they cited were daily exercise and sleep!

Making the case for Fruits and Veggies

Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber. These phytochemicals better known as antioxidants help to give foods their color, flavor, smell and many of their health benefits. Antioxidants also help to stimulate the immune system, reduce inflammation, prevent DNA damage and slow the growth rate of cancer cells.  

Fruits and veggies are famous for their anti-aging, anti-allergy, anti-stress, cholesterol lowering and cancer fighting abilities. This is the reason why so many of us are trying to eat more plant based meals. A large, 10 year study found that a greater variety and quantity of vegetables was associated with a lower risk of Type 2 Diabetes . In addition, a massive study of 124,086 men and women over a 24 year period found that a diet with a high intake of flavonols, flavan-3-ols, anthocyanins and flavonoid polymers may contribute to better weight control.

They can also reduce our risk of a stroke! A 2011 study in the Journal Stroke found that for every 25 g/day of white colored fruits(like an apple) or vegetables someone ate per day, the risk of a stroke was reduced by 9%. 1 medium apple is typically about 180 g. In fact, the Iowa Women's Study studied 34,000 post-menopausal women and found apples, pears and wine to be 3 of the most protective foods against cardiovascular and coronary heart disease.

 The owner of my local farmer's Market snapped this picture of me with my "Loot" for their newsletter. 

The owner of my local farmer's Market snapped this picture of me with my "Loot" for their newsletter. 

As I said, fruits and vegetables are also nature's anti-aging products. They play a critical role in helping us feel and look fantastic. One reason why is they contain antioxidants and also water.

So, what exactly is an antioxidant? 

Antioxidants fight the free radicals in our body that can result from the oxidation process. Oxidation happens any time that oxygen interacts with a cell and is a natural part of life. For instance, when you cut up an apple and leave it on a plate for a bit, oxidation causes it to turn brown. 

Unfortunately, free radicals can occur in our body as a result of oxidation. Free radicals get their name because they are missing a molecule and they're free and on the hunt to pair up with another molecule. Because of this, these free radicals can go on to damage other cells, their membranes and their DNA. This can set off a chain reaction of damage to cells. These damaged cells can lead to disease, cancer, aging and inflammation. External sources like cigarette smoking, sunlight, pollution, and even pesticides in our foods are also causes of free radicals.

Antioxidants are our bodies defense system! They fight against these free radicals and the damage they can cause. Our bodies produce some antioxidants but our supply can get overwhelmed, especially when there are external causes. This is why we want to try and fortify our supply of antioxidants by consuming a variety of foods packed with antioxidants. 

Are antioxidants only found in fruits and vegetables?

Nope. You can also find them in legumes, whole grains and nuts. Legumes are beans, lentils and peanuts. Technically, a peanut isn't a nut.

In general, think brightly colored fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, tea, coffee, wine, spices, herbs and even dark chocolate.  Today, we're concentrating on fruits and veggies but start working to incorporate all these foods where you can.

What's a serving of a fruit or veggie? 

In general, a serving size for medium apple is about the size of a tennis ball. For canned, frozen or fresh fruit or vegetables, a 1/2 cup is typically a serving size. For leafy greens, approximately 3 cups raw or a 1/2 cup cooked. 

What colors should you strive to eat each day?

Aim for the colors of the rainbow! Dark green, pale green, white, orange, yellow, red and purple are all awesome. With spring's arrival, there are so many beautiful and fresh local fruits and vegetables heading our way.

Some people ask me about the sugar in fruit, remember, the sugar in fruit is not the same as added sugar because fruit is loaded with fiber, vitamins and minerals. 

Your homework this week is to eat 3 - 5 servings of fruit and 3 -5 servings of veggies each day. Aim for as many colors as possible. As usual, we'll check in at the end of the week and see how you feel.

Good luck with your homework! Don't forget to check out your shopping list.

I'll see you on Tuesday with your first quiz of the week!

All material provided here is for informational or educational purposes only. Please consult your physician regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to your symptoms or medical condition. Use or reproduction of text or photographs is prohibited without written permission from WellStyles Consulting®.