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Color your plate, improve your health

Chances are, at one time or another you’ve looked down at your dinner plate and noticed a shockingly beige theme. Chicken, rice and corn. Fish and potatoes. Fettuccine alfredo and garlic bread. Such monochromatic meals not only lack color, they lack valuable nutrients. Incorporating more fruits and vegetables to your diet will make mealtime more vibrant and nutritional.

For starters, many fruits and veggies lower your risk of heart disease and stroke, have been shown effective in lowering blood pressure, and have been linked to cancer protection. Your body needs the vitamins and minerals in them for everything from healthy hair and skin to good digestion.

The United States Department of Agriculture and Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate both suggest filling half your plate with fruits and veggies. It might seem like a tall and unappealing order, but there are more options out there than salads and apple slices.

Fresh, frozen, canned, dried. Don’t fret about form; just find ways to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. (Some say frozen fruits and vegetables may be even more nutritious since the freezing process retains nutrients lost between harvesting and eating.)

Here are some of the best fruits and veggies for your body:

5 fantastic veggies

Broccoli – Packed with dietary fiber and vitamins, A, C and K, this cruciferous vegetable often makes super-food lists due to its diversity in nutrients

Brussels sprouts – These protein-rich little cabbage-lookalikes also provide a great source of vitamin D and folic acid for pregnant women

Red peppers – Crisp and colorful, red peppers are excellent source of vitamins C and A, as well as carotenoids, which enhance immune system function and protect your cells from damaging free radicals

Spinach – Another carotenoid powerhouse, spinach is also rich in iron and calcium

Sweet potatoes – Swap out spuds for these nutrient-dense veggies, which are loaded with vitamins A and C, fiber, complex carbohydrates, iron and calcium

5 fabulous fruits

Bananas – Considered the best fresh-fruit source of potassium, a mineral that plays an important role in metabolism and body functions

Blueberries – Rich in free radical–fighting antioxidents, blueberries are also high in fiber

Cherries – Another antioxident-filled fruit, cherries also contain melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that regulates sleep; they are also known for anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties

Oranges – Likely the first food to come to mind when you hear “vitamin C,” oranges also provide folate and potassium

Strawberries – Not only do they offer more vitamin C than any other berry, strawberries are also a great source of fiber; ½ a cup offers more fiber than a slice of whole-wheat bread

Try to add fruits and vegetables to each meal; strive for a variety of colors. You might not even need to change how you cook, just add them to the dishes you already make—for example, cereal, pasta sauce, stir fry, sandwiches, eggs. Explore your produce aisle, and try some new varieties. Not sure how to use them? Go online to find some new recipes. Whatever you do, be creative. In the end, your body will thank you!

Posted in: Healthy Eating

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