Find it in:
|Vitamin C||Oranges, grapefruit, cantaloupe, kiwi, bell peppers and broccoli|
|Folate||Avocado, oranges, asparagus, bean sprouts, beets, romaine lettuce and spinach|
|Beta-carotene||Apricots, cantaloupe, mango, nectarines, papaya, peaches, carrots, kale, pumpkin, spinach and squash|
|Lutein||Grapes, kiwi, broccoli, kale, peppers, spinach and Swiss chard|
|Anthocyanins||Berries, cherries, cranberries and prunes|
|Cruciferous compounds||Bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, rutabaga and turnips|
|Lypocene||Pink grapefruit, watermelon, fresh tomatoes, and processed tomato products like pasta sauce and salsa|
|Sulphur compounds||Onions and garlic|
Vegetables and fruit contain vitamins, minerals, and thousands of protective plant chemicals called phytochemicals. Antioxidants protect the body from the harmful effects of molecules called free radicals. Free radicals attack cells, promoting cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Vegetables and fruit contain carbohydrates that fuel our brains and bodies so that we have energy to do all the things we do each day. They also include dietary fibre that helps prevent constipation, diverticulitis, certain cancers and cardiovascular disease.
When choosing vegetables and fruit, select a variety to get the vast array of nutrients your body needs. You often hear that deeply coloured vegetables and fruit are best. While richly coloured kale, sweet potatoes, oranges, and blueberries score high, foods such as bananas and garlic are wonderful too.
Dietitians of Canada
Canadian Diabetes Association:
Heart and Stroke Foundation
Canadian Cancer Society
Canada’s Food Guide
Any healthy diet focuses on eating more vegetables and fruit. The Canadian Diabetes Association recommends that half your dinner plate be covered in vegetables. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is equally loaded with vegetables and fruit. Broccoli, spinach, sweet potatoes and regular potatoes have potassium that protects our hearts. Check out the information and cookbooks available through the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian Diabetes Association, and Dietitians of Canada (see sidebar).
Vegetables and fruit are very low in calories and are a dieter’s best friends. Produce is mostly water, so has fewer calories per bite compared to denser foods. Adding extra veggies to meals and snacks makes you feel full longer. For instance, fill up without adding calories by loading your sandwich with lettuce, tomato, sliced red pepper, or shredded carrots, and adding less high-calorie items like cheese and meat.
Enjoy fruit for snacks and dessert. If you want a real treat, look no further than a beautiful bowl of strawberries, a perfectly ripe pear or banana, or slices of crisp apple. Experiment with grilled pineapple or kale chips for a healthy treat.
Recent research has found no evidence that organic and regular vegetables and fruit differ significantly in nutrient content. However, people buy organic for reasons other than nutrient value. Organic produce is grown without commonly used pesticides and fertilizers, which could benefit both health and the environment.
You may want to check the US Environmental Working Group’s list of the best and worst produce with respect to pesticides (www.foodnews.org/fulllist.shtml). Among the cleanest are onions, avocado, asparagus, frozen peas and frozen corn, cabbage and broccoli. Among the worst are celery, strawberries, sweet bell peppers, spinach, lettuce and potatoes. No matter what, you still must wash organic produce before you use it.
Try to keep the organic issue in perspective. The many studies highlighting the health benefits of vegetables and fruit were done on regular produce, not organic.
Number of servings per day
2 to 3 years
4 to 8 years
9 to 13 years
14 to 18 years
|7 servings for females
8 servings for males
19 to 50 years
|7 to 8 servings for females
8 to 10 servings for males
A combination of raw and cooked vegetables and fruit is best. Lightly cooking carrots or kale will actually release nutrients that are tightly bound in the cell walls. Since vitamin C and B vitamins are water-soluble, foods like red peppers, tomatoes, and broccoli should be lightly steamed, stir-fried, or microwaved in a bit of water. Tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C when eaten fresh. However, heat is needed to get the highest amount of lycopene, the nutrient that protects against prostate cancer. So bring on the stewed tomatoes and salsa!
Some people are very sceptical about frozen or canned vegetables and fruit. Still, they are worth considering. These foods have been flash-processed and can be just as healthy as their fresh counterparts. Go easy on frozen vegetables that come in a sauce, as this adds extra fat and sodium. Buy canned fruit in water. Choose low-sodium canned vegetables, or rinse them with fresh water before using. The bottom line – get your fruit and vegetables however you can. Frozen or canned is better than none at all.
Want your children to eat more vegetables? Do not get frustrated. Picky eating is normal for children, who naturally approach unfamiliar situations (including trying new foods) slowly.
Some children are hyper-sensitive to taste and texture, but can learn to like a variety of foods if they are served regularly and without pressure. Hiding or camouflaging vegetables in foods (such as pureed beet chocolate cake) may work in some families, but not others. Of course, introducing children to the real, delicious taste of a variety of healthy vegetables and fruit is ideal. Kids will love baked sweet potato fries, papaya in salad, and fruit kabobs.
Canada’s Food Guide servings of vegetables and fruit*
Source: Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide
Research has shown that if you eat the recommended amounts of vegetables and fruit in Canada’s Food Guide, you do not need to take a vitamin and mineral supplement. Whole foods contain fibre, antioxidants and phytochemicals that work together to keep you healthy. If you do use a supplement, take a multivitamin rather than a single mega dose of one particular nutrient.
Whether you use conventional produce or organic, food safety is key. Handle produce with clean hands and clean utensils, on clean work surfaces. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly under cool running water. It is not necessary to use a specialty produce detergent. Use a vegetable brush to scrub skins that are tough, as with cantaloupe, oranges, and potatoes. Ready-to-eat bagged, pre-washed leafy greens do not have to be washed again. Place peeled vegetables and fruit on clean plates and platters to avoid contamination from other foods. Refrigerate fresh vegetables and fruit within two hours of cutting them.
For more detail, go to Health Canada’s website and search ‘Safe Handling of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables.’
Supermarkets and farmers’ markets are bursting with a wonderful array of fruit and vegetables. Ask staff to help if you are unsure about purchasing something new. Try different ways of cooking or serving items, like a fruit smoothie with blueberries, oven-roasted asparagus, barbequed corn, butternut squash soup, pizza loaded with veggies, or grilled fruit. All are delicious, nutritious and good for everyone in your family!