Eat More Fruits and Vegetables!

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Only about 25% of school children, teens and adults consume the recommended levels 5 – one half cup servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Consuming 5 or more servings a day of a wide range of vegetables daily have been associated with better health and significantly lower levels of many health problems such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, many cancers, macular degeneration, dementia and diabetes.

Vegetables can be consumed many ways including eating by hand, in salads, as boiled, baked or stir fried vegetables, in soups and in meat and fish dishes.   Fruits can be eaten by hand, cut up in salads, and added to yogurt or smoothies.  Note: Fresh fruit is better than fruit juice since most of the fiber and much of the phytochemicals are removed when making fruit juice.  Commercial fruit juice is frequently contaminated with molds.  Dried fruit is often contaminated with molds as well.  Avoid fruit and fruit juice for which sugar, corn syrup or honey have been added.  Throw out all fruit with obvious rot or mold growth.

Growing organic vegetables and fruits at home is a fun way to save money. March is an excellent time to plan a vegetable garden.  Frost hearty vegetables like lettuce, spinach, radish, peas, onions, broccoli and cabbage can be planted as seeds or plants as soon as soil can be worked in the spring. These vegetables will survive mild frosts in March and April. After all danger of fruit is passed, warm weather vegetables like sweet corn, beans, tomatoes, peppers, okra and melon cans be planted.

Leaves, grass clippings and kitchen scraps such as egg shells and fruit peels can be added to the garden soil at any time to provide free organic fertilizer.  Gardens may require watering when seeds are germinating and during dry periods.

Spring is also an excellent time to plant fruit trees.  Semi-dwarf apples and pears are only about 8 to 12 feet high but can yield hundreds of pounds of fruit annually in less than 10 years after planting.

Folks who live in apartments can often grow vegetables in community garden plots.

Numerous studies have also reported that children and teens who participate in home or school based gardening problems have significantly higher levels of fruit and vegetable consumption.

Check for local farmer’s markets.  Farmers markets are often offer organic fruits and vegetables at reasonable prices.  Inexpensive vegetables can often be purchased in Hispanic markets and at warehouse stores like Aldi.

A good review of the effects of community gardens, farmers markets and home/school based gardening programs for children is found in the March 2010 Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

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