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As adults, it’s time to take responsibility – and realize that our parents may have been onto something when they said to finish our greens. Unfortunately, too many have us haven’t taken that advice to heart. Recent studies have shown that only 1 in 10 Americans meet the federal fruit and vegetable recommendations. You usually need 1½ to 2 cups per day for fruit and 2 to 3 cups for vegetables. Yet only 9% of adults eat enough vegetables, and 12% even get enough fruit. If you’re one of those adults skipping past the salad bar, it’s time to take action.
There’s a reason you should care about fruits and vegetables. Many important vitamins and minerals are in these food types more than others. Potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A, and folate are just some of the more common nutrients that you can mainly get from plant-based food, and are beneficial to the body. For example, potassium can help maintain blood pressure. Folate builds up the red blood cells while helps stave off birth defects in pregnant women. Vitamin A promotes healthier eyes and skin, vitamin E protects from free-radicals, and vitamin C supports healthier gums and helps the body absorb iron.
One other vital nutrient is fiber, and you get plenty of that from fruits and vegetables. Fiber is perfect for weight management, as it helps you feel full faster, while also lowering your blood cholesterol. It is also important for a healthy digestive system for regular bowel movements. Fruits and vegetables are also quite low in fat, sodium, and calories, another great use for weight management.
But perhaps one of the most important aspects of this food group is their richness in phytonutrients – which are certain extracts that are only available in fruits and vegetables.
Phytonutrients are known as the protective effects on fruits and vegetables, and many have shown their worth in helping ward off health complications in our own bodies. These phytonutrients are what gives fruits and vegetables their taste, scent, and color. As many work like antioxidants, fruits and vegetables can very well protect your body from free-radicals and keep your cells healthy. Some examples of phytonutrients are:
Carotenoids: Present in carrots, broccoli, and spinach, carotenoids are antioxidants that give these foods their bright colors. This phytonutrient is a boon to the immune system, while also showing positive impact for good eye health.
Capsaicin: Peppers are rich in this nutrient and have shown benefits in reducing clotting for better heart health.
Curcumin: A phytonutrient that is rich in the turmeric spice. It is an anti-inflammatory agent, as well as antioxidant, that is commonly used in joint health.