There's one thing that almost all scientists, nutritionists, and health experts agree on: Eating more fruits and vegetables is a good thing! Lower rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cognitive decline, and even reduced body weight and inflammation are associated with eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet.
I'm sure you've heard the "eat more fruits and vegetables" refrain over and over again. However, despite knowing the positive health benefits from eating this diet, many of us struggle to get enough fruits and vegetables on a consistent basis. We often fall short of the daily recommended servings. It could be lack of motivation or an inability to find creative ways to include fruits and vegetables in our meals.
Whatever the reasons may be, there are some easy ways to boost your intake of fruits and vegetables and reap the amazing health benefits. Here are my six favorite tips:
1. Vote for variety.
Eating different fruits and vegetables on a regular basis will provide a broad array of different phytonutrients for a spectrum of functions in the body.
Every three days, make sure you are rotating your plant foods. Doing so will also help to reduce food intolerances and allergies, prevent food ruts, and allow you to get the full complement of many nutrients.
2. Choose plants to save your money and health.
A recent study found that older adults who spent their money on fruits and vegetables had significantly fewer hospital days and total medical costs, whereas those who spent their money on animal-derived foods had a higher number of hospital days and costs, as well as total medical costs.
When shopping in your local grocery store or market, give yourself time to enjoy and explore the fruit and vegetable section. Engage your senses, and allow yourself to indulge in the beauty of the spectrum of fruits and vegetables in your cart.
Allow your meals to be inspired by the rainbow of plant-based foods instead of plastic-wrapped meats or neon-colored junk food.
3. Go beyond fruits and vegetables to fill the gap.
Phytonutrients, the compounds that give plants their colors and provide many health benefits, are found in more than fruits and veggies. If you can, broaden your horizon to other plant foods like nuts, seeds, non-gluten whole grains, sprouted legumes, herbs, and spices.
4. Eat wisely.
Choose your fruits and vegetables wisely! Some foods are chock-full of health-boosting phytonutrients, which have multiple effects and functions in the body.
For example, turmeric has been documented to have dozens of healing actions! Try including some of the following phytonutrient superstars in your meal:
- Sweet potato
5. Start your day with a smoothie for weight-loss benefits.
If you are concerned with your weight, you'll want to be sure you are eating enough plant foods.
One study found that overweight adults eat fewer phytonutrients, and in a recent study from this month, phytochemical-rich foods were shown to be associated with lower body mass index and waist circumference. One great way to pack in the fruits and vegetables is to start your day with a rainbow smoothie. Here's one of my favorite recipes:
- 1 small red apple, sliced (leave peel on)
- 1 small carrot, scrubbed and diced (with peel)
- 4 pink grapefruit sections
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½-inch piece fresh ginger, chopped
- 6 red raspberries
- ½ cup unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
- 1 scoop protein powder of your choice
- Water and ice as needed
Put all the liquid and fruits and vegetables into a high-speed blender first, followed by the dry ingredients, then blend everything until a fluid consistency is reached. Add more water if needed. Drink immediately.
Harness happiness in your meals
There are now a handful of studies suggesting that eating fruits and vegetables is associated with one's mood and behavior. One recent study found that eating fruits and vegetables led to increased happiness, life satisfaction, and well-being.
To add an extra serving of happiness to your meals, practice gratitude while eating fruits and vegetables. Keep yourself aware of your food as you eat, and be thankful for the chain of nature and people that brought the beautiful fruits and vegetables to your plate.
Hopefully, these tidbits will motivate you to get the broad spectrum of color through the kingdom of plant-based foods!