Preventive Maintenance: Fantastic Fruits and Vegetables

by Karen Bowen

Summer! The fields are full of fresh fruits and vegetables. This is the season to enjoy these foods that add colour to our diets. Fresh fruits and vegetables look good, taste good and keep us feeling good.

Most nutritionists recommend between five-nine servings of fresh fruits and vegetables every day. What makes a serving? It may be smaller than you think. A large salad, for example, may be four servings, depending on the size and ingredients.

A typical serving is: 1/2 cup of most fruits and vegetables (including cooked beans such as: black, kidney pinto, or garbanzo); one cup of lettuce or leafy green vegetables such as: romaine, spinach, or arugula; one medium-size fruit; 1/4 cup of dried fruit such as: raisins, cranberries, or prunes; or a six ounce can of any 100 per cent fruit or vegetable juice. So, you can see that it should be easy to eat the recommended five-nine servings, especially this time of year, when roadside stands are filled with freshly picked produce, ready for eating.

Each day, we all need at least five servings (three vegetables/two fruits). Men, active women and children should have seven (four vegetables/three fruits). Active men and teenaged boys should have nine (five vegetables/four fruits).

Why not just take a vitamin pill? Why worry about eating fruits and vegetables? Because five-nine servings of colourful fruits and vegetables each day will keep you healthier. A combination of these deeply hued fruits and vegetables provides the widest range of vitamins, minerals, fiber, enzymes and phytochemicals that your body needs to stay healthy, keep high energy levels, protect against the effects of aging, and reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. Pills and supplements are good insurance, but they don’t include the complete combination found in fresh produce.

When thinking about a balance of nutrients, think about colour: blue/purple, green, white, yellow/orange, and red. Just like a combination of colour creates an interesting picture, a beautiful scene, or a stunning paint job, a combination of colour in your diet creates a balance of health. Each colour contains specific nutrients, so mix them up for the best results.

Blue and purple fruits reduce the risk of some cancers, improve urinary tract health, improve memory and slow your body’s aging processes. They are full of various phytochemicals such as anthocyanins and phenolics, antioxidants which are linked to anti-aging.

Get blue/purple with some of these fruits everyday: blackberries, blueberries, black currants, dried plums, elderberries, purple figs, purple grapes, plums, and raisins. And these vegetables: purple asparagus, purple cabbage, purple carrots, eggplant, purple Belgian endive, purple peppers, potatoes (purple fleshed), and black salsify.

Green fruits and vegetables are also important. They contain varying amounts of potent phytochemicals such as lutein and indoles, with their potential antioxidant, health-promoting benefits. Get green with some of these fruits everyday: avocados, green apples (eat the skin), green grapes, honeydew, kiwifruit, limes, and green pears. And these vegetables: artichokes, arugula, asparagus, broccoflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, green beans, green cabbage, celery, Chayote squash, cucumbers, endive, leafy greens, leeks, lettuce, green onion, okra, peas, green pepper, snow peas, sugar snap peas, spinach, watercress, and zucchini.

Don’t forget about white, tan and brown fruits and vegetables which are also full of phytochemicals. Some of these fruits are: bananas, brown pears, dates, white nectarines, and white peaches. Some of these vegetables are: cauliflower, garlic, ginger, Jerusalem artichoke, kohlrabi, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, potatoes, shallots and white corn.

Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables are well known for their antioxidants such as vitamin C as well as carotenoids and bioflavonoids. Every day include orange and yellow fruits, such as: yellow apples, apricots, cantaloupe, cape gooseberries, yellow figs, grapefruit, golden kiwifruit, lemon, mangoes, nectarines, oranges, papayas, peaches, yellow pears, persimmons, pineapples, tangerines, and yellow watermelon. And vegetables like these: yellow beets, butternut squash, carrots, yellow peppers, yellow potatoes, pumpkin, rutabagas, yellow summer squash, sweet corn, sweet potatoes and yellow winter squash.

The red group of fruits and vegetables contain specific phytochemicals, including lycopene and anthocyanins. Get your reds every day by eating some of these fruits: red apples (remember the skin), blood oranges, cherries, cranberries, red grapes, pink/red grapefruit, red pears, pomegranates, raspberries, strawberries, and watermelon. And vegetables such as: beets, red peppers, radishes, and tomatoes.

This season, the possible combinations of fresh fruit and vegetable colours are endless. Don’t let your summer meals become dull and dreary. Brighten up your plate, and colour yourself healthy.

– Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant and she can be reached by e-mail at

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