“Fruit & Veggies – More Matters” – that’s the slogan promoting the consumption of produce in the U.S., but I don’t think people have gotten the message. In most states, fewer than 15% of adults eat five servings of fruit/veggies a day. The CDC and the Produce for Better Health Foundation would like us all to eat a lot more fruits and vegetables. And to encourage us, September is designated as “Fruit & Veggies – More Matters” month.
Usually when I think about eating more fruits and vegetables, I think of the peak of summer – June and July – when I can get fresh blueberries, peaches, corn and luscious tomatoes. But there is actually a lot of tradition and evidence for making September the month for establishing new habits, especially the habit of eating more produce.
September is a time of new beginnings. It is the start of the school year and the start of the religious year in some faith traditions. September is also a traditional harvest month. It signals the end of summer and the start of fall. Times of seasonal change can throw many people off-balance or cause illness. That’s why acupuncturists recommend a treatment at the change of seasons, and why Yoga Journal magazine is offering a seasonal de-tox plan in its September issue. So it makes sense to use this month to re-set our eating habits as well.
The great thing about the “More matters” campaign is that it’s all about eating more of something rather than giving something up. Who wouldn’t rather hear “yes” than “no”? In fact, there are several popular weight-loss programs based on the concept of eating more of the right foods, rather than focusing as much on giving up the bad foods. The idea seems to be that if we give ourselves the nutrients that our bodies need and want, we will gradually crave fewer of the toxic foods that are harming us.
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association even indirectly supports the “more matters” concept in terms of lowering bad cholesterol. It found that adding cholesterol-lowering foods to people’s diets resulted in significantly greater reductions in LDL cholesterol than reducing fat in the diet did.
Why do more fruits and veggies matter? There is evidence to show that a diet rich in them can help prevent heart disease, bone loss, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and even some types of cancer. Most of that action comes from phytochemicals, compounds that are made by plants. Antioxidants, which clean up “free radicals” in cells, are one important type of phytochemical.
Although summer fruits and veggies like corn and peaches are almost gone, we can enjoy cranberries, beets, broccoli and cauliflower, as well as these tasty treats in the next couple of months:
- Raspberries – besides being tasty, raspberries contain a phytochemical that helps prevent cancer
- Apples – have vitamin C and other antioxidants that help prevent cancer; plus the fiber makes you feel full, which can help with weight loss
- Pumpkins – contain carotenoids, a type of antioxidant; lutein, which is an antioxidant especially helpful to the eyes; plus iron, zinc and fiber
- Chard, and other leafy greens – important for their carotenoids, lutein, iron and vitamins C & K
If you need help with knowing how many servings to eat each day, how to buy fresh fruits and vegetables on a budget or with how to cook them, check out these web sites:
- Choosemyplate.gov has an online calculator for determining your specific nutritional needs.
- For information on buying fresh produce on a budget, click here.
- A recipe page allows you to select the type of meal and the fruit or vegetable you want to use, and provides a recipe for it.