How to Meet your Nutritional Requirement of 7-13 Fruits and Vegetables a Day

In food, holistic health, lifestyle, nutrition, wellness on April 2, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Blueberries are full of vitamins and antioxidants. Try to eat a handful a day.

A while ago I had a conversation with someone and, when she found out I was a nutrition and wellness coach, one of her first comments was: “Oh, you must advise eating only organic produce.”

“My response would probably surprise you,” I said.

You see, experts agree on one thing:  We need 7-13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.  And the more colorful the assortment, the better–because each color has a different phytonutrient and it’s the phytonutrients and antioxidants that keep us healthy.  Antioxidants fight free radicals–those things that are responsible for aging and disease.  (The best way to explain a free radical is to compare it to rust–and what does THAT do to a car or boat??)

But we all know that our soil is now depleted and doesn’t contain many nutrients.  It’s not unusual to find wilted and brown produce in the markets, especially in those places that feel the necessity to hose it down every hour.  Even organic can be flown in, sit on trucks, sit in our refrigerators and oxidize. (I love this story:  I was walking through a well-known establishment and a sign read:  “Organic Tomatoes!”  Since I planned on making tomato sauce that evening, I was pretty excited.  As I got closer, though, in tiny type it said:  “Flown in from Mexico.”  HUH?

How do you get quality produce:

  • Buy locally grown.  If it’s locally grown, you’ll know it’s in season–and hasn’t spent much time on a truck or airplane.  BUT, you should still try to talk to the farmers to make sure their farming methods are responsible, and ask them about their philosophy on pesticides. If you’re lucky enough to live near a greenmarket, the farmers will be only too happy to chat you up.
  • Frozen sometimes gets a bad rap:  I live in the Northeast and this summer, when we were bracing for a hurricane, I noticed the supermarket shelves were depleted early on.  And what was left was completely disgusting.  In that case, I do recommend frozen; if it’s flash frozen, that means it gets frozen soon after it’s picked. But try to get a “clean” one, with no chemicals.  For instance, if you’re buying frozen broccoli, you want the label to read, “broccoli and water”–NOT “broccoli, water and a lot of things you can’t even pronounce.
  • Other:  While it’s always more desirable to eat your fruits and veggies, sometimes we just can’t get in the 7-13 servings.  So we need to “bridge the gap.”  And if we’re a parent, we’ll worry about getting that amount into our children.  In the case, you can take a capsule–but you’ll want it to be a “whole food” and not labeled as a supplemen,t and you want to be sure it’s certified and guaranteed by an  outside, third-party food certification company.

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