Fruits and vegetables contain many vitamins and minerals that are good for your health. These include vitamins A (beta-carotene), C and E, magnesium, zinc, phosphorous and folic acid. You will get the most health benefits and protection against disease if you eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables are low in fat, salt and sugar. They are a good source of dietary fibre. As part of a well-balanced, regular diet and a healthy, active lifestyle, a high intake of fruit and vegetables can help you to:
Reduce obesity and maintain a healthy weight
Lower your cholesterol
Lower your blood pressure
Vegetables and fruit contain phytochemicals, or plant chemicals. These biologically active substances can help to protect you from some diseases. Scientific research shows that if you regularly eat lots of fruit and vegetables, you have a lower risk of:
Type 2 diabetes
Heart (cardiovascular) disease – when fruits and vegetables are eaten as food, not taken as supplements
Cancer – some forms of cancer, later in life
High blood pressure (hypertension).
Types of fruit
Apples and pears
Citrus – oranges, grapefruits, mandarins and limes
Stone fruit – nectarines, apricots, peaches and plums
Tropical and exotic – bananas and mangoes
Berries – strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, kiwifruit and passion fruit
Melons – watermelons, rock melons and honeydew melons
Tomatoes and avocados.
Types of vegetables
Leafy green – lettuce, spinach and silver beet
Cruciferous – cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and broccoli
Marrow – pumpkin, cucumber and zucchini
Root – potato, sweet potato and yam
Edible plant stem – celery and asparagus
Alliums – onion, garlic and shallot.
Colours of fruits and vegetables
Try to eat a rainbow of colourful fruits and vegetables every day to get the full range of health benefits. For example:
Red foods – like tomatoes and watermelon. These contain lycopene, which is thought to be important for fighting prostate cancer and heart disease.
Green vegetables – like spinach and kale. These contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which may help protect against age-related eye disease.
Blue and purple foods – like blueberries and eggplant. These contain anthocyanins, which may help protect the body from cancer.
White foods – like cauliflower. These contain sulforaphane and may also help protect against some cancers.
Selecting fruits and vegetables
Try to buy fruits and vegetables that are in season, and choose for freshness and quality. You should:
Eat with the seasons – this is nature’s way of making sure our bodies get a healthy mix of nutrients and plant chemicals.
Try something new – try new recipes and buy new fruit or vegetables as part of your weekly shopping.
Fruit and vegetable serving suggestions for your family’s health
Keep snack-size fruit and vegetable portions easily accessible in your fridge.
Keep fresh fruit on the bench or table.
Add fruit and vegetables to your favourite family recipes or as additions to your usual menus.
Use the colour and texture of a variety of fruit and vegetables to add interest to your meals.
Think up new ways to serve fruits and vegetables.
Some simple ways to serve fruits and vegetables include
Fruit and vegetable salads
Vegetable or meat-and-vegetable stir-fries
Raw fruit and vegetables
Limit fruit juice, as it does not contain the same amount of nutrients as fresh fruit. It also contains a lot of sugars. These sugars are not necessarily good for your health, even though they are ‘natural’. Instead, have a drink of water and a serve of fruit.
Suggestions to get the best out of your fruit and vegetables include
Eat raw vegetables and fruits if possible.
Try fruit or vegetables pureed into smoothies.
Use a sharp knife to cut fresh fruits to avoid bruising.
Cut off only the inedible parts of vegetables – sometimes the best nutrients are found in the skin, just below the skin or in the leaves.
Use stir-fry, grill, microwave, bake or steam methods with non-stick cookware and mono-unsaturated oils.
Do not overcook, to reduce nutrient loss.
Serve meals with vegetable pestos, salsas, chutneys and vinegars in place of sour cream, butter and creamy sauces.
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