An apple a day keeps the doctor away. We’ve likely all heard this one! So where does that come from? When was the last time you ate one and is fruit REALLY so great?
It’s all in the phytochemicals and fiber!
Phyto what??? Fruits and vegetables have chemicals in them? Don’t worry, that’s just a fancy name for the micro nutrients, also known as vitamins and minerals found in plants. Phytochemicals, also sometimes called phytonutrients, range into the hundreds of thousands and more are being discovered daily which shows there’s still much to learn about the complexity and synergy provided to our bodies when we eat plants. Our bodies are complex. We NEED more than just vitamins A, C, E, D, the B’s like 6, 12 and folate and calcium, magnesium and potassium ; (the common ones found in a multi vitamin.) And, if you consider that just ONE apple has thousands of these phytochemicals, especially if you eat the skin, AND healthy carbs including fiber, it’s a fantastic place to start. Imagine if we ate even MORE colorful fruits and vegetables? Our bodies know what to do with these thousands of vitamins and minerals we need and can naturally get from FOOD and are SO thankful when we nourish ourselves in this synergistic way. We are then rewarded with more energy, stamina, mental clarity, a stronger immune system and overall long-term better health. We simply can’t get all THAT from a multivitamin that has only 15-20 of what can be mimicked and human made. Our bodies cannot be fooled.
Ok, so let’s talk fiber. Fiber is one of the essential reasons, besides the phytochemicals, that make fruits and vegetables SUPER important. I touched on it a bit in the Sugar blog but let’s look a little deeper. There are two kinds of fiber; soluble and insoluble. Both play important roles in overall wellness but just taking an insoluble fiber-based laxative every day won’t quite cut it. Fiber from food ALONG WITH ADEQUATE WATER consumption, helps with healthy elimination, (aka poop 😉) moderating dietary cholesterol, reduces the risk of diverticulitis, having a healthy microbiome, reducing fatigue, bloating, headaches, candida overgrowth, eczema, acne, other skin conditions, depression, anxiety and more. The gut (microbiome) isn’t called the second brain for no reason. It is a vital part of overall health and when that’s out of whack, everything else falls like dominoes. More on the microbiome in a future blog. That said, if you aren’t used to consuming a lot of vegetables, fruits, or whole grains, go easy when introducing more to avoid gas, bloating and diarrhea until your body adjusts. It takes time for your healthy gut bacteria to grow in population to break down the soluble fiber. Most importantly, listen to your body. It will guide you.
If we want to have more energy, a clearer mind and to get healthier overall, a wide colorful variety of 7-13 servings of fruits and vegetables will support the foundational nutrition we need. Obviously, one apple isn’t enough but it IS “raw and fresh” and that is ideally what we want most of our food to be so it’s a great place to start. Remember the Traffic Light Eating system? The green light foods are ideally raw and fresh fruits and vegetables. We start off by trying to eat as many as possible of the green light foods, fill your plate and then add in the yellow foods which are usually higher in protein and fats. If you are not familiar with the Traffic Light Eating system, click here ➡️Traffic Light Eating to get your FREE poster and the FREE newsletter. It’s an awesome, simple place to start eating better when you don’t know where to start.
We need HOW MANY servings???
Yes, 7-13 servings is a lot! But why so many? Great question! Let’s start from the beginning…Think about where your produce is coming from. If you grow your own or get it from a local farmer, you know how fresh and delicious your produce is. The lettuce is green and sweet, the melons are sweeter and juicier, the cucumbers are crunchy, the corn actually has flavor! While we tend to grow the same crops and don’t have a super wide variety, it is, however, more likely to be nutrient dense. When food is left to ripen on the vine, picked at its peak and then eaten within a few hours or day, you are getting the maximum nutrition from that produce in contrast to a commercially grown crop that is grown in depleted soil, picked before ripe, coated with waxes and fungicides to prolong life, shipped or trucked thousands of miles to sit on a store shelf to then go home to sit in the fridge to be eaten or tossed when we forget we have it or realized it just doesn’t taste all that great. This commercial path can take weeks or if we are talking about carrots, months, by the time we get it into our bodies. It may be raw but not exactly fresh. That said, it’s still healthier to munch on crunchy raw carrots and ranch than a bag of ranch chips. You get the idea. It’s all about availability, choices and moderation.
Are you having a hard time tracking where you are at with getting 7-13 servings of fruits and vegetables? I’ll be honest, I thought I was doing MUCH better than I was! When I actually started to count what I was eating, I was a little more than embarrassed, especially as a health coach. On a daily basis, I was eating 3-4 servings, some days a little more when I could plan or be home, other days, even less 😕 and with very little variety. My kids were sitting at 0-2 servings and even less variety of colors! Zero to two servings is the national average! I KNEW I had to do better but let’s be super honest, it’s not easy. Sure we can do awesome on a day when we start with a “loaded” shake (by loaded I mean a plant based protein shake with added fresh or frozen kale, blueberries, etc.) and then a loaded salad with lots of colorful vegetables and then half a plate of vegetables for dinner but that’s seldom the reality. At least not for me on a CONSISTENT basis. Consistency is where the long term energy, stamina, mental clarity and overall health is. This led me to choose to add a whole food supplement that is backed by research by over 41 gold standard studies. This was 5 years ago and I haven’t looked back. More bioavailable and natural for the body to use than human made multivitamins, it was a game changer for my energy level, sinuses, digestion, skin, asthma, (I no longer use a daily preventive medicine) health overall and my kids’ immune systems. You can get yours here Juice Plus and if you have kids, get it free for them too. Let me be clear, Juice Plus doesn’t replace fruits and vegetables, we still need to try and eat as many colors as we can, but it does bridge the rather large gap between what we need to eat and what we actually eat on a consistent, daily basis.
If you want to keep track of how you are doing with servings, I have an awesome resource to help you! Dr. Greger, physician, author of “How not to Die,” advocate for a more plant based diet and founder of https://nutritionfacts.org/ has an awesome free app Daily Dozen App for iPhones or Daily Dozen App for Android
Dr. Greger also has a short video on The Traffic Light Eating system explained with a slightly different perspective. Watch it here. Dr. Greger’s site has a PLETHORA of evidence based videos and articles so even if you’ve only been thinking about moving to more of a plant based diet, he’s got you covered.