| Chapter One 6
It is important to eat a wide variety of fruits. While
many vegetables are naturally somewhat bitter in
flavor, fruits taste sweeter because of their fruit sugar or
fructose. Young children often enjoy eating fruit more
than vegetables. As with vegetables, eating different
colored fruits each day contributes to a healthy diet,
because different fruits provide different nutrients.
For example, bananas are a rich source of potassium,
while citrus fruits are an excellent source of vitamin
C. Deeply colored berries and cherries contain antioxi-
dants and other phytochemicals. Whole or cut-up fruit
is more nutritious than fruit juice. Whole fruits are
richer in dietary fiber and lower in total sugar per serv-
ing than juice. When possible, choose fresh or frozen
(without added sugar) fruit over canned fruit. Canned
fruit without added sugar and packed in its own juice
can also contribute to a healthy diet.
Here are some ways to increase fruit and vegeta-
ble intake (for all ages):
• Add blueberries, bananas, or dried fruit to hot
or cold breakfast cereals.
• Make a fruit smoothie for breakfast or for a
• Add berries, dried fruit, or chopped apples to
muffin and pancake batters.
• Top French toast with apple sauce.
• Stuff an omelet with sautéed vegetables, such
as onions, peppers, mushrooms, and zucchini.
• Top sandwiches with extra veggies, such as lettuce, peppers, tomato
slices, grated carrots, or raw, shredded beets.
• Keep a bowl of sliced fruits, such as melons or pineapple, in the
fridge for quick and easy snacking.
• Add chopped vegetables to pasta sauces or use them as pizza
• Grill vegetables, such as eggplant, summer squash, zucchini, peppers,
and asparagus, for a tasty and healthy summer cookout side dish.
In addition to nutrients like vitamins and minerals,
many foods derived from plants contain antioxi-
dants and phytochemicals . these substances are
not necessary for our survival the way vitamins
and minerals are, but they are thought to contrib-
ute greatly to preventing disease and improving
health . phytochemicals are compounds that are
found in plants (phyto means “plant” in greek)
and protect the plant from insects, microorgan-
isms, and sunlight . In humans, phytochemicals
are thought to help prevent chronic diseases .
many phytochemicals are associated with plant
pigments, which is one of the reasons people
are urged to consume a variety of colored fruits
and vegetables . scientists have identified several
thousand different phytochemicals and expect to
find more . some phytochemicals are antioxidants .
Antioxidants are compounds that neutralize free
radicals, which are charged particles that our
bodies produce as a result of normal metabolism .
Free radicals are also produced by pollution and
exposure to sunlight . If they are not neutralized
by antioxidants, they can cause damage to our
cells, leading to diseases like cancer and cardio-
vascular disease . some vitamins and minerals also
function as antioxidants—vitamin c and selenium
are good examples . It’s also believed that the
way phytochemicals interact with each other and
with other nutrients in food increases the positive
effects they have on our health . there are too many
phytochemicals to make it practical to ingest them
in supplement form, so the best way to get these
important compounds is by eating a wide variety of
plant-based foods .
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