Summer is the optimum time to add more fruits and veggies to your diet. It's a healthful transition that need not be painful. In fact, it can be quite simple and a whole lot of fun. This recipe for Strawberry Peach Green Tea Ice Pops, for example, is a unique and fun way to enjoy fresh fruit that appeals to adults and kids alike.
We all know by now that eating fruit provides us with numerous health benefits. As part of an overall healthy diet, fruit reduces our risk of developing chronic diseases and provides us with essential nutrients to help us not just survive, but thrive!
I have been enjoying fresh fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, bananas, nectarines and plums this summer. So, just in case you need a little nudge to add more fruits to your daily diet, I thought I'd share a little refresher on the benefits of eating fruit. Here goes:
5 Benefits of Eating Fruit
1. Fruit hydrates.
It's so important to drink more water in summer. Temperatures can be extremely hot and if you're active or outdoors for any period of time, you are likely losing hydration through sweat. When you're grabbing that trusty water container before you hit the road, grab a piece of fruit too. Check out this article about fruits (and veggies) that may hydrate you even more than water or sport drinks. This is a good read for parents too, if you have kids (like my son) who are drawn to those icky sports drinks.
2. Fruit is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals.
Fruit isn't just pretty - these colourful beauties also provide vital nutrients like potassium, vitamin C and folic acid (take note if you're trying to get pregnant - get your folic acid intake going now). Vitamin C is a wonder vitamin that helps grow and repair body tissues. It is known to help heal cuts and wounds and contributes to healthy teeth and gums. Folic acid (folate) assists your body in forming red blood cells. More on potassium later.
3. Fruit is high in fibre.
One very good reason to eat whole fruits instead of drinking fruit juices - fruit is an amazing source of healthy dietary fibre. Increasing your fibre intake may help reduce blood cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease. Of course, fibre also helps the old digestive system keep chugging along too.
4. Fruit is low in fat and calories.
Fruit doesn't have cholesterol (yay!) and most varieties are low in fat and calories too, making fruit a great tool in your low-fat diet toolbox. The fibre in fruit can keep you feeling full longer with few calories, helping you to avoid weight gain.
5. Fruit may reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease.
Researchers say that eating an abundance of fruit and veggies in conjunction with an overall healthy diet may reduce your risk for heart attack and stroke. Plus, fibre-rich foods like fruits may reduce the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. The potassium in fruits such as bananas, prunes, cantaloupe and honeydew melon may also help to reduce the risk of kidney stones and decrease bone loss. Fruit provides antioxidants and phytochemicals that may help protect against cancer and other diseases. Read the Canadian Cancer Society society's position on fruit and vegetable consumption and cancer.
How Much Fruit Should I Eat?
Fruits and veggies make up the largest arc of Canada's Food Guide rainbow. Experts recommend having at least one fruit or vegetable at every meal and for snacks. And be sure to include a variety of types and colours so you are getting all sorts of nutrients. Read up on the USDA's recommendations for serving sizes and daily fruit consumption based on age and sex. They also offer these great tips for eating more fruit. Health Canada's recommendations for fruit consumption are here. And Canada's Food Guide has these tips for choosing and preparing fruits and veggies.
Women in my age group (19 to 50) should have 7 to 8 servings of fruits and veggies a day according to Health Canada. I know that I'm woefully short of that on many days, but I find that smoothies help, as do blended banana-based frozen "desserts."
What I Ate Wednesday
And that brings me to What I Ate Wednesday. I have made an effort to stock up on fruits and veggies this week. We did a lot of road tripping to visit family before that and travelling can make it difficult to focus on produce consumption. Just about a week ago I made up this little plate of fruit, above, for me and the kiddos to munch on. It disappeared pretty darn quick - fruit that's cut up by mom or dad is popular with the kids.
We went to King's Café in Toronto's eclectic Kensington Market on the weekend. Most of the choices are vegan and all are vegetarian. We have been there many times over the years and it's a favourite stand-by type of place. Whenever we eat at an Asian restaurant, we inevitably order a noodle dish, a rice dish and a tofu dish. This time was no different. This was our vegan chow mein order, above. Loved the mushrooms! You can kind of see our gently flavoured fried rice at the left of the picture.
The server suggested this spicy tofu. We didn't realize it would be straight soft tofu. I prefer the fried-looking stuff. But this was good for a change.
My lovely sister-in-law had an outdoor family reunion/barbecue party last weekend. There was lots of barbecuing of meat, but there were also lots of beautiful vegan options. My sister-in-law very thoughtfully made us tofu shish kebobs. My other sister-in-law and her husband brought a nice noodle salad (which is buried under my other food, above) as well as a chickpea salad. I brought my usual party food, lentils and rice. I also ate green salad. My little girl made vegan chocolate chip bars and my son made peanut butter cookies (which disappeared from the tin before they hit the buffet table I think).
The next day I had leftover shish kebob veggies and tofu, plus a bunch of broccoli cooked with garlic and spinach sautéed in olive oil and minced garlic.
My son was disappointed that we didn't bring any lentils and rice home from the party so I made another batch the next day. It's a super simple dish to make. My husband made potato salad. We had a green salad too, and that was dinner. Another lovely thing about summer - simple meals!
Case in point, another night my husband and I teamed up to make this meal. I made broccoli and roasted chickpeas. He made garlic noodles and delicious bruschetta.
Here it all is on my plate, above. The golden wax beans were planted by my little girl in spring. The plant has generated about ten beans so far. As you can see I took half of them because yellow beans are a favourite of mine and, to be honest, I didn't have a lot of competition for them.
AND, more fruit. I went grocery shopping with basically one goal in mind - filling this big fruit bowl that my sister gave me when she moved. I wanted lots of fruit to be easily accessible to the kids, the husband and me. I filled the bowl with bananas, nectarines, apples, pears and plums. I also stocked the fridge with oranges, strawberries and raspberries. Guess what? It worked. We have all been eating more fruit than usual. I usually prefer to put most fruit in the fridge, but then it is sort of hidden and often gets ignored until it rots.
I also found an inexpensive coconut whipped cream in a can at the grocery store, which inspired us all to have more berries so we could try the coconut whipped cream as a topping. A great treat!
Have you been eating a lot of fruit this season? What are your favourites?