Not a huge fan of eating fruits and vegetables? Think if you take a multivitamin you do not need to eat fruits and vegetables? If you think you are covered by simply taking a multivitamin, you may be missing out on several key compounds found in fruits and vegetables.
First of all, it is recommended to eat 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Color variety is very important when eating fruits and vegetables because each color provides different nutrients. Below are the serving sizes for fruits and vegetables. Try to get a combination of 5 to 9 of these each day:
- 1 cup raw like carrots, cucumbers and bell peppers
- ½ cup cooked like broccoli, cauliflower and green beans
- 2 cups raw for leafy greens such as spinach and salad
- 1 cup of fresh fruit like pineapple, melon or berries
- 1 small piece of fruit like an apple or orange
- ½ cup canned fruit (light or canned in its own juice preferred)
- 2 tablespoons dried fruit like raisins
Fruits and vegetables are not only high in vitamins and minerals; they are also high in fiber and phytochemicals such as: carotenoids, flavonoids and resveratrol. These compounds are essential in preventing chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Typical American diets are deficient in fruits and vegetables, coincidentally; our country has notoriously high rates of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Many of the compounds found in fruits and vegetables have been studied and manufactured in supplement form. Before running to buy supplements consider a few facts first. The body does not properly absorb many of these supplements, whereas compounds found naturally in fruits and vegetables are absorbed readily. Some medications can interfere with the absorption of supplements but not natural forms found in fruits and vegetables. Also supplement form mega doses of some of these compounds have been studied and determined to be harmful, but it is near impossible to obtain a "mega dose" from eating fruits and vegetables.
Take the carotenoid beta-carotene for instance. Mega doses of beta-carotene from supplements have been found to increase the incidence of lung cancer in smokers. Also, carotenoids are best absorbed with fat, so cholesterol-lowering agents such as cholestyramine and colestipol can reduce absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and carotenoids. Furthermore, medications for acid reflux such as Prilosec, Prevacid, Aciphex, Protonix and Pantoloc decreased the absorption of beta-carotene supplements but do not affect the dietary form.
Those who cannot eat fruits and vegetables due to gastrointestinal problems or other medical issues can work with their doctor and dietitian to provide guidance on proper supplementation of phytochemicals and fiber to replace what is missing in their diets.
If you are interested in finding out if your diet is sufficient in vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber, visit a Registered Dietitian. For more information on setting up an appointment, call EJGH Registered Dietitian, Rebecca Lee, RD, LDN, at (504) 849-6801.