“We are in this period of cacophony with food, where people are more engaged and more confused.”
– The New York Times, 2013
Diet fads come and go, leaving us confused as to what information is current and what has been written off.
As a registered dietitian, I routinely return to the basics when it comes to nutrition and human metabolism. One “fad” that has been around for a long time, and never been discounted, is we need to eat more produce. In fact, this advice continues to gain importance through the years.
We need a variety of basic, good quality foods to get the variety of nutrients our bodies need. Yes, certain diseases put extra demands or restrictions on our diets, but the research continues to reinforce the need for basic foods. If an entire food group is eliminated, those nutrients have to be found elsewhere, or the “complex machine” starts to break down in various subtle ways.
The interrelationship of food, nutrients and our bodies fascinates me. The research about the impacts of foods and nutrients always returns to the original basic needs. When standing in the grocery line, I must say the grocery basket contents (and cost) of some people amazes me – common sense must take a vacation sometimes. So much processed food and then bottles of various vitamin or mineral supplements to “be healthy.”
Yes, food production practices have changed, but can you honestly say you have tried even a few days of eating real food and experimented with the great variety of its choices, flavors and benefits.
Produce continues to provide an amazing array of options. In general, foods most strongly associated with reducing the risk for chronic disease are described as green/leafy, yellow/orange, citrus and cruciferous items. These foods can combat conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular disease (including high blood pressure and heart disease), certain cancers and even generic stress. Overall, it boils down to the deeper the color of produce, the higher the nutrient content and the higher the health benefits.
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control printed a listing of specific powerhouse fruits and vegetables (http://dx.doi.org/10.5888/pcd11.130390). These “miracle” choices have miracle consequences. The article lists 40 produce selections (of the 47 evaluated) strongly associated with reducing the risk for chronic disease. They provide, on average, 10 percent or more of the daily recommended value of 17 key nutrients.
The evaluation did not take into account all nutrients or compounds, such as anthocyanins, associated with the prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer and the decline of cognitive functioning. But it is interesting that many of the “high value” nutrients are included in the items on the CDC list. The key thing to take away is not to limit your intake to those 40 powerhouse items. They are powerful but not all encompassing.
Remember: I am what I eat! I am not cheap, phony or quick. I will last a long time if simple needs are met. My needs are basic though an occasional splurge is OK. Give me at least the level of care and attention that you give your dog, cat or livestock. That is all this body asks.
Storage of your produce is important. I will discuss the best options next time.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6461. Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.