Nutrición

FRUITS AND VEGETABLES FOR BETTER HEALTH

The benefits of eating fruits and vegetables are enormous! Nutritionists recommend that we eat between 5 and 9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. However, with more and more people choosing to snack on coca cola and sabritas in place of fruits and vegetables, studies show that the average Mexican school-age students only consume between 1 and 3 servings per day! At the same time, rates of childhood obesity, diabetes, and heart problems are rapidly increasing.  By eating more fruits and vegetables, our bodies get more vitamins, minerals, and other natural healthy compounds, and we can avoid these life-threatening diseases and feel healthier and more energetic.
What counts as a serving of fruits and vegetables?
Nutritionists measure serving sizes in cups. One cup of water is equal to 237 mL, which is a little over a quarter of a liter. Since one serving of fruits equals one half cup, and one serving of vegetables equals one full cup, we should be consuming at LEAST three cups of fruits and vegetables each day! Below are some examples of one serving size of fruits and vegetables:
Fruits
-One medium sized banana
-six strawberries or rambutan
-two plums or figs
-fifteen grapes or 10 dates
-one apple, peach, pear, zapote, or kiwi
-one-half mango
-a large slice of watermellon, cantaloupe, or papaya
-one half cup of pure fruit juice
Vegetables
-one cup of squash or one chayote
-one large carrot
-one medium-sized tomato
-3/4 cup pure vegetable juice
-half of a baked sweet potato
-one elote
-half of a medium-sized onion
-two cups of raw or ¾ cup cooked leafy green vegetables
What are some of the good things in fruits and vegetables?
Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and phytochemicals, all of which make us healthier, more energetic, better at fighting off diseases, and even smarter!
Vitamins:
VITAMIN A
Vitamin A makes your immune system stronger, not only helping to fight diseases like cancer and lung infections, but speeding the overall process of recovery. It helps the body repair damaged tissues and wounds, and fights skin disorders. Vitamin A is also known to improve vision. Did you know that if you eat carrots at night, you can see better in the dark?
VITAMIN B1
There are several different kinds of B vitamins, numbered from 1-12. The first on the list, B1, improves mental ability and is useful in neurological disorders, diabetes, and anemia (a disease that makes it difficult for the body to absorb oxygen). It also has some detoxifying effects against lead, and can protect against metabolic imbalances from drinking too much alcohol.
VITAMIN B2
Vitamin B2 helps promote normal growth and development in children, and also protects against anemia and cancer. Athletes who consume Vitamin B2 perform better, and experience less antioxidant damage.
VITAMIN B3
Vitamin B3 is useful in reducing high blood pressure, relieving migraine headaches, lowering cholesterol, and protecting against heart disease. It helps the skin, digestive system, and nerves function normally, and can prevent or treat mental disorders. It may also help treat diabetes.
VITAMIN B5
This B vitamin helps the body build up infection-fighting agents called antibodies. It speeds up healing of wounds, slows down aging, and helps prevent tiredess and fatigue. It lowers cholesterol, helps protect against heart disease, prevents and relieves arthritis, and detoxifies alcohol. Vitamin B5 is also important in the healthy functioning of adrenal glands, which regulate hormones and stress.
VITAMIN B6
Vitamin B6 also helps reduce stress, relieving symptoms of PMS and helping the brain to function normally. Vitamin B6 has important digestive qualities, helping the body to assimilate carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. It also helps protect against metabolic imbalances, cancer, and diabetes.
VITAMIN B12
Vitamin B12 is important in preventing mental disorders and mental deterioration. It also protects against cancer (especially cancer caused by smoking), and helps fight allergies and toxins. Eating fruits and vegetables with Vitamin B12 energizes your body.
BIOTIN
Biotin is another vitamin that improves athletic performance, as well as easing muscle pain and promoting healthy functioning of the sweat glands, bone marrow, blood cells, nerve tissue, and male sex glands. Biotin makes your hair healthy and prevents it from turning gray or falling out. It also helps alleviate skin disorders like eczema and dermatitis.
FOLIC ACID
Folic acid is another vitamin that promotes healthy skin, and prevents cancer sores. It helps maintain the nervous system, intestinal tract, sex organs, and normal growth patterns, and prevents birth defects. Folic acid is also beneficial in treating cancer, atherosclerosis, and mental retardation.
VITAMIN C
This super vitamin increases your body´s ability to fight colds and other infections, and helps to combat heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol, and gum disease. It is necessary for the brain and nerves to function properly. Vitamin C helps your body to absorb iron, protects your body against smoking and air pollution, and might even help you live longer!
VITAMIN D, VITAMIN D3
The D vitamins are another way to increase the body´s defenses, protecting it against cancer and tuberculosis. It aids in the digestion of calcium that is needed to develop strong teeth and bones. D vitamins can also be useful in treating a skin disorder called psoriasis.
VITAMIN E
Vitamin E has a wide range of health benefits. It boosts the immune system, increases athletic performance, and helps promote sexual health. It protects against pain disorders, cancer (especially breast cancer), heart disease, and toxic substances in the air. Vitamin E also relieves muscle cramps and, like Vitamin C, is said to increase lifespan!
VITAMIN K
This vitamin is important in helping your body hold onto calcium, and preventing osteoporosis. It helps promote blood clotting, which is necessary to prevent internal bleeding and hemorrhaging. Vitamin K is also helpful in the treatment of cancer.


What minerals can be found in fruits and vegetables?

Fruits and vegetables also contain many minerals which are vital to our health.  Some minerals commonly found in fruits and vegetables include calcium, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, selenium, sodium, and zinc.


CALCIUM

Calcium is necessary to maintain strong teeth and bones, and if you don’t get enough calcium in the foods you eat, your body will take it from your bones, making them brittle.  Calcium is also important for the proper functioning of muscles, and without enough calcium your muscles won’t contract correctly, your blood won’t clot, and your nerves wouldn’t send sygnals throughout your body.  It is found in most fruits, and especially in leafty green vegetables, sqash, carrots, and avocados.

COPPER

Copper helps your body absorb, store, and process iron.  It helps in the formation of red blood cells, and supplies oxygen to the body.  Kiwis are especially high in copper, but most fruits have at least a little.  Most vegetables also contain a small amount, but lima beans are a good source.

IODINE

Fruits and vegetables grown in iodine-rich soils contain high amounts of iodine, which is important in maintaining healthy hair, skin, nails, and teeth.  Iodine also helps promote normal growth and to regulate wieght and metabolism.  This is why iodine is often added to table salt.

IRON

Adolescent girls especially need to make sure they get enough iron!  Not getting enough can lower the immune system and cause tiredness and weakness.  In order to absorb iron well, it is imortant to eat foods rich in vitamin C at the same time, and to avoid drinking too much black tea.  Iron-rich fruits and include blackberries, kiwis, strawberries, bananas, grapes, tomatoes.  Vegetables rich in iron include avocado, squash, leafy greens and broccoli, sweet potatoes, carrots, and corn.

MAGNESIUM

Not getting enough magensium results in tiredness, nervousness, inability to sleep, heart problems, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, and cramps.  Magnesium is important in making new cells, producing energy, relaxing nerves and muscles, and absorbing Vitamins B and C and potassium.  It is also needed to clot blood and avoid hemorrhaging.  Fruits containing magnesium include orange, kiwi, banana, tomato, blackberries, and strawberries.  Vegetables include avocado, squash, potatoes and sweet potatoes, corn, and leafy greens.

MANGANESE

Most people get enough manganese.  It is important in certain reactions involving blood sugar, metabolism, and thyroid functioning.  Foods containing high levels of manganese include strawberries, blackberries, sweet potatoes, kale, and squash.

PHOSPHOROUS

Calcium and phosphorus work together to strengthen teeth and bones and nerve cells, and is one of the most common minerals found in human bodies.  Most people never have a defficiency of it, as it is found in many foods.

POTASSIUM

Potassium is an important mineral for the muscles, helping to avoid muscle cramps, weakness, and twitching, and ensuring a regular heartbeat.  It is also needed to help cells maintain a normal water balance.  Not getting enough potassium can result in muscle problems, insomnia, and kidney and lung failure.  The best fruit sources are bananas and tomatoes, although it can also be found in citrus fruits, strawberries, blackberries, cantaloupe, peach, grapes, and apples.  Vegetable sources of potassium include leafy greens, avocado, potatoes, squash, sweet potato, broccoli, corn, carrots, green peppers, onions, and cucumbers.

SELENIUM

Selenium works together with Vitamin E as an antioxidant, and is part of several enzymes that the body needs to function properly.  Selenium deficiency is rare, and many fruits and vegetables contain selenium.

SODIUM

Most people today actually get far more sodium than their body needs, as it is found in high concentrations in processed and/or salty foods.  Nevertheless, it is necessary for the body to regulate blood volume, blood pressure, and fluid balance, and helps the muslces and nerves to function properly.  It is found in sufficient amounts in all fruits and vegetables.

ZINC

If you have white spots on your fingernails, this might be a sign that you are not getting enough zinc.  Zinc is important in many important bodily functions, including immunity, wound healing, growth, vision, and protein and carbohydrate metabolism.  It is found naturally in most fruits and vegetables, and is highest in blackberries, kiwi, squash, corn, potatoes and sweet potatoes.


What is dietary fiber?

All plants contain fiber, which gives them their structure and enables them to hold themselves up.  While people don’t actually digest fiber, it is vital to our health that we eat it, so that it will pass through our digestive system along with the other foods we eat, scraping our intestines clean and keeping us healthy.  Not getting enough fiber results in constipation, and can lead to colon disorders and colon cancer, high cholesterol, heart disease, and strokes.  Eating lots of fiber can also prevent overeating and obesity, because it makes you feel full and takes longer to digest than foods that don’t contain fiber (like junk foods and white bread).  All fruits and vegetables contain fiber, especially when they are eaten whole, skin and all!

What are phytochemicals?

In Greek, phyto means plant.  All the compounds, or chemicals, found in plants are called phytochemicals.  These work with the nutrients and dietary fiber in fruits and vegetables to fight against diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cataracts, osteoporosis, and urinary tract infections, and also slow down the proess of aging.  Phytochemicals are usually related to plant pigments, or colors.  The brightest and darkest colors of yellow, orange, green, red, blue, and purple are usually indicators of high levels of phytochemicals.  In addition to eating 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, you should also try to eat as many different colors as you can!  There are over 900 different phytochemicals that we already know about, and we are still discovering more.  The best way to make sure you get a variety of phytochemicals is to eat a diversity of colorful fruits and vegetables.

Below are just a few of the most common phytochemicals:

Flavinoids:  These comprise a large group of antioxidants, which deactivate free radicals, which are known to cause health problems like cancer, heart disease, and rapid aging.  Flavinoids include reservatrol, anthocyanins, quercitin, hesperidin, tangeritin, kaempferol, myricetin, and apigenin.  Flavinoids can bee found in many fruits and vegetables such as oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, berries, apples, red grapes, broccoli, and onions.

Anthocyanins, a type of flavinoid, are especially useful in improving balance, coordination, and short-term memory.  They also help prevent urinary tract infections.  Anthocyanins are found in strawberries, kiwis, and plums.

Reservatrol, found in red grapes, helps reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and blood clots.

Quercetins help relieve allergies, protect the lungs from air pollution and cigarette smoke, and slow the growth of head and neck cancers.  They are found in apples, pears, grapes, onions, cale, broccoli, lettuce, and garlic.

Hesperidin protects against heart disease, and is found in citrus fruits like oranges, mandarinas, limes, and grapefruits.

Carotenoids:  These are the pigments that give many fruits and vegetables their red, green, yellow, and orange colors.  This family of chemicals helps decrease the risk of heart disease, stroke, blindness, and certain cancers.  They also help in treating diabetes, slow aging, and improve lung health.  Beta-Carotene is a carotenoid that helps slow down aging, reduces the risk of certain cancers, improves lung healthy, and helps in the treatment of diabetes.  Beta-Carotene is found in colorful fruits and vegetables like mangoes, cantaloupes, carrots, papaya, pumpkins, sweet potatos, squash, kiwi, and dark green leafy vegetables.To make sure you get enough carotenoids in your diet, eat plenty of yellow, orange, and green fruits and vegetables.

Saponins: Saponins are related to the bitter taste in many leafy green vegetables.  Plants produce them to make themselves taste bad and repel hungry animals, however they can be useful for humans in digesting and absorbing other nutrients.  Usually, cooking removes much of the bitter taste.  Spinach is a good source of saponins.

Isthiocyanates and Indoles, including sulphoraphane, reduces the risk of colon cancer, and is found in cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, and collard greens.

Lutein: This phytochemical is important for maintaining good eyesight, and is known to reduce the risk of conditions that cause blindness as we age.  Lutein also helps reduce the risk of certain cancers.  The highest amounts of lutein are found in kale, spinach, and colard greens.  It can also be found in chard and lettuce.

Lycopene: Found in red-colored fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, watermellon, red peppers, and pink grapefruit, lycopene reduces the risk of heart disease and prostate cancer.

Zeaxanthin: Helps prevent macular generation, which results in blindness.  Zeaxanthin is found in corn.

Phenolic compounds: These help reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers, and are found in berries, grapes, kiwis, apples, and tomatoes.

Allium compounds: Garlic, onions, and their relatives are rich in allium compounds, which reduce blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce the risk of certain cancers.

WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF NOT EATING ENOUGH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES?

Heart disease:

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in Mexico, and it is estimated that 12 million people die from heart disease globally each year.  Eating foods high in saturated fats raises blood pressure and clogs arteries, which causes heart attacks.  Obesity (which is caused by eating junk foods with high levels of fat and calories, and low levels of nutrients) and lack of exercise also increase your chances of heart disease. Research has shown that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help prevent the risk of heart disease by 20-40%.  Most fruits and vegetables don’t have any saturated fat at all (except coconuts), and are rich in disease-fighting vitamins and phytochemicals.

Cancer:

Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables helps prevent many types of cancer, especially lung cancer and cancers that occur along the digestive tract, including cancers of the mouth, throat, stomach, colon, and rectum.  The fiber content of fruits and vegetables helps scrub the digestive tract like a brush, keeping it clean, while vitamins and phytochemicals have anti-cancer properties.

High blood pressure:

A contributing factor in heart disease, high blood pressure is caused by eating foods high in saturated fats, and not getting enough exercise.  In addition to preventing high blood pressure, eating lots of fruits and vegetables (8-10 servings a day) combined with a low-fat diet can reduce already-high blood pressure.

Birth defects:

Women who don’t get enough folate in their diets have a higher risk of giving birth to babies with birth defects.  Folate can be found in spinach, broccoli, and beans.

Cataracts:

Cataracts are clouding in the eyes that result in vision loss, and ultimately in blindness.  They typically occur in people over 50 years old, although they can be a complication of diabetes or high blood pressure as well.  Eating fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins A, C, and E, as well as zeoxanthin and lutein can help delay the onset of cataracts.  Good examples include spinach, collards, kale, and corn.

Obesity:

When we eat junk foods that are high in sugar, calories, and fat, and low in the nutrients needed to keep us healthy, we increase our risk of becoming obese.  When our bodies are hungry, they want healthy carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and vitamins.  When we feed them foods that have a lot of calories but none of these healthy nutrients, our bodies are still hungry!  The extra calories get stored as body fat, and too much body fat leads to being overweight or obese.  This is especially problematic when we don’t exercise enough to burn off the extra calories.  Exercising and eating lots of fruit and vegetables can help prevent obesity.  This is because fruits and vegetables contain many nutrients that satisfy our bodys’ cravings for nourishment.  Fruits and vegetables are also much lower in calories than junk foods.

Diabetes:

Diabetes is the number one cause of death in Mexico, and its rates have been climbing rapidly in the last ten to fifteen years, as large amounts of cheap sugar are entering into the markets and food system.  Children are beginning to eat junk food and drink large amounts of sugary sodas in place of healthy foods, with drastic consequences for their health.  Mexico is now the second heaviest nation (second to the United States), with 71% of women and 66% of men being overweight.  Just ten years ago, less than 10% of Mexican adults were overwieght.  The same trend is being observed with Mexican children, with a 40% increase in childhood obsesity in the last decade following a 60% increase in soda consumption.  It might surprize you to learn that the rates of obesity and diabetes are highest in impoverished communities.  Part of this reason is because sugary junk foods are cheaper than healthy foods, and in some places a liter of soda costs less than a liter of water!  The rates of junk food consumption and obesity are higher in urban areas than rural ones due to aggressive advertising for fatty and sugary foods, with many rural people still suffering undernutrition.  Being obese increases the risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.  It is now estimated that up to 10 million Mexicans have diabetes, with 70,000 dying from complications of diabetes each year.

PACKAGED FOODS

If at all possible, the best and healthiest way to nourish yourself is always to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, eggs, dairy products, fish, and meat.  However, sometimes it is more convenient to buy pre-made, packaged foods.  Some packaged foods are healthier than others – and some aren’t healthy at all!  Worse yet, some packaged foods are advertised as being healthy or made with natural wholesome ingredients, but really aren’t!  For this reason, it is very important to take your health into your own hands, and to learn how to read food labels and ingredients so that you can check for yourself (see below).

Junk foods:

Junk foods, along with lack of exercise, are the worst culprits in causing overweight, obesity, and diabetes.  These foods are high in refined sugars and fats, while they contain little to no nutritional value.  Soda, candy, cookies, and chips are all examples of junk foods.  Junk foods are often sold cheap, which is why so many people by them.  But cheap foods contain cheap ingredients, like sugar and non-food ingredients.  They are sold in bright-colored packages and advertised in magazines and newspapers, on the sides of trucks, on tv commercials and the radio, on posters, and and even in movies.  Don’t let yourself be tricked by these flashy advertisements!  Even some foods that might look healthy, like yogurt drinks and “vitamin fortified” cereals and juices that are “made with real fruit” often contain little more than sugars and artificial colors and flavors.  Know how to read food labels and ingredients so you know the difference!

Processed foods:

Processed foods are foods that started out being natural and healthy, but had many things removed from them and many other things added to them to make them last longer on store shelves without rotting.  A good general rule to follow is this: If it won’t rot, don’t eat it!  Foods that don’t rot if you leave them out for several days are so unnatural that even mold and bacteria won’t eat them (dogs don’t count of this test—dogs will eat anything!).  However, there are many processed foods that will indeed rot, but still contain many unhealthy additives and have many of their natural, healthy ingredients removed.

What is removed from processed foods?

Much of the fiber is removed from ingredients like wheat, corn, oat, soy, and other grains, in order to make the texture smoother.  Germ is also removed from the grain, because germ tends to rot faster than the rest of the grain.  But the germ and the fiber are the healthiest parts!  Germ is where grains store their vitamins and minerals, so when we remove this from our foods, we are missing out big time.  Many vitamins and minerals naturally found in foods are also destroyed by the high temperatures of processing.

What is added to processed foods?

In order to give specific shapes and textures to mass-produced, processed foods, and to make them last a long time, a wide variety of substances are added, most of which are not good for our health.  Chances are, if you have trouble pronouncing an ingredient, it is probably an additive of some sort.  Preservatives are added to lengthen shelf life.  Bleaches are added to make food a pure white color, and then colorants are added to make the food look appealing.  Artificial flavors are added to make it taste good, and emulsifiers are added to smooth out the texture.  Vitamin and mineral supplements are added to make up for what was removed—but they don’t have the same effect when they are separated from their natural sources!  Before these chemical technologies were availible, people preserved their foods naturally by pickling, drying, salting, and smoking.  Today, the food industry has become reliant on artificial additives, some of which aren’t even food. It is estimated that the average person eats over 5 kilograms of these added substances every year.  This means our bodies have to work overtime to remove them, and often they trigger athsma attacks, rashes, resperatory problems, hyperactivity, and even cancers.  See below for a list of common additives and their side effects.

Trans fats: On ingredient lists, trans fats are listed as ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated’ vegetable oils.  This preservative acts like saturated fat, only worse.  Eating too much of it causes heart disease, because it sticks to the artery walls.  They also increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, and loss of limbs!

Aspartame: Also known as nutri-sweet and equal, aspartame is an artificial sweetener, may also cause cancer.  Look for it on the ingredient list of any sweet-tasting food or drink, especially “diet” or “light” foods.

-Food colorings: Blue 1, 2; Red 3; Green 3; and Yellow 6: These are found in a wide variety of junk foods and processed foods, and have been found to cause cancer in rats.

BHA and BHT: antioidants used to prevent oils from going rancid, they are included in chewing gum, potato chips, cereals, and some vegetable oils.  Consuming them may increase the risk of cancer.

Salt: Salt (sodium chlorate) is added to many foods because it acts as a preservative.  However, too much salt can cause health problems like high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure.  Many ingredients starting with “sodium” are also salts, such as sodium benzoate and sodium citrate.

Sugar: Sugar is found naturally in fruits and vegetables, but it is also processed and added to many foods as a preservative and to enhance taste.  Eating too much processed sugar can cause tooth decay and lead to health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.

Sodium nitrite:  a preservative added to meats and fish to add flavor, supress bacterial growth, and help maintain red color.  Consuming sodium nitrite has been linked to certain cancers.

Sulfites: can cause allergic reactions and trigger athsma attacks.

Nitrites and Nitrates: These convert into dangerous forms in the body and can cause cancer.

-MSG: Added to many foods to enhance flavor, MSG (monosodium glutamate) causes many reactions including headache, dizziness, chest pains, depression, and mood swings.

Reading nutrition labels

Reading ingredients lists

**Things you could buy in place of a coca cola (cost equivalent plus nutritional comparison)

**Things you could buy in place of sabritos (flavor.. substitutes like habbas, tostadas, etc)

Maybe do a chart of sorts with local foods & nut. value

Uvas

Pinas

Manzanas

Naranjas

Mandarinas

Platanos

Zapotes

Rambutan

Mango

Papaya

Chirimoya

Fresas

Moras

Eggfruit

Coco

Granilla

Figs

Datiles

Guabaya

Peras

Kiwis

Toronjas

Tamarind

Limes

Aguacates

Tomates

Chiles

Cebollas

Ajo

Col

Navo

Acelga

Brocoli

Collards

Camote

Calabaza

Chayote

Zanahorias

Green beans

Betabel

Cucumbers

Zucchini

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