March is National Nutrition month so there is no better time to talk about healthy eating and to think about how we might be able to optimize our diet. What we eat plays a significant role in how we feel both mentally and physically and on the quality and quantity of our life. People who consume a diet based on whole foods including plenty of fruits and vegetables are less likely to suffer with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression or with chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
One of the best ways to optimize our diet is to eat plenty of antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants, the pigments that give fruits and vegetables their vibrant colors, protect our cells and body structures from free radical damage. Free radicals are derived in the body during normal metabolic processes and also from environmental exposure to things such as environmental pollutants and industrial chemicals (Lobo, Patil, Phatak and Chandra, 2010). Free radicals act as little scavengers in our body, snatching up electrons from our cells causing cell damage and death which leads to illness and disease. A diet rich in antioxidant-containing fruits and vegetables can reduce and/or prevent free radical damage and keep us looking and feeling our best.
Not only do fruits and vegetables help keep us healthy in mind and body but they also add pizzazz to our meals, are a great way to add variety to our diet, and help to fill us up without adding significant calories, which is great for our waistlines. Increasing your fruit and vegetable intake doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Check out these tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and, if you’re feeling adventurous, try one of my favorite recipes….roasted root vegetables. I like to use sweet potatoes (Japanese sweet potatoes if you can find them….they are AMAZING), beets (preferably golden beets or candy cane beets as they are more mild than red beets), parsnips, carrots and butternut squash. I will warn you though – you might be tempted to eat the entire pan.
If you have a favorite produce-rich recipe I’d love to hear about it. Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.