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Celebrating National Fruits and Vegetables month

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

(Photo)
This month is National Fruit and Vegetable Month. Wallace and Owens Assistant Produce Manager Robert Smith works with some of the vegetables at the store. Photo by Jan Thompson
OREGON COUNTY -- September is National Fruits and Vegetables Month and officials at the Oregon County Health Department want area residents to know that when it comes to good health and nutrition, few things are more important than fruits and vegetables.

"We are urging not only Oregon County residents but all Missourians to improve their health by putting more produce on their plates," Oregon County Health Department Administrator Sheila Russell said.

The theme for this year's event is "Get Smart."

"Although most people know fruits and vegetables are good for them, they may not realize how vital they are to good health. We are encouraging people to 'get smart' about healthy eating and learn more about how many fruits and vegetables they need to eat every day," she said.

According to the latest data for Missourians, only one in four adults eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. In children, less than one in five get the recommended amounts.

While recommendations vary depending on a person's age level and physical activity, health experts advise most adult women need between four and five cups of fruits and vegetables and most men need about five to six cups every day. The daily amount recommended for children increases with age, from two cups of fruits and vegetables for children age two and three to five and six cups for teenagers age 14 to 18, depending on gender and physical activity.

Not only fresh fruits and vegetables count toward a daily intake. "All forms count, including fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100 percent juice," she said.

The best way to get enough fruits and vegetables is to include them in meals and snacks throughout the day. She said, for example:

* At breakfast, top a bowl of whole grain cereal with a small sliced banana or half-cup of strawberries.

* Have a small apple for a mid-morning snack.

* For lunch, eat a salad made with two cups of lettuce and a cup of other vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and carrots.

* At dinner, have a small baked sweet potato, a half cup of green beans or broccoli and a half cup of fruit for dessert.

"The total count for the day: five cups of fruits and vegetables," Russell said.

"Eating a variety of produce offers a wide range of nutrients necessary for good health. Fruits and vegetables can help prevent obesity and a number of serious diseases including diabetes, stroke and some types of cancer. They also help promote healing, fight infection and keep your body in good working order," Russell said.

Some of the most important nutrients contained in fruits and vegetables are:

* Vitamin A: Carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe and spinach.

* Vitamin C: Red and green peppers, strawberries, kiwi, broccoli and kale.

* Potassium: Potatoes, lima beans, white beans, cooked greens, tomato paste and tomato puree.

* Folate: Cooked spinach, black-eyed peas and asparagus.

*Fiber: Most types of beans including kidney, black, white, navy and lima beans.

"At meal time, half a plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables. There are so many to choose from a person should not have trouble finding plenty that the cook and their family will like," Russell said.



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