You’re likely familiar with the old saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” But did you know June is National Fruit & Vegetable Month? According to the USDA, Americans should consume about 1 ½ – 2 cups of fruits and 2 – 3 cups of vegetables per day. Fruits and vegetables contain many antioxidants and nutrient rich vitamins and minerals which help fight and can prevent many chronic diseases and ailments ranging from Alzheimer’s to heart disease to cancer and diabetes control.
Our bodies are in a constant battle with tens of thousands of cell damaging free radicals from our surroundings that include radiation, pollution and smoking. These free radicals attack our healthy cells, produce wear and tear on our bodies, and cause disease. Nutrient rich antioxidant laden fruits and vegetables act as bodyguards for our cells. So not only do fruits and vegetables help fight diseases, they also help maintain our youth and assist in wound healing.
You’re probably wondering why taking a daily multi-vitamin that contains antioxidants is not enough to fulfill those fruit and veggie needs. Unfortunately, multivitamins do not contain the most powerful antioxidant: phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are only found in plants, and are what give fruits and vegetables their vibrant colors or their pungent smells. Mother Nature puts these phytonutrients in all plants, vegetables and fruits to make the earth beautiful, but they also serve a great purpose once ingested. These plant-protecting compounds start working as soon as they are consumed, protecting us from diseases such as high cholesterol, heart disease and certain types of cancer that wreak havoc on our bodies. Phytonutrients are also responsible for eliminating toxic waste, especially before these toxins make us sick. Finally, phytonutrients help in regulating hormones. The many sub-classes of phytonutrients include allylic sulfides, carotenoids, flavonoids and isoflavones. So for now, the best way to ensure adequate intake of the antioxidant nutrients is through a balanced diet consisting of 5-8 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.