News article

Defining Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables: A Nutrient Density Approach

Posted:  Tuesday, July 08, 2014

National nutrition guidelines emphasize consumption of powerhouse fruits and vegetables (PFV), foods most strongly associated with reduced chronic disease risk; yet efforts to define PFV are lacking.

Fruit and vegetables are power-packed foods - they are full of valuable nutrients which have lots of health benefits, including of fibre, vitamins, minerals, including folate, potassium and vitamins A and C. and phytochemicals (which give the color). A healthy intake of fruit and vegetables helps to protect against major illnesses, such as heart disease and cancer. Most fruit and vegetables are low in energy and are filling, which may help us in maintaining a healthy weight. Eating a range of colored fruits and vegetables provides antioxidants, which work together to protect our bodies. Eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables every day. This means at least 2 servings of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables.

Fill half of your plate at each meal with fruits and vegetables and you may lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, heart attack, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, osteoporosis and kidney stones. The main nutrient you get from fruits and vegetables is carbohydrates, which you need for providing energy to your body, including your nervous system and your brain. These foods also provide significant amounts of dietary fiber, which is a type of carbohydrate your body can't digest that helps improve digestive function and lower your risk for high cholesterol, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Fiber may also help you maintain a healthy weight since it slows the emptying of the stomach and adds bulk to your food so you feel full for longer after eating.

Many fruits and vegetables are high in potassium, which you need for counteracting the adverse effects of sodium on blood pressure, nerve and muscle function and regulating electrolytes, which are minerals in your body that carry an electrical charge. Fruits and vegetables that are particularly good sources of potassium include apricots, bananas, sweet potatoes, celery, potatoes, beans, tomatoes and spinach.

Bell peppers, kiwis, strawberries, sweet potatoes, broccoli, pineapple, oranges and mangoes are all good sources of vitamin C. Adequate vitamin C intake promotes healthy skin. This necessary nutrient is also responsible for promoting gum and teeth health and can help your body absorb iron at a more efficient rate.

Vitamin A is a nutrient that is abundant in several varieties of fruits and vegetables. According to the CDC, this vitamin is essential for eye and skin health as well as helping your body resist infection. Vitamin A is present in sweet potatoes, pumpkins, carrots, greens and red peppers. These choices are available year round which makes it easy to include them in a healthy diet.

Meat fish, eggs and pulses provide us with significant amounts of protein which is essentially a building block of the body. Everything from our hair, muscles, nerves, skin and nails needs protein to build and repair itself.

And many dieticians agree there's no such thing as a 'superfood'. No single food will provide all the nutrients we really need. And neither can one meal - so the plate of food above might be one healthy option, but a good diet should include a wide range of foods from each of the different food groups.