Originally, it was recommended to eat 5 servings daily of fruits & vegetables; but now that recommendation has increased to 8 to 13 servings. Have you taken the time to check out the latest food pyramid guidelines? If you haven't already, check it out at http://www.mypyramid.gov/ (which is a great website, so take the time to look into all the different areas of information this site boasts).
Ever wonder how your fruit is grown? That sticker that comes on it from your produce stand or grocery store has a 4 or 5 digit number.
A quick way to identify how it's grown is:
* if it's 4 digits, that means it's conventionally grown
* if it's 5 digits that begin with a 9, that means it's organic
* if it's 5 digits that begin with an 8, that means it's genetically modified
You can always look up any number on the site http://fruitsticker.com/
With fruits & vegetables color variety is KEY! Here's a quick guide to colors & the benefits they boast!
Orange: high in beta-carotene, which some researchers believe that helps cells communicate more fluently & increases the body's ability to avoid cancer. The carotenoids also help with vision; and the deeper orange foods give us Vitamin A. (Good sources include: carrots, sweet potatos, cantaloupe, & mangos.)
Yellow: provides Vitamin C which can help manage stress (Most citrus foods fall in this category)
Purple: contain powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins that help prevent against heart disease. Also known to contain resveratrol which is a type of plant antibiotic that has antiaging, anti-inflammatory, and bloow-sugar-lowering effects. (Good sources include: eggplant, berries, grapes, olives, beets, & prunes.)
Red: contain the phytochemical lycopene which is a cancer fighting antioxidant & also stops the oxidative stress that leads to LDL particles hardening & blocking arteries. One of the richest sources of this is the tomato (which is also a good source of fiber). (Other good sources include: red pepper, apples, strawberries, watermelon, & red cabbage.)
Green: beneficial for the circulatory system. Contain B-complex vitamins, mineral, and phytochemicals that pack cancer fighting properties. (A great source is broccoli.) The leafy greens play a role in decreasing the risk of diabetes (possibly linked to their fiber & magnesium levels). They also help thyroid hormone secretion, metabolism, and overall nerve / muscle function. (Great source is spinach.) Leafy greens also contain Vitamin C (like romain lettuce & turnip greens). Leafy greens have been found to prevent inflammation, reduce arthritis pain, & blood clotting. Leafy greens even contain omega-3 fats (also found in salmon & some eggs).
White: contain a variety of phytochemicals, one in particular (found in onion & garlic) is allicin. Allicin has been dubbed as the "poor man's antibiotic" because of it's anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial properties. Another source, celery, has been known to keep the fluid in the joints healthy.
Try to incorporate more colors in your diet. An easy way to start is by eating more salads (using romaine, arugula, or spinach leaves...not iceberg) & tossing in lots of veggies and / or fruits. Try not to use only canned produce, instead buy fresh! (And keep the croutons to a minimum!)