A quick critique of the American diet reveals stark excesses and shortcomings. We consume a lot of sugar, saturated fat and salt. Sugar causes atherosclerosis, saturated fats clog arteries, and salt can raise blood pressure.
Put these three together and it will be easy to see why heart disease is the number one killer in the United States of the year.
But what about COVID-19? Covid scared us last year and got all the attention, even though heart disease has caused twice as many deaths. Have you heard anything on the news about heart disease? of course not. Ho-hum, he doesn’t mention nearly 2,000 daily deaths from heart disease, and there’s no encouragement to turn the tide off by eating right, managing your weight and exercising.
Even more ironic is the fact that people at high risk of heart disease were more likely to die from COVID-19.
Obviously, we consume too much of the bad stuff and almost never enough of the good stuff. Topping the list of goodies is a variety of fruits and vegetables. According to nutritionists, we need at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Larger people need more servings, up to 13 per day. Unfortunately, the average American consumes less than half of the servings of fruits and vegetables we need, and only 14% meet daily requirements.
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What is the quota? This quickly gets complicated when it comes to fruits and vegetables, and it’s not easy to define what five servings look like. Serving can be in ounces, cups, or handfuls (palm-sized), plus consider whether it’s raw or cooked. These complications muddy the waters when it comes to encouraging people to add fruits and vegetables to their diet.
How can we simplify? this is what I do.
How to make a smoothie mix full of fruits and vegetables
Let me be honest and tell you that I’m not someone who sits and eats apples and oranges, and I’ve never been a huge fan of vegetables. Back in my early years when I mistakenly believed that too much exercise was the antidote to all my bad lifestyle habits, including my horrible diet, I never considered fruits and vegetables. As close as I come are banana chunks and french fries. looks familiar?
Anyway, when I switched my way to Damascus and became a vegetarian at the age of 35, a change that undoubtedly saved my life, I had to do something to increase my fruit and vegetable intake.
Knowing that adding fruits and vegetables to my diet in the proportions I needed would be quite a challenge, I decided to start making blends, and I’ve continued this practice ever since. My mix focuses on fruits and especially vegetables, all fresh and organic if possible. I start with a mix of healthy green leafy vegetables (fresh spinach, kale, etc) as a priority (three large handfuls, extra), and carrots. Next is a handful of blueberries, then either a large apple and an orange, or two smaller ones each, and finally a handful of raw walnuts. Next, add three tablespoons of a high-protein vegan-chocolate powder for flavor.
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Fill this blender nearly to the top, then add a mixture of soy milk and water to make a quart that I usually split up over a couple of days. Complete my mix with dinner vegetables – broccoli, asparagus, sweet potatoes, and raw tomatoes. Another option is my wife’s vegetarian cooking, such as a delicious chili loaded with different types of beans and vegetables.
Will the juice fill all my daily fruit and vegetable needs?
To make this concoction above requires a high-powered mixer. In my case, I use Vitamix, but there are other options. If you use a regular blender, you won’t be happy with the results – too clumpy.
A word of caution. Since this mixture is packed with nutrients, drink it slowly. You can take it to work in a thermos bottle and it will be a wonderful, convenient and healthy lunch.
When I mentioned this blend to a friend who should be more attentive to his health, he said to me, “Yes, I get all the healthy things I need from the juices I drink.” That’s like saying, I practice great dental hygiene by brushing my teeth once a week.
Juice, if made well, covers a small portion of your daily fruit needs, and is only a fraction of the mixture described above.
Are frozen or canned vegetables as good as fresh?
When it comes to fruits and vegetables, the question arises – are they frozen or canned as well as fresh?
Well it depends.
Undoubtedly, the best option is to pick the freshest produce straight from your garden and eat it, but this is not realistic. The next best option seems to be the freshest produce at the grocery store.
Or is he?
Unfortunately, it may not all be fresh, and the longer it takes before eating, the more nutrients it loses. For example, if a product was picked some time ago (before maturity and fully developed vitamins and minerals), or put on a truck, shipped a long distance, and then sits on display for who knows how long, it can be considered “fresh,” but it is far from that.
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Is frozen better? Again, it depends. Frozen produce has the advantage of being harvested when ripe and processed within hours. But before freezing, the product is blanched (quickly cooked in boiling water) to slow or stop enzymes that can cause loss of flavor, color or texture, but may also reduce the nutrient content.
And in terms of canning, it requires a lot more processing than frozen, which reduces the nutritional value even more, plus sugar and salt are added during canning, which is an aspect best avoided if possible (read food labels).
Regardless of the above concerns, it is best to eat fruits and vegetables, regardless of whether they are fresh, frozen or canned. You can also add any of them to your mix, making it easier and more convenient.
Bottom line, when you eliminate bad items from your diet, you will need substitutions, and fruits and vegetables should be at the top of your list.
You can reach Bryant Stamford, Professor of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology at Hannover College, at email@example.com.