Question of the day…have you been in the bathroom a lot this past week? If so, I hope it’s because you increased your water intake since our last Wellness Wednesday article. As we learned last week, water is so important for a lot of reasons. Drinking plain water is best, but you can also get water from the foods you eat. Both fruits and vegetables contain a lot of water, and that leads us right into our discussion for today.
Today is the final lesson in our Back-to-School series. As you’ll see, I’ve combined action 5 and 6 from our list. Just as a reminder, our 6 key actions are listed below.
6 Actions to Get YOUR Health Back on Track
- Get 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise at least 5 days per week.
- Perform strength-training exercises 2 to 3 days per week.
- Eat a healthy breakfast every day.
- Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water each day.
- Eat 3 cups of veggies each day.
- Eat 2 fruits each day.
Today we’re going to talk about actions #5 and #6:
Eat 3 cups of veggies and 2 fruits each day!
We all know that fruits and vegetables are “good for you.” Believe it or not, eating them can help reduce stress, increase attentiveness, reduce cravings, and lose weight. Let’s look at some interesting reasons why we want to include these foods in our diet each day.
Reason #1 : The Chew Factor
Think about the last time you ate some carrots or an apple. It took you time to chew these foods. Right? Studies have shown that the act of chewing could have beneficial effects on the nervous system. In addition, increased cortisol (a stress hormone) productions, faster heart rates, and increased attentiveness were all linked to increased chewing.
It also appears that the more you chew, the better you digest your foods. When you eat foods like fruits and veggies, these foods usually stay in your mouth longer because they take longer to chew. This does a couple things. First, it stimulates your saliva which lubricates the esophagus and the chewed food in the digestive tract. It also stimulates the taste receptors in the mouth, which in turn triggers the hydrochloric acid (HCl) in the stomach. This helps because the HCl in the stomach is responsible for processing hard-to-digest proteins, like casein in dairy and gluten in wheat.
Sit down to a meal with fruits and veggies and chew your way to better digestion!
Reason #2: Your Fight Against Heart Disease
Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans, and fruits and vegetables can help you fight off this scary disease. As you’ve probably heard, LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is considered the “bad” cholesterol and is connected with the disease. Let’s look at how cholesterol works and how fruits and veggies help.
Cholesterol becomes “bad” through a process called oxidation. To understand oxidation a little better, think of a piece of metal that has become rusted. The rust has formed because the piece of metal has gone though oxidation. It’s not a good thing. Although the body doesn’t exactly rust on the inside, you get the picture. It’s not something you want going on in there.
Fruits and vegetables are the number one source of antioxidants in the diet, and they work to neutralize the process of oxidation. When you don’t get enough fruits and vegetables, antioxidant levels crash, allowing the fats in the blood to oxidize. Low vegetable consumption is directly linked to the oxidation of LDL and, ultimately, high cholesterol and heart disease.
Major protective phytonutrients and antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables, including flavonoids, carotenoids, vitamin C, and vitamin E, have been shown to reduce heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and some cancers.
Reason #3: Veggies for Weight loss
Vegetables are extremely low in calories. A cup of veggies averages about 50 calories. In comparison, a cup of nuts or seeds can have up to 750 calories. That’s a big difference, and the case for vegetables gets even better yet. The body uses almost the same amount of energy to chew and digest vegetables as it receives from them. The net result is that vegetables carry a very small caloric load, and some people even refer to them as a “free food.”
Vegetables typically contain both carbohydrates and protein, and they are very low in fat. They’re also loaded with fibrous cellulose, which helps the digestive system, bowel movements, and elimination of toxins. Breaking down the cellulose fibers in vegetables takes time, which allows the carbohydrates to be released slowly. This helps keep the blood sugar stable.
Fruits are also important for weight loss because they contain beneficial vitamins and minerals that keep your body performing at its best. You do need to be careful when you consume fruit because of the sugar that’s in it. This is why I recommend only eating 2 servings of fruit each day.
A cup of pineapple chunks, for example, contains 16 grams of sugar and a cup of watermelon contains 17 grams. You can see how a large fruit salad could easily give you more sugar than you’re looking for. Don’t give up a fruit salad, though. They’re delicious. Just be mindful of your portions and don’t over-do.
Reason #4: Get the Vitamins YOUR Body Needs
As I like to say, your body is just a giant science experiment with chemical reactions going on inside all the time. Your body can do marvelous things, but there are some vitamins your body can’t make. That’s why it’s so important to get them from foods, especially fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and veggies contain both water- and fat-soluble vitamins. That simply means that a vitamin dissolves and gets transported or stored in the body in either water or fat.
Water-soluble vitamins you find in fruits and vegetables include B vitamins such as B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, biotin, and choline, as well as Vitamin C. (If you’re wondering about B12, it’s actually only found in meats, so fruits and veggies are not a good source.) Because these vitamins dissolve in water, they’re not stored in the body. Basically, whatever you don’t use, you pee out. Since they’re not stored, though, you need to make sure to replenish these vitamins each day.
Vegetables are also a rich source of fat-soluble vitamins A and K, and some vitamin E. These act a little different in that they can be stored in the body; however, consuming these vitamins each day is still important for overall health.
I hope this Back-to-School series has helped you get back into a healthy routine since summer has ended. I know it can be tough to get back on track. I’d love to hear how you’re doing and encourage you to keep striving for your BEST health yet!!!!
Ding, Ding, Ding….Class Dismissed
Stay happy, healthy, and N motion, AND REMEMBER…age is just a number!