Everyone buys their own food. No matter how good their insurance plan is, it doesn’t include a meal plan or even a healthy eating guide. That means everyone is a self-pay patient or a cash patient when it comes to nutrition, making it one of the great levelers in health care.
Understanding nutrition and healthy eating, however, is rather a different story. To start off the new year right, HBI is bringing you a full month of nutrition information. This week, fruits and vegetables, so let’s get started.
The Rainbow of Fruits and Vegetables
One of the hardest parts of good nutrition is figuring out exactly what fruits and vegetables you should be eating and when. Whether you are a self-pay patient (cash patient) OR you believe you have the best insurance plan, there is, you might not know where to turn for the right answers about nutrition. Which vegetables are good and which are just more healthy fillers without substantial nutrition? You know you need at least 5 servings a day, but what is a serving?
The good news is, nature took care of deciphering filler from nutritious for you. Fruits and vegetables have more nutrition the brighter or darker their colors. Spinach and iceberg lettuce are excellent examples. The dark green of spinach tells you it has a much higher nutritional value than the pale, almost white, lettuce which is almost devoid of any nutritional value. This is true for most fruits and vegetables. So look for dark or vibrant colors when you are shopping for vegetables and fruits to ensure healthy eating.
The different colors of fruits and vegetables will also guide you to certain nutrients. Nutritionists split all produce into five separate color groups- red, yellow/orange, white/brown, blue/purple, and green. Bell peppers are a good example of the difference between colors. FYI, most nutritionists are direct-pay or nutritionists.
The exact same vegetable, a bell pepper, has completely different nutritional profiles depending on the color. Red bell peppers have almost 100 times the amount of vitamin A than green or yellow bell peppers. Yellow bell peppers are the better choice for potassium and folate while green bell peppers least calories.
Taste the Rainbow… Of Nutrition!
Now that you know how color and shade work to your advantage in the produce section, you need to understand what each color and shade mean to you and your family’s nutrition.
- Red produce, such as beets, cherries, papaya, tomatoes and watermelon, are linked to some pretty fantastic things. Solid scientific links have been made between the nutrition in red produce and the reduction of prostate cancer risk and tumor growth, the lowering of blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and supporting joint tissue in arthritis cases.
- The yellow/orange category includes such items as apricots, peaches, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and squash. Science has linked these bright yellow/orange fruits and vegetables to reducing age-related degeneration, promoting collagen formation, and helping your body to absorb and use both magnesium and calcium to build strong healthy bones.
- The white/brown fruits and vegetables, such as bananas, cauliflower, mushrooms, onions, and potatoes are serious cancer fighters. They having been directly linked to a reduction in colon, breast, and prostate cancer risk. They also activate the natural creation of “killer cells” in your body that are critical to a healthy immune system. On top of all of that, they also help balance hormones, leading to reduced risk of hormone-related health problems.
- The blue/purple produce section of your grocery store should hold such delights as blackberries, blueberries, plums, and eggplant. These fruits and vegetables are magnificent sources of numerous nutrients and have many health benefits. For example, blue/purple produce limits the activity of cancer cells, keep your digestive track healthy, boost the immune system, fight inflammation, and improve the absorption of many of the minerals your body needs.
- And finally, the green vegetables. Everyone knows how good these are for you, just remember – the darker/brighter the green, the healthier the food! But did you know that green produce reduces the risk of most cancers, normalizes your digestive tract, supports good vision, and boosts your immune system?
That’s right! Science has linked green produce to all of this, on top of the numerous vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients you already knew were there. Who knew all those beautiful colors were making nutrition and healthy eating so easy and smart.
What, When, and How Much?
When it comes to produce, anything that is a fruit or vegetable counts. Fresh or frozen, smoothie or juice, they all count towards your daily servings. But you have to be careful about all the added stuff. Sugar, preservatives, and over processing can make even the most nutritious vegetable unhealthy.
Fresh raw fruits and vegetables are the best way to get the maximum nutrition from every serving. Cooking your own produce at home is almost as good, especially if you steam or boil and save the water for other uses. Just take care, the farther you get from the produce section when shopping, the less nutrition you will get for your fruit and vegetable dollar.
It is no mistake that the nutritionists have split the produce into five colors and that they suggest a minimum of five servings. This is yet another way to ensure healthy eating. Make sure that you have at least one serving of each color every day. Doing this will make sure that you are receiving a balance of the available nutrients and have the variety that keeps fruits or veggies from being the boring part of your meal.
Serving size is a little trickier. What is considered a serving is almost always more or less than you are already eating. Sugary fruits and starchy vegetables have a much smaller serving size than leafy greens and tart fruits. On the plus side, if you are replacing refined sugar foods and starches, such as candy or bread, eating more fruit or potatoes than the suggested serving is still the healthy eating choice.
However, you should take care to understand the suggested serving size and know how much you are eating. The size of your serving affects the amount of nutrition you receive. You can find the most popular fruits and vegetables on this Fruit & Vegetable Nutrition Fact Chart which gives you the serving size and important nutrition information. They even color code them so you know which part of the rainbow you are enjoying.
Self-Pay Patient, Nutritionists & Health Beyond Insurance
Now that you can walk into your grocery store with confidence that you and your family are eating healthy in the produce section, you can be sure that you are not wasting precious dollars on fruits and vegetables that are not giving you the best nutrition.
We at Health Beyond Insurance also know that you probably still have more questions, nutrition is hard to understand sometimes. Join us for free today and find a cash nutritionist in your area that is eager to answer your questions, without emptying your bank account just because you are a self-pay patient or a cash patient.
Next week we help to unravel the tangle of information out there about Grains and be sure to check out this week’s YouTube video for some fantastic recipes that help ensure that you get all your fruit and vegetable servings every day.