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Putting More Plants into Your Diet

Eating more fruits and vegetables does take planning and effort. Develop a routine of eating fruits and vegetables at every meal. Once you get into the habit of eating plants, you’ll definitely miss them when you don’t eat them. 

The Power of More 

Many fruits and vegetables contain a variety of compounds called phytochemicals. The amounts of phytochemicals in plants varies by growing region, but the kind of phytochemicals present in plants remains consistent. While research is ongoing in the field of plant chemicals, researchers realize we have not yet discovered the full health potential of these powerful plant substances. 

Phytochemicals protect plants by acting as natural pesticides. Phytochemicals protect humans, too. They turn on enzymes in our body to help us detoxify carcinogens and other environmental poisons. In this way and in others, plant components can change the course of cancer by: inhibiting enzymes responsible for cancer growth, activating protective enzymes that stop cancer from progressing, modifying how carcinogens are detoxified, acting as free radical scavengers, suppressing the abnormal growth of precancerous lesions, stimulating the immune system, decreasing platelet aggregation, and exhibiting antibacterial and antiviral activity.

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How Much is Enough?

While the National Cancer Institute promotes five servings of produce per day, the latest recommendations from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics indicate “more matters”. If you are actively trying to fight cancer, and you understand that these plants contain cancer fighting chemicals, it would just make sense that the minimum requirements of plants are not nearly enough for you. Eighty percent of American children and nearly 70% of adults don’t even come close to meeting the minimum requirements. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical Institute found greater levels of antioxidants in individuals who consumed eight to ten servings of fruits and vegetables each day as compared to individuals who ate fewer servings. Other studies show that treatment side effects are diminished when blood antioxidant levels are higher. This means more of your healthy cells are being protected from the collateral damage of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. So, to be clear: You need between 9-13 servings of produce every day.

How to Eat More Plants

If you want to provide your body with the best cancer-fighting foods, there is no way around it—you must eat your greens (and your reds, yellows, oranges, and purples!). Maximize the health potential of your fruits and vegetables by following these suggestions: 

• Eat vegetables and fruits that have deep, rich colors. The darker the plant,     the greater the phytochemical potential. Sweet potatoes are better than white potatoes. One serving of romaine lettuce contains almost eight times as much vitamin A as a serving of iceberg lettuce. Get the picture? 

  • Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. Don’t limit your vegetable

choices to only broccoli and cabbage. While both of these vegetables have outstanding nutritional profiles, they can contribute only a fraction of the important cancer-fighting chemicals to your diet. Consuming a mixed bag of plants gives you a well-rounded dose of a variety of phytochemicals and provides an opportunity for the chemicals to work together in a more powerful way.  

• Eat whole natural fruits and vegetables. Consume phytochemical-rich plants in their raw or slightly cooked form. Eating uncooked, unprocessed plants contributes enzymes for digestion and provides the highest levels of nutrients. 

Understanding Serving Sizes

The National Cancer Institute offers these serving size guidelines for fruits and vegetables: 

  • 1 medium fruit or 1/2 cup of small or diced fruit 
  • 1/2 cup 100% juice 
  • 1/4 cup dried fruit 
  • 1/2 cup raw non-leafy or cooked vegetables 
  • 1 cup raw leafy vegetables 
  • 1/2 cup cooked beans or peas 

As you can see, a serving of fruit or vegetables is reasonable in size. Think about the mixed greens you have at dinner. Chances are that your bowl contains at least two cups, or two servings of salad. Serving sizes for fruits depend a bit more on the amount of carbohydrate each food contains. For example, one medium banana is equal to two fruits, while a medium apple is equal to one fruit.

Here are some suggestions for adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet.

  • Add grated zucchini and carrots to ground turkey, beef, or textured vegetable protein. Shape into burgers or loaf form and grill or bake. 
  • Dice up colorful peppers and onions and add them to potato wedges. Toss olive oil, chopped garlic cloves, and a quarter teaspoon of thyme. Roast in an oven for about thirty minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
  •  Replace half the meat in lasagna or spaghetti sauces with sliced or grated vegetables. 
  • Carry a bag of petite carrots with you to work. Add to a sandwich in place of fries, chips, or potato or macaroni salad. 
  • Top fish with a citrus chutney or hearty salsa. Add zip to your chicken by adding a cherry sauce; bake cinnamon sprinkled apple wedges with pork chops. 
  •  Dress up homemade or commercial soups by adding canned or frozen vegetables. Just like that, you’ve added a half serving of vegetables per one cup of soup! 
  • Mix frozen blueberries or raspberries into pancake or waffle mixes. Top hot or cold cereal with bananas, berries, or peaches. 

• Place peeled pear halves in a bowl with one cup of water. Drizzle with 

lemon juice and microwave for about ten minutes. Discard the water, 

spoon a berry all-fruit spread over each pear. 

  • Add golden raisins and scallions to curry-flavored couscous. 
  •  Thaw and puree frozen fruits. Drizzle over a frozen tofu dessert. 
  • Try frozen pineapple and blueberry, or raspberry and banana combinations in your fruit smoothies. 
  • Snack on a healthy trail mix made of dried fruit (cranberries, pineapples, dates, or raisins), low-fat granola, and raw almonds. 
  • Instead of stopping for coffee or ordering tea, drink juice. Buy a six-pack of tomato juice and keep it in the refrigerator for days when eating vegetables become a challenge. 
  • Mix fresh berries, apple slices, kiwi, or pineapple chunks into plain nonfat yogurt for a sweet treat. 
  • When dining out, ask for a double helping of the vegetable of the day. Order vegetable-filled sandwiches or fajitas. Visit the salad bar and stick with the plain veggies and fresh fruits. No More Excuses! 
  • Take a whole food supplement. Here’s a science-based whole food supplement that has been quality tested and doctor (and dietitian) approved.  
  • Grow your own! A green thumb is not necessary to enjoy fruits and vegetables grown aeroponically from your own indoor/outdoor tower garden kit
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