Why Nutritious Foods Matter

We hope you enjoy our guest blogger this month–Emily! Emily is Second Harvest’s Nutritionist. She is a Registered Dietician and a wealth of knowledge for all things nutritious. We knew there was no one better to write the National Nutrition Month blog than Emily!(Pictured is Emily and Greg, Director of Program Development)

We have all heard it, get your 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day, or even “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but why is it important? Who cares if I eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables rather than 5 servings of brownies with all the ice cream my heart desires? Sweet treats can fit in a healthy lifestyle, as long as it is indeed a treat and consumed in moderation. Let’s take a moment to discuss and explore why more nutritious foods matter!

First, let’s look at the benefits of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables provide sources of fiber, essential vitamins and minerals. Some of the health benefits of fiber include: preventing constipation, increased feeling of fullness and improving heart health. Fruits and vegetables also contain potassium, folate, Vitamin A and Vitamin C, among many other nutrients. These nutrients work together to help the body lower blood pressure, reduce risk of heart disease and stroke, lower risk of type II Diabetes, reduce risk of obesity and even help prevent some cancers.

Fruits and vegetables are diverse in the benefits they provide and in the type and amount of nutrients each one provides. If you have ever heard the expression “eat the rainbow” (referring to fruits and vegetables — not Skittles J), then you are probably aware of my next nutritious food tip.  Eating a variety of different fruits and vegetables is important because each one contains phytochemicals.

Phytochemicals are responsible for the different flavor, color and smells that correspond with each fruit or vegetable. Many phytochemicals are antioxidants, which are important in promoting immunity in the body. The different colors help people figure out what type of nutrients is in each fruit or vegetable. For example, most orange vegetables and fruits, such as sweet potatoes, winter squash, apricots and cantaloupe, contain beta-carotene, which is the precursor to Vitamin A. Vitamin A aids in eye health and keeps skin and hair healthy. Dark, leafy greens (like spinach and kale) contain Vitamin K and Vitamin C. Vitamin K is important in bone health, and Vitamin C helps boost your body’s immune system.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “Well, that’s all fine and great, but what if I HATE fruits and vegetables?” The good news is you can retrain your brain to like certain tastes or like something new! However, it does take time for change to happen, and there is no guarantee on the amount of time the change will happen. With that in mind, start small. If what works best for you is to swap French Fries for a sweet potato, start there. If the change is adding a can of sweet peas to your chicken noodle soup, start there. Even if you are an avid fruit and vegetable lover, consider finding a recipe with a fruit or vegetable that you have never tried. Thankfully, there are so many different fruits and vegetables that exist to try!

Anyone who has tried to eat more fruits and vegetables knows the key to success is having access to fruits and vegetables. At Second Harvest, we recognize that many of the people within our 18-cpunty service area have limited resources, which is why we want to help by increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables provided to our clients, as well as nutrition education. Our Nutrition Access Program is designed to help break down any barriers that may be hindering our clients from eating a nutritious diet. If a client is unfamiliar with a product, we will develop and distribute easy and healthy recipes.

Another initiative on the horizon is our Fresh Pantry program. This future program will provide a box full of ingredients for a well-balanced diet to areas with limited access to grocery stores. At Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee, we are in the fight against hunger, but we also want to give our clients the opportunity to live healthy and happy lives. We want to empower and inspire our clients to make healthier choices. For more information about our nutrition access program or how you can help us change lives, click HERE, or contact Emily Parkman, RD. Happy National Nutrition Month!