Five servings of fruit and vegetables a day - at least - has been the common advice from dietitians and physicians for years now but just how can you manage to consume that much fruit in a day, especially if you have never been a big fan of it in the first place? And is it really that important or can you get the same nutrients elsewhere?
According to the USDA, fruits offer some very specific benefits that other types of food really cannot, or at least do not do so as well. One of the big advantages that fruit offers is that the vast majority of choices are naturally low in calories, contain very little sodium or fat and have zero cholesterol.
Those are all health benefits right there before you even begin to look at things like higher fiber counts (for improved digestion) high natural vitamin contents and even the presence of essential minerals that are difficult to obtain elsewhere. For example, a person who consumes too little potassium puts their health in serious jeopardy. According to WebMD such people risk high blood pressure, heart disease, digestive problems and even a stroke. One of the best sources of potassium? The humble banana and, to a lesser extent, citrus fruits as well.
Most people measure fruit serving sizes as 'one cup', including most government agencies such as the USDA. But how does that translate into actual fruit, so that you know you are getting enough fruit every day? Well, one medium sized banana counts as one cup. As does one medium sized mango, two average plums, a single apple, about 50 grapes and as long as it is all natural (and preferably organic) so does eight ounces of orange juice.
Apart from simply packing a banana with the rest of your lunch or making your after dinner dessert a bowl of strawberries instead of a chocolate cake what other ways can you incorporate enough fruit into your diet? Making them a part of your early morning routine is a great, and very easy to implement idea. Most of us are very busy in the morning and often claim we simply do not have time to make and eat a healthy breakfast, even though we know we really should.
A fruit smoothie can solve all this problem and help you get the day off to an energetic start. All you need is a decent food processor or blender, ice and a decent stock of fresh fruit in the fridge. It can also be quite the culinary adventure to experiment with different fruit pairings to come up with new tastes that you love and it really will literally only take you two minutes! If you want to be even more adventurous you could try incorporating a few of those all-important veggies in a morning smoothie as well.
If you are the kind of person who has a tendency to reach for a mid-morning or mid afternoon snack as a pick me up why not try replacing those bad for your health (and your waistline) salty chips or sugary candy bars with dried fruit instead? Most supermarkets now stock all kinds of dried fruit options, many in little snack sized boxes, or you could even invest in a food dehydrator and make dried fruit from fresh produce yourself, allowing you to make use of the kind of really wonderful organically grown fruits that are becoming easier to find as the number of local farmer's markets increases.