Health Watch -- Eat Your Vegetables

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Your mother really wasn't trying to torture you when she made you eat your vegetables.

One of the most important food groups is fruits and vegetables. The more we learn about nutrition and health, the more important we know these foods are. Nutrients found in fruits and vegetables are important for maintaining health and preventing disease.

When choosing fruits and vegetables to add to your diet, nutrition experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say to remember that color is key. The more colorful your plate is, the more nutrition it offers. Fruits and vegetables that have dark, rich colors like red, orange or green are the most nutrient-dense. Foods like carrots, broccoli, spinach and sweet potatoes are all rich in vitamin A. Red, yellow and orange fruits like berries and citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C.

But what about all those other fruits and vegetables that don't seem to have a lot of food value? The nutrition labels on grocery store shelves for foods like zucchini, radishes and cucumbers make these look like they're not worth your time. But Dr. Scott Grundy, director of UT Southwestern's Center for Human Nutrition, says they're rich in other nutrients that may not show up on labels, like potassium, folic acid, zinc and even iron. They also contain substances called phytochemicals, which may help protect against some diseases.


March 2004