From posters in your elementary school’s nurses office boasting that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” to your parents withholding dessert until you “eat your greens,” the need to consume fruits and vegetables has been drilled into your mind since childhood. By now you must know that fruits and vegetables are essential components of a nutritious diet, but if you’re still not sold then take it from Health author-journalist Cal Orey. She explains that it is important to eat fruits and vegetables, especially ones that are seasonally fresh and locally grown, because nutrient-dense foods such as these can help you “stay lean, calm, boost physical energy and brainpower, and practice heart health habits…and get health-boosting and disease-fighting antioxidants.”
Alright, so you get that fruits and veggies contain boatloads of antioxidants, essential vitamins, minerals, and more… but what exactly does all of that really mean for your body and health? And even if you’re fluent in “superfood” lingo, are you getting enough of the stuff to reap all the benefits? FYI: The Mayo Clinic recommends 3-4 servings of vegetables per day, with one serving being one cup of raw leafy green vegetables or ½ cup cup-up raw or cooked vegetables. As for fruits, they recommend 4 servings a day, with one serving consisting of 1 medium fruit or ½ cup fresh, frozen, or canned fruit.
If you don’t fully understand the nutritional benefits or are not meeting these daily guidelines, we’re here to help. We are featuring the health benefits of one fruit and one vegetable every Friday for the rest of the summer, and giving you tasty recipes too so that it will not only be a breeze to add these superfoods to your diet, but they’ll taste so good that you won’t revert to your childhood methods of sneaking your brussel sprouts to your dog under the table. Read up and eat up, ladies—and don’t forget to check back next week to get your fruit and veggie fix all over again.
It’s a good thing bananas are one of the most popular and commonly eaten fruits in the world considering they’re packed with belly-filling, yet flattening, nutrients. Health magazine explains that bananas are one of the best sources of Resistant Starch, which is “a healthy carb that fills you up and helps to boost your metabolism. As Resistant Starch moves though your digestive system, it releases fatty acids that encourage fat burning, especially in your belly.” A study conducted at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom found that consuming Resistant Starch in one meal led participants to consume 10% fewer calories (roughly 150 to 200 calories for the average woman) the next day, due to decreased hunger.Additionally, bananas are a rich source of blood-pressure-lowering potassium, making them a perfect pre or post-workout snack. Health writer, author, founder of the blog Carrots ‘N’ Cake, and certified personal trainer Tina Haupert eats bananas almost every day to fuel her active lifestyle. “Eating a banana right before your workout can boost your energy and performance since they contain potassium, which prevents muscle cramps by acting like an electrolyte,” she says. “Additionally, the potassium in a banana helps speed up the muscle recovery process.” I’ve personally loved bananas ever since listening to Barney sing “I like to eat eat eat apples and bananas.” I knew that purple dinosaur would never lead me astray. Try out these recipes to get your daily dose of Barney-approved Resistant Starch and potassium.
Banana Bread Smoothie
Courtesy of: carrotsncake.com
In addition to bananas, it contains other healthy ingredients that add protein, fiber, and healthy fats—all blended into an ultra-satisfying smoothie.
- 1/4 cup rolled oats
- 1 frozen banana
- 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder
- 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed meal
- 1 tablespoon of honey
- 1 cup almond milk (or your milk of choice)
Combine all ingredients in blender. Blend until you get desired consistency. Enjoy!
Peanut Butter & Banana Grilled Sandwich
Courtesy of: allrecipes.com
Banana combined with protein-packed peanut butter will fill you up while also satisfying your sweet tooth. Go nuts.
- Cooking spray
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter
- 2 slices whole wheat bread
- 1 banana, sliced
Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat (or use a panini press) and coat with cooking spray. Spread 1 tablespoon of peanut butter onto one side of each slice of bread. Place banana slices onto the peanut buttered side of one slice, top with the other slice and press together firmly. Fry the sandwich until golden brown on each side, about 2 minutes per side.
We already gave a shout-out to everyone’s favorite purple dinosaur, so now it’s time to holla at your new favorite purple vegetable. Eggplant is recommended not just for it’s pretty purple hue, but for the heaps of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants it contains. The benefits of eggplant do not stop there—it’s also brain food! World’s Healthiest Foods explains that eggplant skin contains a phytonutrient called nasunin that has been shown to protect the lipids in brain cell membranes in animal studies. Egg-cell-ent.
Courtesy of: fullmeasureofhappiness.com
Cheesy goodness. Enough said.
- Roasted eggplant slices
- Pasta sauce
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Arrange eggplant slices on prepared baking sheet. Top each slice with an equal amount of sauce and then top with mozerella and Parmesan. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until cheese is bubbly. Top with basil before serving.
Courtesy of: weightwatchers.com
If you’re getting tired of hummus (is that even possible?), this is a tasty alternative. Use it as a dip for veggies or pita, or spread it on your sandwich.
- 1 medium eggplant
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 ½ Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ tsp table salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp lemon zest
Preheat oven to 375°F. Place whole eggplant on a baking sheet; pierce it in several places with a fork. Roast, turning once during cooking, for 1 hour; cool completely. Slice eggplant open and scoop out all the flesh; place flesh in a food processor or blender. Add oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper; puree until smooth and garnish with zest. Yields about 3 tablespoons per serving.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to fruits and vegetables, you really can’t go wrong. By the end of the summer, you’ll be stocked up on tons of new nutritious recipes to ensure that you not only eat your greens, but you eat your reds, your yellows, your oranges, your blues, your pinks, and your purples too—a much healthier way to taste the rainbow.