When it comes to fruits and vegetables, fresh is best. We spoke with registered dietician Serena Hunt to learn all the reasons why fresh stuff is definitely the way to go and how it may even free up some of your time and energy when it's time to serve dinner.
Anytime you eat fruits, veggies and other plant-based foods, you're filling your body with indigestible roughage. Only, veggies and fruits do it best. "When compared calorie for calorie," said Hunt, "veggies are higher in fiber than even whole grains." A diet high in fiber, in turn, can keep the digestive tract on track.
We probably don't need to tell you that antioxidants can prevent premature aging and protect the body from disease, so they're worth keeping around. Unfortunately, the processed foods of typical American fare contain only a smidgen of fresh fruits' and veggies' raw antioxidant power. "Choosing whole, fresh fruit over other products minimizes the chance of heat-processing, which can destroy natural antioxidants," said Hunt.
When the temperatures rise, you don't need to rely on water alone for your hydration needs. And why would you, when fruits and veggies contain a ton of water? According to Hunt, the water content of fresh produce can keep you feeling hydrated, satiated and probably even a little radiant all summer long.
Fruits and vegetables have a dose of the best vitamins and minerals that money can buy. But wait, there's more. "Eating fresh fruits and veggies provides you with naturally occurring co-enzymes in the plants," said Hunt. These co-enzymes actually help your body efficiently absorb and use the plant's vitamins and minerals.
All the fiber of fresh fruits and vegetables has a way of filling up your stomach and preventing blood sugar spikes so that you'll feel fuller longer. As Hunt explained, "the fiber of whole fruits and veggies curbs your body's insulin spike," so you won't be at risk for an afternoon sugar crash.
There's no doubt about it: People who consume lots of fresh produce reduce their risk of disease. "Eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables every day has been associated with a decreased risk of cancer and other chronic disease," reported Hunt.
Carrots, kale and cucumbers are sexy. People who eat the fresh stuff tend to have slimmer waistlines and a lower body weight than people who load up on other foods. "The tight glucose control of fresh produce easily translates into a tighter stomach," said Hunt. Now, that's an outcome we can support for summer — and year-round.
Finally, fresh fruits and veggies can actually streamline your dinner routine, rather than complicate it. Use tasty produce to carry an entire entree, rather than slaving away in a hot kitchen over a hearty roast or chicken dish. Consider one of the following fresh and flavorful entrees that you can totally whip together in under 15 minutes.
Word to the wise: This doesn't have to be difficult, even if you don't have time to prepare dinner. The heat of summer lends itself to a veritable smorgasbord of graze-worthy fruits, colorful vegetables and cheeses on a platter. Just go to your local farmers market for a variety of fresh produce picked at its prime, and serve it chopped and raw for a refreshing take on dinnertime.
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