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Tastes good, and it's good for you

August 07, 2007|By JESSICA TAYLOR

Think back to when school was in session; you're walking back from the lunch line to your table, and you see that most of the kids in the cafeteria have bought lunch today. You sit down to eat your pizza, and notice that most of the kids around you are avoiding the fruits and vegetables on their trays. You think nothing of it; this happens all the time.

It's true; this sort of stuff does happen all the time, but you don't have to take my word for it. I asked Barbara Cecil, a Washington County Board of Education employee and mother of teenagers. She said she has seen this problem firsthand. I asked her how many days her kids would meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture's recommendation that they eat about five cups of fruits and vegetables daily. She laughed.

"Not very often," she said. "Probably twice a week."

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It's a bigger deal than many teenagers realize. Take a banana. There's more to this fruit than what meets the eye - it's full of vitamin B-6 and manganese. Same goes for the peas - they have fiber and vitamin C all in one.

All fruits and vegetables contain various nutrients necessary for your body's day-to-day functions. Without those nutrients, your body suffers, your brain suffers, and you'll suffer right along with them.

Take manganese for example. It helps regulate blood sugar levels and absorb calcium. Long-term lack of manganese can weaken the body's capability to fight cancerous cells.

Another nutrient, vitamin K, helps to slow down the bleeding of a cut or injury, and it can help prevent your arteries from hardening. If you are not eating enough vitamin K, it will take longer for your cuts and injuries to heal.

As you can see, lacking enough of one or two vitamins makes a big difference in how your body reacts to certain situations.

Fruits and vegetables take care of a lot of those problems. Instead of eating that pack of cookies, you could just grab an orange. If you don't like oranges, then maybe try a banana.

By eating fruits and vegetables, you're eating nutrient-rich, not nutrient-deficient, calories that will keep you fuller longer and help you maintain a healthy weight.

Although fruits and vegetables provide many nutrients that we need, it's still important to make sure that you keep the rest of your diet balanced. You can do this by consuming whole grains, dairy products and lean meats to be able to get the dietary requirements that we need to meet each day.

A good way to incorporate fruits and vegetables into your diet is to sneak them into foods you like, such as smoothies. Smoothies, typically, are a combination of fruit, yogurt and ice cubes blended into a frothy milkshake.

Most vegetables are tasteless in smoothies, as long as you add plenty of fruits. By including vegetables, you get even more nutrients than a regular smoothie would provide.

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