Not All Produce

Fruits and Veggies

You’ve heard the same broken record for years: eat your fruits and vegetables. We’ve even tried to make eating fruits and veggies a fun thing for kids with the “Eat the Rainbow” motto and the “5-A-Day” serving guidelines. 

As a parent, you know the popular nutrients that are commonly found in the foods you serve and want your kids to eat: Vitamin A in carrots, lycopene in tomatoes, and potassium in bananas. While these fun facts and efforts to eat healthier are valid and certainly encouraged, many of us aren’t educated on how to select and cook produce in the best interest of our families’ health.

 If we are making the effort to meet our fruit and vegetable goals, we should be getting the most benefits possible. Jo Robinson, author of “Eating on the Wild Side”, proposes this very idea in her book.  Robinson writes, “Some of the most popular varieties of fruits and veggies are the least nutritious of all, but our society has developed the habit of eating them for a lifetime.” If that’s the case, we need to know how to let go of some of our habits and develop new ones.


Getting more bang for your bite

Here are a few tips to help you change things up with those fruit and vegetable habits so that you are getting the most nutrients and value every time:

Think variety

Recent food science has shown us that not all apples (and produce in general) were created equal. As Robinson reports, a Granny Smith apple provides 3 times more nutrients than Golden Delicious and 13 times more than Ginger Gold. Making a simple switch in your “apple-a-day” can more than triple your nutrients! Here are a few tips for other produce substitutions:

  • Red produce has more antioxidants than green ones (think grapes, apples, cabbage, and bagged salads)
  • The skin is the healthiest part of some produce, don’t leave it out (peaches, potatoes, apples)
  • Exotic tropical fruits (guava, papaya, mango) are more nutritious than our American favorites (banana, pineapple)
  • The smaller and more potent the onion, the greater its antioxidant activity

Opt for freshness

When it comes to produce, timing is everything. Certain types of fruit will continue to ripen after harvesting (avocados, bananas, mangoes, peaches, plums), while others will not (citrus fruits, berries, grapes). Fruits reach their peak nutrition at the point of ripening. Being conscience of the freshness of your produce can give you that extra punch in the long run!

Cook differently

A slew of fad diets have preached the message that “raw is best” – a slogan that is completely false. While the nutrients in some produce are best absorbed raw, others have increased availability through easy kitchen concoctions. Below are some ideas that may challenge your conventional recipes:

  • Cook your green and orange veggies (high in fat-soluble vitamins) with an oil or other fat to increase vitamin availability 
  • Most berries increase their antioxidant activity when they are cooked (blueberry pie, anyone?)
  • Heat or simmer tomato sauce to triple the lycopene content
  • Crush fresh garlic and let it sit for 10 minutes to maximize the health-saving benefits of this seasoning
  • Cook vegetables that are high in starches and carbohydrates (think potatoes, pumpkin, squash) in oil to prevent blood sugar rushes

For more information on selecting and preparing produce to it’s full potential, pick up a copy of “Eating on the Wild Side” by Jo Robinson at your local bookstore. Check out her website www.eatwild.com for further reading.

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About the Author

Erin Gussler, MS RDN LD CLT

Growing up, Erin has always loved food (and could be found singing “fruit, fruit, fruit for the whole team” at baseball games).  When she started college, she realized her true calling was in the field of nutrition.  After a career in critical care nutrition, she is now using her passion and knowledge for integrative and functional nutrition to help you succeed in your wellness goals.  Nutrition should be more than just “another diet”, but about healing and wellness from the inside out.  Using personalized nutrition therapy, Erin will teach you to not only love food but to eat food (and enjoy food) that loves you back.

Erin received her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition Science at Texas A&M University, and she completed her dietetic internship through Meredith College.  She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as well as the Houston Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  She is also a member of several dietetic practice groups including Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine, Nutrition Entrepreneurs, and Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition.

Erin is committed to working with you to find balance in your life and to help demystify the world of nutrition.  Our goal at Whole Health Houston is to find the root causes of imbalance, and provide an individualized and custom wellness map.  Erin works closely with the doctors at Whole Health Houston to provide you with consistent care, evaluation, and on-going monitoring to help you succeed.  Let Erin walk alongside you and teach you to use food and nutrition to help you live your best life!

About the Author

Erin Gussler, MS RDN LD CLT

Erin is committed to working with you to find balance in your life and to help demystify the world of nutrition.  Our goal at Whole Health Houston is to find the root causes of imbalance, and provide an individualized and custom wellness map.  Erin works closely with the doctors at Whole Health Houston to provide you with consistent care, evaluation, and on-going monitoring to help you succeed.  Let Erin walk alongside you and teach you to use food and nutrition to help you live your best life!

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