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An Apple A Day... Make Mine A Tomato

They may keep the doctor away, but apples pale in comparison
to other more super-nutrious fruits and vegetables...

How to grow tomatoes

More people are adding fruits and vegetables to their diets. Moms are telling kids to eat their veggies and try a fruit snack instead of a candy bar. Healthier is better and we seem to be doing a good job of getting the message across.

But people would eat sweet potatoes every day — not just on Thanksgiving — if Susie Nanney, Ph.D., acting director of the Obesity Prevention Center at Saint Louis University, had her way. She's happy to see the move to healthier eating habits, but there is plenty of reason for concern. There seem to be some mixed vegetable messages in the popular press.

"People aren't eating the fruits and vegetables that contain the most nutrients," says Nanney, who is the author of a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. "People are quite frankly confused about nutrition. I feel their pain."

Most Americans recognize a healthy diet should include at least five fruits and vegetables and eating habits are beginning to change, but there is still a problem. Researchers have found that the fruits and vegetables on the table are not always the most nutritious choices because messages about what to eat are unclear.

Nanney, a dietitian, notes that United States Department of Agriculture, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and other health groups send out conflicting messages about which fruits and veggies are most nutritious. Nanney observes, "You can see how the public gets confused by inconsistency in the messages." While different guidelines can get complicated, Nanney suggests thinking about color to pack nutritional power in your diet:

: Eat cauliflower more often than
potatoes, onions and mushrooms.
dark lettuce
: Add more dark lettuces like
romaine and red leaf lettuce to replace
iceberg lettuce and green beans.

: Substitute more carrots, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupe for corn or bananas.
red fruit and veggies
: Select tomatoes, red peppers and
strawberries in favor of apples.

The most popular fruits and vegetables -- corn, potatoes, iceberg lettuce, apples and bananas -- aren't as rich in nutrients as other foods. Research shows that eating fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, betacarotene and fiber - the so-called "powerhouse" fruits and veggies -- reduces the risk of chronic diseases.

"While people understand they should eat a variety of fruits and vegetables each day, they are not translating 'variety' in a way to capture health benefits, such as reducing their risk of developing chronic diseases," Nanney says. "I'm just asking them to expand their interpretation of diets."

"Until nutrition messages become more consistent and direct, we may not see improvements in powerhouse vegetable and fruit intake behaviors to any great extent," she says.

So how do you know which fruits and veggies have the most power in keeping you healthy? The veggies and fruits that do the best job in reducing the health risk for many chronic diseases are dark green leafy vegetables, yellow-orange, citrus, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, and bok choy.

"When we look at how to get the most bang for your buck, the most power, it's by eating these other fruits and vegetables instead of the traditional choices," Nanney says.

also see -> Blueberries for an antioxidant boost

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