You’ve probably been hearing it since you were a kid…”Eat your veggies….and apple a day…etc,. etc. And it’s followed you right into adulthood, and now even into your gym! ;-). We “know” that fruits and veggies are “healthy”, but exactly WHAT makes them so great, and WHY all the hype and focus on them every time a nutrition challenge pops up?
While all of the benefits are too numerous to list, here are just a few of the biggies that hopefully will sway you to become a permanent member of #teamproduce for good!
1. They are ALKALINE (meaning non-acidic when metabolized by our bodies).
Again, for my friends that really like to know the science behind things, our body is always striving to maintain a balanced pH level. We do that through a few different systems but one major way comes from the foods that we eat. Once food is digested and absorbed, it is presented to the kidneys, which are responsible for identifying it as an acid or alkaline, and adjusting it’s secretions and/or how they filter things in order to maintain balance. High protein foods like meat, dairy, protein powder, etc. are quite acidic, and since we all just learned how important protein is last week, and we’re all hitting our targets there, being sure to take in adequate amounts of alkaline foods (enter fruits & veggies) will help maintain that balance to our system! It’s like a perfect little symphony of protein and produce to create pH karma!
If that wasn’t encouragement enough, here are some of the potential side effects of not having enough alkaline foods in the diet:
- Decreased growth factors
- Growth hormone resistance
- Mild hypothyroidism
- Higher levels of blood cortisol
- Loss of muscle mass
- Enzymatic changes in cells
- Altered regulation of metabolites and minerals
- Decreased uptake and release of oxygen
Not a list of things that Crossfitters especially want going on inside the bod- so eat your fruits and veggies!
2. They are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fibre, and phytonutrients.
These are all MICRONUTRIENTS, which we need in much smaller quantities than their “macronutrient” counterparts- Carbs, Fats, & Proteins- but they are just as important. We talk about micros a lot in regard to fruits & veggies because that’s where they are most abundantly found. Micronutrients are responsible for SO MANY functions in the body including:
- Protecting our DNA agains free radicals
- Reducing inflammation
- Protection against cancer
- Decreasing the risk of heart disease
- Reducing overall risk of death from a chronic disease
- Regulation of: protein synthesis, muscle & nerve function, blood sugar and insulin control, blood pressure, energy production, and mineral transport!
3. They are high in water & fiber content, meaning they are a high “volume” food.
This is just as important to your health as it is to your waistline! The water in the food we eat actually contributes to our overall hydration levels. So, even if you can’t drink in all the water you need, by incorporating more “water dense” fruits and veggies into your day, you can still improve your hydration! Also, Fiber is key for helping us to feel full, for improving digestion, and for keeping things “running smoothly” on a regular basis.
Eating meals and snacks that are largely comprised of fruits and veggies will allow you to physically eat more volume of food, while actually consuming less calories. For example,
100 grams of pasta= 402 calories; 82 grams carbs
100 grams strawberries= 32 calories; 8 grams carbs
100 grams baked sweet potato= 90 calories; 20 grams carbs
100 grams of banana= 79 calories; 20 grams carbs
You can see that gram for gram the produce (even the “high carb” fruits and veggies) are significantly lower in calories and carbs than a traditional grain based food, while providing a significantly higher content of micronutrients, water, and the bonus of being alkaline!
All of these points are fantastic, but the bottom line always comes down to how you can ultimately utilize these tips on a daily basis. I get it- dialing in nutrition can feel really hard at times- especially when so many sources are promoting the cutting out or restricting of certain foods, food groups, or basically anything and everything that tastes good. When it comes to fruits and veggies- this is one thing that you can actually focus on ADDING into your day to reap the health benefits! Even if you didn’t want to remove or change one thing you’re currently doing, simply adding a few servings of your favorite (or at least the ones your willing to try) fruits & veggies will have a positive impact on your health. It’s just too simple (and important) not to do!
Remember- gold standard is 800 grams (or about 6 cups) a day! One cup is about the size of your closed fist. The more variety you incorporate, the bigger the health bonus!