Friday, September 4, 2009

Health benefits of fruits and vegetables

Excerpts from the UK's Department of Health's web site.

I've ranted about the US government's food pyramid before, so I won't go into it again. Needless to say I find that the UK's Department of Health is a much more viable resource. Fortunately for Americans, the UK health agency's advice lacks being hideously tainted with lobbist money.

This article is to the point. Eat fruits and vegetables, you can't get the same benefits from a 'fruit roll-up' or 'vegetable drink'. If this is socialist healthcare bring it on.

Direct health benefits

By eating at least 5 portions of a variety of fruits and vegetables, you:

  1. Reduce significantly the risk of many chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke by up to 20%. Just by increasing your diet to an additional 1 fruit or vegetable lowers the risk of coronary heart disease by 4% and the risk of stroke by 6%
  2. Help prevent 1/3 of all cancers. Only quiting smoking is more effective.
  3. Help lower blood pressure.
  4. Delay the development of cataracts
  5. Reduce the symptoms of asthma
  6. Improve bowel function
  7. Manage diabetes better

Why not a vitamin or vitamin fortified cereal?

The reason why fruit and vegetables are so beneficial is because of their array of compounds. As well as vitamins and minerals, fruit and vegetables also contain many complex plant components (called phytochemicals), including flavonoids, glucosinilates and phyto-oestrogens.

Some of the vitamins and phytochemicals are also antioxidants, destroying free radicals in the body. These free radicals are known to have a role in causing cancer as well as other harmful effects.

It appears that the benefits of fruit and vegetables stem not only from the individual components, but also from the interactions between these components. Dietary supplements containing isolated vitamins or minerals do not appear to have the same beneficial effects as fruit and vegetables themselves. Indeed, in some studies, supplements caused more harm than good.

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