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Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables PDF Print

thumb_100_9168.jpgFresh fruit is a delicious summer treat with outstanding nutritional benefits as well.  Fruits and vegetables are a good source of fiber, vitamins, phytonutrients, and antioxidants. Scientists are discovering more about how these substances help to promote health, slow down the aging process, and protect the body against disease.  

Is fresh fruit really better than fruit that has been shipped from some far off location?  If you’ve ever bitten in to an apple that you just picked off the tree, or popped a warm strawberry into your mouth fresh from the vine, you know the answer to that question – a lip smacking “yes”! 

When produce is shipped long distances, it usually has to be picked before it’s ripe so that it won’t be rotten by the time it reaches your grocery store shelves.  Produce that is harvested early and ripened artificially just doesn’t taste as good – or contain as many nutrients – as fruit that has been allowed to ripen naturally on the tree or vine and harvested at just the right time.    thumb_chrrbowl2.jpg

Research suggests that vitamins and nutrients consumed in fresh, whole fruits are better absorbed and utilized by the body than vitamins from supplements.  There’s more to an orange than vitamin C, for example.  Everything else in the orange, including phytonutrients and antioxidants, works together to fight disease, eliminate free radicals (which can contribute to cancer) and have a greater positive effect on your body than isolated vitamin or mineral supplements.   

The sugars and carbohydrates in fruits are better for you body than the sugars and carbs in processed or refined foods.  Many fruits and vegetables are also high in fiber and low in fat.  Consuming more fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, and can also help prevent cancer.  No matter how you slice it, fruits and vegetables provide nutrients your body needs in an efficient and useful form, and should be part of every healthy diet.  And getting these foods locally benefits your checkbook, and local farmers!  thumb_p1010057.jpg

Fresh fruits and vegetables not only taste better and contain more nutrition; they’re better for the environment and the local economy too.  When you buy what is in season locally, you support local farmers and business owners.  You get the freshest produce possible, and chances are you might know the person who grew it, picked it, or brought it to the market.   

Find the freshest produce in the Yakima Valley at Farmer’s Markets and Fruitstands.  Check out the Event Calendar for farmer’s markets happening this weekend.   

Better yet, grow your own fresh produce!  You don’t have to have a large garden plot or a rototiller to grow vegetables at home.  Some varieties of tomatoes grow well in large pots, and you can grow many herbs and greens indoors.  With a little planning, you can grow a surprising amount of food in small raised beds in your yard.   

To learn more about gardening, contact the Yakima Master Gardeners Plant Clinic at (509)574-1600, or drop by the Clinic in room 233 of the Yakima County Courthouse, Monday through Friday from April to October, between the hours of 9:00 - 12:00 and 1:00 - 4:00.  The Master Gardeners also offer free gardening classes on the third Saturday of every month, beginning in May.  These classes are held at the Master Gardener’s Demonstration Garden in Ahtanum Youth Park.  Classes begin at 10am and last about one hour. 

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