Fruit and vegetables

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Fruit and vegetables - choosing and preparing

Fruit and vegetables are an important part of your daily diet. They are tasty and contain vitamins and minerals that can help keep you healthy. Research shows that other compounds, phytochemicals ( المواد الكيميائية النباتية) or antioxidants, can also help protect against some diseases.

There are many varieties of fruit and vegetables available and they can be prepared, cooked and served in a variety of ways. Eat five kinds of vegetable and two kinds of fruit every day for good health.

Select for freshness, variety and appeal
When buying and serving fruit and vegetables, go with variety for maximum nutrients and appeal. Select a mix of seasonal fruits and vegetables from the different groups and choose for freshness and quality.

* Eat with the seasons – this is nature’s way of making sure our bodies get a healthy mix of nutrients and plant chemicals.
* Try something new – try out a new recipe each week and buy a new fruit or vegetable as part of your weekly shopping.
* Let colours guide you – different colours generally indicate different combinations of nutrients. So, put a rainbow of colours (green, white, yellow–orange, blue–purple, red) on your plate.

Serving suggestions for your family’s health
Vegetables and fruit are a handy snack food and are easily carried to work or school. Include them in everyone’s meals and most snacks for a healthy well-balanced diet. Some suggestions include:

* Keep snack-size fruit and vegetable portions easily accessible in your fridge.
* Keep fresh fruit on the bench or table.
* Add fruit and vegetables to your favourite family recipes or as additions to your usual menus.
* Use the colour and texture of a variety of fruit and vegetables to spice up your meals.
* Think up new ways to serve fruits and vegetables.

Some simple ways to serve fruits and vegetables include:

* Fruit and vegetable salads
* Vegetable stir-fries
* Raw fruit and vegetables
* Vegetable soups
* Snack-pack, stewed or canned fruits or dried fruits.

Limit fruit juice, as it does not contain the same amount of nutrients as fresh fruit and contains a lot of sugars, even though they may be ‘natural’. Choose water and a serve of fruit.

Preparation and cooking
Cooking and processing can damage some nutrients and phytochemicals in plant foods. It is important to prepare and cook your fruit and vegetables to retain maximum vitamin and mineral content. Some suggestions to get the best out of your fruit and vegetables include:

* Many vegetables and fruits can be eaten raw or pureed into smoothies.
* Use a sharp knife to cut fresh fruits to avoid bruising.
* Cut off only the ‘inedible’ parts of vegetables – sometimes the best nutrients are found in the skin, just below the skin or in the leaves.
* Use stir-fry, grill, microwave, bake or steam methods with non-stick cookware and mono-unsaturated oils.
* Avoid overcooking to reduce nutrient loss.
* Serve with pestos, salsas, chutneys and vinegars in place of sour creams, butter and creamy sauces.
* Nutrients such as carotenoids may actually be increased if food is cooked. For example, tomato has more carotenoids, especially lycopene, when it is cooked – a good reason to choose a variety of ways to prepare fruits and vegetables.

Once you’ve prepared and cooked your vegetables and fruit, spend some time on presentation. You are more likely to enjoy a meal if it’s full of variety and visually appealing as well as tasty. Sit at the table to eat and enjoy your food without distractions like television.

Things to remember

* A diet high in fruit and vegetables can help protect against diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
* There are many varieties of fruit and vegetables available and many ways to prepare, cook and serve them.
* When buying and serving fruit and vegetables, go with variety for maximum nutrients and appeal.
* Cooking and processing can damage some nutrients and phytochemicals in plant foods, while other phytochemicals are more available when food is cooked. Serve a variety of raw and cooked vegetables and fruit.
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