It’s harvest time! We have more fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables to choose from at this time of year than at any other time of year, it seems. Eating a plant-based diet is important for our overall health, and yet most of us don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables every day. But with all the different kinds of fresh produce available now in our gardens as well as markets and grocery stores, now is a great time to make a point of eating more fruits and veggies.
Idahoans aren’t all that different from residents in other states; we all need to eat more fruits and vegetables, which would help manage many of our health issues, including obesity. Just about 29 percent of adults in Idaho are obese, according to Better Policies for a Healthier America. Idaho ranks 29th compared to other states; Arkansas has the highest adult obesity rate at 35.9 percent, while Colorado has the lowest, at 21.3 percent.
Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that we eat more fruits and vegetables than any other food group. The recommendations say we should fill half of our plates with fruits and veggies. You can see some handy charts at choosemyplate.gov to figure out your portions based on your age, but generally women should aim for 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fruit and 2-2 1/2 cups of vegetables each day. Men should go for 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 to 3 cups of vegetables each day.
This is important because people who eat more vegetables and fruits as part of a well-balanced diet tend to have a reduced risk for some chronic diseases, including some cancers, type 2 diabetes, heart attack and stroke. They also are less likely to be obese because fruits and vegetables are lower in calories and higher in nutrients than other foods.
The good news is that fresh, frozen, dried, canned and 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice are all nutritionally sound choices. Frozen, canned and dried fruits and vegetables can be less expensive than fresh, but they also last longer in your refrigerator or on your shelf. Eating what’s in season also is a good way to add produce to your diet, and fresh produce costs less when it’s in season.
The best way to see what’s in season is to visit your local farmer’s markets and grocery stores. Another excellent resource is IdahoPreferred.com, where visitors can check to see what’s grown and raised in Idaho year-round. You can read about what’s in season, find farmers markets and orchards and farms where you can pick your own or buy produce directly from the growers, as well as see which stores and restaurants carry locally grown foods. It also has recipes specifically for what’s in season, which can be a fun way to try new things and include vegetables in your meals in ways you haven’t tried before.