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Eat 'Powerhouse'

The most popular fruits and vegetables are corn, potatoes, lettuce, apples and bananas.

health and fitness Updated: Mar 08, 2004 17:48 IST

People should have lots of fruits and vegetables to keep fit, says Susie Nanney, acting director of the Obesity Prevention Center at Saint Louis University.

"People aren't eating the fruits and vegetables that contain the most nutrients. People are quite frankly confused about nutrition. I feel their pain," says Nanney.

Researchers say that most Americans recognize that a healthy diet should include at least five fruits and vegetables but they are not making the most nutritious choices because messages about what to eat are unclear.

The most popular fruits and vegetables are corn, potatoes, iceberg lettuce, apples and bananas that are not as rich in nutrients as other foods.

Nanney says, "While people understand they should eat a variety of fruits and vegetables each day, they are not translating 'variety' in a way to capture health benefits, such as reducing their risk of developing chronic diseases. "I'm just asking them to expand their interpretation of diets."

Nanney, also a dietitian, notes that United States Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health and Human Services, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and other health groups offer conflicting messages about which fruits and veggies are most nutritious.

Research shows that eating fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamins A and C, betacarotene and fiber- the so-called "powerhouse" fruits and veggies reduces the risk of chronic diseases.

But "Until nutrition messages become more consistent and direct, we may not see improvements in powerhouse vegetable and fruit intake behaviors to any great extent," says Nanney.

The veggies and fruits that do the best job in reducing the health risk for chronic disease are dark green leafy vegetables, yellow/orange, citrus and cruciferous. But even those guidelines can be confusing so Nanney suggests thinking about colour to pack nutritional power in daily diet. The colour guidelines are as follows:

White: Eat cauliflower more often than potatoes, onions and mushrooms.

Green: Add more dark lettuces, such as romaine and red leaf lettuce, spinach, broccoli and Brussels sprouts to replace iceberg lettuce and green beans.

Yellow/orange: Substitute more carrots, winter squashes, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, oranges and grapefruit for corn or bananas.

Red: Select tomatoes, red peppers and strawberries in favor of apples.

"When we look at how to get the most bang for your buck, the most power, it's by eating these other fruits and vegetables instead of the traditional choices," concludes Nanney.

First Published: Mar 08, 2004 17:48 IST