Approximately one-third of the world’s food supply is lost or wasted every year. Fruits and vegetables have the highest waste of any food, so we’ve gathered a few tips to help pack produce onto your plate and divert it from the dumpster.
Root Vegetables: Get Soup Savvy
Blending root vegetables is a quick, easy way to savor the flavors of the season. (They are easily frozen this way too.)
Leafy Greens: Wilted? That Works!
Sauteing leafy greens is a useful cooking strategy when their crispness begins to decline.
Cauliflower: Go Halfsies with Grains
Cauliflower’s chameleon-like flavor makes it one of the most versatile vegetables out there.
FAO. Cutting Food Waste to Feed the World. 2011. Last accessed 2020.
Ever wonder why certain fruits and vegetables are so vibrant? The red to blue-violet hues come from protective plant compounds called anthocyanins.
Along with providing color, anthocyanins may help protect your heart.
They are found in:
Anthocyanins may decrease blood pressure and increase flexibility of artery walls. They have also been associated with reducing inflammation in the body, which may decrease risk of chronic diseases like heart disease. Anthocyanin-rich foods might also defend against heart attacks by protecting the lining of heart and blood vessels.
But having strawberries solely on Valentine’s Day isn’t going to cut it.
Research suggests consuming at least ½ cup of anthocyanin-containing foods daily may have benefits. As for those berries? They may be particularly good for your heart – eating them more than 3 times per week may reduce risk of a heart attack.
Need inspiration? Try this quinoa breakfast bowl with strawberries.
Bhagwat H, Haytowitz D, Holden J. USDA database for the flavonoid content of selected foods. USDA Agriculture Research Service. 2013.
Cassidy A, Mukamal K, Liu L, Franz M, Eliassen A, and Rimm E. High anthocyanin intake is associated with a reduced risk of myocardial infarction in young and middle-aged women. Circulation. 2013;127(2): 188-196.
Cassidy A, Rogers G, Peterson J, Dwyer J, Lin H, et al. Higher dietary anthocyanin and flavonol intakes are associated with anti-inflammatory effects in a population of US adults. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2015; 102(1): 172-181.
Hassellund S, Flaa A, Kjeldsen S, Selijeflot I, Karlsen A, Erlund I, and Rostrup M. Effects of anthocyanins on cardiovascular risk factors and inflammation in pre-hypertensive men: a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled crossover study. Journal of Human Hypertension. 2013; 27: 100-106.
Jennings A, Welch A, Fairweather-Tait S, Minihane A, Chowiencyzk P, et al. Higher anthocyanin intake is associated with lower arterial stiffness and central blood pressure in women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012; 96(4): 781-788.
By Alyssa Tisdale, MGH Dietetic Intern
Regularly eating cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, may be associated with a lower risk of cancer. Studies also show that consuming cruciferous vegetables may help improve cancer survival and reduce risk of early death from chronic diseases, like heart disease.
Other cruciferous vegetables include:
Cruciferous vegetables contain sulfur compounds that promote detoxification pathways in the liver and help eliminate toxins and waste. Research has shown these compounds may help attack cancer cells and could protect the heart by reducing inflammation.
Cruciferous vegetables, like most fruits and vegetables, are also rich disease-fighting plant compounds like antioxidants. Eat cruciferous vegetables often. Some research correlates consuming about 4 to 6 ounces per day with benefits. (This would be the equivalent of eating at least a cup daily.)
Try these ideas to increase your cruciferous vegetable intake:
Abdull Razis AF, Konsue N, and C Ioannides. Isothiocyanates and xenobiotic detoxification. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. 2018;62(18):e1700916.
Farvid MS, Chen WY, Rosner BA, Tamimi, RM, Willett WC and AH Eliassen. Fruit and vegetable consumption and breast cancer incidence: repeated measures over 30 years of follow‐up. Int. J. Cancer. 2019;144(7):1496-1510.
Grundemann C and R Huber. Chemoprevention with isothiocyanates – from bench to bedside. 2018;414:(26-33).
Wu QJ, et al. Pre-diagnostic cruciferous vegetables intake and lung cancer survival among Chinese women. Sci Rep. 2015;5(10306).
Zhang X, et al. Cruciferous vegetable consumption is associated with a reduced risk of total and cardiovascular disease mortality. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011; 94(1): 240–246.
The humble peanut often takes a backseat to trendier nuts. However, peanuts also offer healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals, typically at a lesser cost. In fact, per serving peanuts contain more protein than any other nut.
Eating nuts – including peanuts – has been linked to a reduced risk of death from heart disease.
Opt for a small handful of nuts for a snack. Instead of deli meat, try one or two tablespoons of nut butter in a sandwich. (Bored with plain old peanut butter? Try this.)
Also, save those skins. Some studies have found preserving the peanut skin (found on in-shell and Spanish peanuts) can almost double the antioxidant concentration. Try this recipe.
But what about aflatoxin? Yes, peanuts – like most nuts – are susceptible to this toxin. However, outbreaks seldom occur in the U.S. thanks to mandatory testing.
Keep all nut products in the fridge to extend their shelf life.
Aflatoxin Program. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service. Accessed May 2019.
Arya SS, Salve AR, Chauhan S. Peanuts as a Functional Food: a Review. J Food Sci Technol. 2016;53(1):31-41.
Go Nuts (But Just a Little!). American Heart Association; 2015. Accessed April 2019.
'Going Nuts' May Help Heart Health. American Heart Association; 2015. Accessed May 2019.
Kumar P, Mahato DK, Kamle M, Mohanta TK, Kang SG. Aflatoxins: a Global Concern for Food Safety, Human Health and Their Management. Front Microbiol. 2016;7:1-9.
Sotos-Prieto M, et al. Association of Changes in Diet Quality with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality. N Engl J Med. 2017; 377:143-153.
Zheng W, Shu XO. Prospective Evaluation of the Association of Nut/Peanut Consumption with Total and Cause-specific Mortality. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(5):755-766.
With the assortment of health labels on our foods today, it is a confusing time for consumers. A common question: does organic matter?
Organic produce tests lower in pesticides, but research is mixed on whether it contains more nutrients.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases a list of foods each year with the least and most pesticide residues (called the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen, respectively). If you’d like to make a change, choosing organic produce from the Dirty Dozen list is the best bang for your buck.
The Dirty Dozen
The Clean Fifteen
Regardless, research shows eating enough fruits and vegetables may help lower risk of premature death from chronic illnesses, like heart disease. While it is recommended to eat 4 to 5 cups of fruits and vegetables each day, only about 10% of us get that much.
So if organic isn’t in the budget, don’t fret. A non-organic apple is better than no apple at all.
Brantsæter A et al. Organic food in the diet: exposure and health implications. Annual Review of Public Health. 2017; 38: 295-313.
Lee-Kwan S, Moore L, Blanck H, Harris D, and D Galuska. Disparities in state-specific adult fruit and vegetable consumption — United States, 2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep (CDC). 2017; 66:1241–1247.
Slavin J and B Lloyd. Health benefits of fruits and vegetables. Adv Nutr. 2012; 3(4): 506–516.
* A small amount of sweet corn and papaya in the United States is produced from genetically modified seeds. Organic versions cannot be genetically modified.
Incorporating vegetables into breakfast is not always easy, but smoothies can help kick start your day with powerhouse nutrients in a travel-friendly format.
Blended food can feel less filling, but incorporating protein, fat, and fiber into your smoothies increases fullness by slowing down digestion and adding volume.
Other strategies for promoting satiety include sipping slowly and chewing a handful of nuts (instead of adding protein and fat to your smoothie).
MAKE A BALANCED BREAKFAST BY USING THIS CHART
Here are two smoothie ideas to get you started:
1 cup frozen mixed berries + 1 cup cauliflower + ½ cup unsweetened almond milk + ½ cup plain Greek yogurt + 1 tablespoon peanut butter + 1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup blueberries + ½ banana + 1 cup spinach + ½ cup milk + 1 teaspoon grated ginger with small handful of almonds on the side (about ¼ cup)
Dhillon, J et al. The effects of increased protein intake on fullness: a meta-analysis and its limitations. J Acad Nutr Diet; 2016. 116(6): 968-983
Rogers, PJ and R Shahrokni. A comparison of the satiety effects of a fruit smoothie, its fresh fruit equivalent and other drinks. Nutrients; 2018. 10(4):431.
Slavin, JL. Position of the American Dietetic Association: health implications of dietary fiber. J Am Diet Assoc; 2008. 108(10): 1716-3.
Beans are packed with nutrients, yet often neglected. They are a plant-based protein containing soluble fiber, which can help lower cholesterol and improve blood sugar control.
Research has shown fiber-rich diets may reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer – and beans are a great way to boost your intake.
Add them by:
Dietary fiber: essential for a healthy diet. Mayo Clinic; 2015. Accessed October 2018.
Garden-Robinson J and K McNeal. All about beans nutrition, health henefits, preparation, and use in menus. North Dakota State University Food and Nutrition; 2013. Accessed October 2018.
Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: health implications of dietary fiber. JAND. 2015; 115 (11): 1861- 1870.
Whether it’s the Super Bowl or Valentine’s Day, February is full of party opportunities. Here are some tips to take the stress out of eating and enjoy what really matters – the company!
Pre-game wisely: avoid getting too hungry beforehand by including a snack with fiber and protein.
Celebrate mindfully: pay attention to what you are eating and really taste it.
Don’t avoid your favorite foods: all foods can fit – add some vegetables for balance (they are also linked to a decreased risk of heart disease and diabetes).
Skerrett, P. Harvard health blog: Tips for holiday eating. Harvard Health Publishing; 2012.
Slavin JL and B Lloyd. Health benefits of fruits and vegetables. Adv Nutr. 2012; 3(4):506-16.
Story EN, Kopec RE, Schwartz SJ, and GK Harris. An update on the health effects of tomato lycopene. Annu Rev Food Sci Technol. 2010; 1:189-210.
Boost your immune system to help fight cold and flu season by adding these foods to your diet.
Berries (such as blueberries and blackberries) are packed with anthocyanins which have powerful antioxidant benefits. Add them to cereal or yogurt.
Garlic contains allicin which has been studied for its antimicrobial properties and shown in one small study to be effective at preventing the common cold.
Citrus fruits are well known for their vitamin C content, but did you know they also contain flavonoids? Flavonoids are a type of phytonutrient that have anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting benefits.
Sweet potatoes and carrots contain beta carotene, which plays a role in maintaining your body’s natural defenses including keeping your lungs and gut healthy and free of disease-causing pathogens.
Looking to increase your intake of these foods? Try these recipes:
Breakfast: baked blueberry oatmeal
Lunch: loaded baked sweet potato
Dinner: ginger-spiced chicken with roasted winter vegetables
Barbieri, R. et al. Phytochemicals for human disease: An update on plant-derived compounds antibacterial activity. Microbiological Research, 2017. 196: 44-68.
Chew, B. and J. Park. Carotenoid Action on the Immune Response. J Nutr, 2004. 134(1):
Konczak I and W. Zhang. Anthocyanins-More Than Nature's Colours. J Biomed Biotechnol, 2004. 2004(5): 239-240.
Marchese, A. et al. Antifungal and antibacterial activities of allicin: a review.Trends in Food Science & Technology, 2016. 52: 49-56.
Wang, S., et al. Characterization and Metabolic Diversity of Flavonoids in Citrus Species. Scientific Reports. 2018.
Wang, Y., et al. Molecules. (2017). Antioxidant Capacity, Anticancer Ability and Flavonoids Composition of 35 Citrus (Citrus reticulata Blanco) Varieties. Molecules, 2017. 5: 22(7).
With the return to cool temperatures, we also usher in a season of squash. Varieties include butternut, spaghetti, delicata, kabocha, and acorn.
These winter vegetables are a good source of vitamin A, which supports a healthy immune system and may help protect against cancer.
They also contain fiber and generally have fewer calories per cup compared to other types of carbohydrates.
Due to their tough exterior, squash can be intimidating to cook. But certain varieties (like spaghetti or acorn squash) are easy to prepare. To roast them:
1. Cut the squash in half using a large sharp knife
2. Scoop out seeds and stringy flesh
3. Brush inside with olive oil and season with salt and pepper
4. Roast (flesh side down) in a 400° oven for 30 to 45 minutes (or until tender when pierced with a fork)
5. Shred the spaghetti squash with a fork or scoop out the acorn squash flesh using a spoon
Need inspiration? Try this recipe.
Nosowitz, D. The Modern Famer Guide to Winter Squash Varieties. Modern Farmer, 2017. Accessed September 2018.
Vitamin A: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. NIH: Office of Dietary Supplements, Updated 2018. Accessed September 2018.
Winter Squash. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: The Nutrition Source. Accessed September 2018.