Fruits and vegetables are essential sources of vitamins A, C, E, and K and minerals like potassium, magnesium and calcium. They are also good sources of dietary fiber and possess antioxidant properties. It is impossible to get everything from one type of fruit or vegetable; hence, it is necessary to include a variety of fruits and vegetables in the diet. An insufficient intake of fruits and vegetables makes the body more prone to health risks, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression and stroke. Strive for five servings and two cups of fruit daily—the more variety, the better.

Apples: Though one a day might not keep every doctor at bay, you will find an abundance of vitamins, minerals, fiber and health-protective antioxidants in any apple variety. People who regularly consume apples tend to have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, asthma and Alzheimer’s disease.

Artichokes: The peak season for California-grown globe artichokes is April, but you can stock canned or frozen hearts for year-round convenience. The fiber in artichoke hearts is especially gut-healthy, while potassium supports healthy blood pressure.

Bananas are easy to eat and transport. The green-tipped bananas have a higher content of digestive-resistant starches. But when fully ripe, these are sweet treats, and a medium banana provides 12 percent of the recommended level of daily vitamin C.

Berries help keep your arteries and digestive tract healthy. Though all berry varieties are relatively similar in terms of their vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant content, blueberries are known to have the highest antioxidant activity. When it is not berry season, stock a variety in your freezer for tasty low-sugar desserts, smoothies and yogurt.

Beans are exceptionally high in fiber, and a serving will go a long way in achieving the recommended 30-gram daily fiber intake. Beans are also high in cancer-preventing phytates, which studies tell us prevents kidney stone formation and protects against diabetes, dental cavities and heart disease.

Broccoli: One-half cup of broccoli daily provides vital phytochemicals, sulforaphane, and indole, which protect against various cancers.

Carrots: The orange hue indicates that carrots are an excellent source of the antioxidant beta-carotene. This antioxidant is converted to vitamin A, vital for skin and eye health. Carrots are available in various colors, each with unique antioxidants, so, pick up a package of heirloom rainbow carrots. All carrots are excellent sources of gut and heart-health-promoting soluble fiber.

Celery: This crunchy green vegetable is very low in calories and may help lower blood pressure due to its nitrate content. It is also very high in vitamin K, an essential nutrient for bone health.

Edamame: Whole soy foods, including tempeh, tofu and soybeans, contain phytoestrogens. According to a 2020 review of clinical studies, these phytoestrogens may protect against breast, endometrial and colorectal cancer. The isoflavones in soy may reduce bone loss, minimize menopause symptoms and promote stable blood sugar levels. Keep shelled frozen edamame in stock for salads, casseroles and soups.

Mushrooms: These fungi contain various nutrients, including selenium, vitamin D2, copper and potassium, that help keep your body and mind healthy. Asian mushrooms (e.g., shitake and oyster) contain anti-viral compounds, and an observational study found a link between eating mushrooms and a good mood.

Onions and Garlic: The allium family contains many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. After they are chopped and allowed to react with oxygen, these potent vegetables are rich in allicin, an antioxidant that promotes heart health.

Tomatoes: Whether you think of them as vegetables or fruits, these lycopene-rich foods contain an antioxidant shown to ward off cancer. Canned tomatoes have four times more available lycopene than fresh. You may enjoy cooked tomatoes in sauces, soups and casseroles, and you can munch on cherry tomatoes for a convenient vitamin C-rich snack.

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Nancy Teeter is a Registered Dietitian and a SaddleBrooke resident. Though mostly retired, she is passionate about sharing her nutrition knowledge with others. Always consult your medical provider before making lifestyle changes.