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How a plate of fruit can change the world

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What would the world be like if everyone ate five to ten servings of vegetables and fruit each day?

By Eileen Bennewith, RD Posted Jan 27, 2009

As we begin a new year, people are always making resolutions about how they will change their lives. I prefer to think about how I will change the world around me.

My vision of a perfect world is a place of harmony with no hunger, no poverty, no wars and people living long, healthy and productive lives. We need to move towards this vision in small steps. As a nutritionist, one of these small steps would be teaching everyone to eat enough vegetables and fruit every day.

What would the world be like if everyone ate five to ten servings of vegetables and fruit each day? There would be fewer cases of cancer. There would be fewer people with cataracts of the eyes. There would be less heart disease and fewer people having strokes. Fewer people would suffer from constipation, diverticulosis and bowel diseases. People would have stronger immune systems so they would suffer less from viruses. Wounds would heal faster. Fewer babies would be born with birth defects such as spinal bifida or anencephaly because mothers would get more folic acid.

Children would be healthier and more would reach their educational potential. Attendance at school would improve due to fewer days of illness.

Children would be fitter because they would have more energy to exercise and they would be eating fewer calories from other high calorie foods.

Health care costs would be lower. Hospitals and institutions would be much smaller because fewer people would be sick and the elderly would be living longer in their homes.

There would be more health care dollars available to spend on health education, health promotion, and prevention as it should be, rather than in the treatment of diseases.

In agriculture, there would be a need for more small holders, local farmers, and market gardeners to meet the local demand for fresh produce. There would be more orchards of fruit trees and those already growing would be picked clean. There would be more farmers markets, farm gate sales and produce outlets. People would be growing gardens in backyards, vacant lots, roof tops and city parks.

There would be more processing plants for freezing and canning produce and for making 100% real fruit juices.

There would be more jobs in food production, agriculture, and retail sales of fruit and vegetables. This could impact the level of poverty because of the increase in the number of jobs and in the number of healthy employees capable of working. People would have healthier diets because when you eat enough fresh fruits and vegetables, you do not have room for the less healthy food choices.

Groceries would cost less because a buggy full of produce costs less than a buggy full of processed food like cakes, cookies, chips and pop.

People would be happier and kinder to each other because they would be feeling well. The list of positive benefits could go on forever.

If you have resolved to try to eat more vegetables and fruit, here are some tips to make your resolution easier to follow: Start every day with some fruit. Put berries, bananas or other fruit on cereal or in your yogurt. Put fresh fruit in your pancake and muffin batter. Grab a piece of fresh fruit as you run out the door to eat in the car.

Pack veggies and dip in your lunch. Have a salad every day. A salad should have at least five different vegetables or fruit in it. Grab a bowl of vegetable, tomato or minestrone soup.

Stuff your sandwich with a variety of veggies. Pack them separately so the bread will not get soggy. Reheat last nights leftover vegetables and sprinkle them with cheese. Stuff pita pockets with apples and cheese or chicken and coleslaw or any combination of fruits and vegetables.

At dinner, have double portions of potatoes and vegetables. How simple is that? Make stir fries often to get lots of different vegetables at once.

Top homemade pizza with vegetables. Make stews, casseroles, soups, lasagns, chili and spaghetti with extra vegetables. Finish every meal with a fruit dessert. Try crumbles, crisps, cobblers and compotes, fruit loaves, or just a dish of your favorite cut up fresh, frozen or canned fruit.

Eating enough vegetables and fruit may not solve all the problems in the world, but it is a good start. May your new year be filled with fruits and vegetables.

Eileen Bennewith, RD is the Community Nutritionist for the Vancouver Island Health Authority

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