Getting on Your Nerves?

February 5, 2013 in Antioxidants, fiber, Health Claims, Immune System, Mediterranean, Nutrition, Weight Management by Joyce Bunderson

I periodically talk to people and they tell me that they don’t like vegetables. It seems to me that more often the ‘people’ are men, but sometimes they’re women; and, of course, it’s almost classic that kids frequently don’t like veggies. If you’re one of those who don’t really like veggies, is the constant reminder to eat more fruits and vegetables getting on your nerves?

I’m afraid that I’m so excited about the benefits of eating fruits and veggies, that some may just think it’s a crazy point of view. But the fact is that I’ve been reading nutrition research for decades and it points to vegetables and fruit for reduced risk of disease, fewer early deaths and better health.

Speaking of nerves, have you seen the study about ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - Lou Gehrig’s Disease; a progressive neurological disease, which attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord)? A study was just published sharing an online early view last week, January 29, 2013 in the Annals of Neurology. In short, what the researchers learned by reviewing lots of data, was that those who eat bright orange, red or yellow fruits and dark-green vegetables may prevent or delay the onset of ALS. Now I realize that most of us will probably avoid being one of the new 5,000 person each year that get the bad news that they have ALS. But to me it seems that this study is a “heads up” message for all of us. We know that many of the nutrients in fruits and vegetables help with nerve function; this is just one more bit of evidence in a huge stack. If we want to have healthy nerves, maybe learning how to include more fruits and vegetables would be a good goal. This particular study found the most evidence in those who ate veggies and fruits like: carrots, pumpkin, yams, mangoes, spinach, collards, and Swiss chard. I’m feeling so blessed that I love brightly colored vegetables, because my nerves can always use a little TLC.

Another group that we don’t have to join, but learn from, are vegetarians. In a prospective investigation study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on January 30, 2013, vegetarians were found to be a third less likely to develop heart disease. That sounds like an incentive to begin including more vegetables and fruit. The study was done with persons living in England and Scotland and followed them for an average of 11.6 years; it compared the incidence of ischemic heart disease in vegetarians and nonvegetarians. The researchers reasoned that the positive results in the vegetarians were probably related to the lower cholesterol and blood pressure. My guess is that it’s more complex than just that, because fruits and vegetables deliver so many wonderful nutrients to keep our body functioning well. But having said that, the cholesterol/blood pressure hypothesis seems likely too; if a person is not eating meat then they probably are not getting as much cholesterol (which is only in animal products) or saturated fat (often found in animal products), thus the lower cholesterol. In addition, if the subjects are eating more vegetables and fruit, they’re getting more potassium and other nutrients that are linked with improved blood pressure and less sodium, because high sodium is linked with higher blood pressure. This study is just one more reason to continue to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables.

Because carrying too much weight, especially around the middle, influences so many disease factors you may be interested in the Harvard School of Public Health Information on weight. Excess weight increases your chances of dying early; dying from a heart attack, stroke, or other type of cardiovascular disease; developing diabetes; developing cancer of the colon, kidney, breast, or endometrium; developing arthritis; developing gallstones; being infertile; developing asthma as an adult; snoring or suffering from sleep apnea; developing cataracts; and/or having a poorer quality of life. Check out the section called Lessons from Losers, which is based upon the National Weight control Registry (those who have lost more than 30 pounds and kept it off for at least a yearamong their secrets is that they, ate more fruits and vegetables.” There are many other valuable hints, but I just wanted to point you to the ‘fruits and vegetables’ hint – you may want to read the entire article. If you need some additional practical ideas for getting more fruits and vegetables into your menus/diets, try some of our previous articles.

And last, if you’re struggling with your children, don’t forget the book that I endorsed last year; Eat Your Vegetables and Other Mistakes that Parents Make, by Muth. See our blog called: Fixing and Avoiding Feeding Bloopers. I don’t endorse many books; but this one is really a fantastic resource.

So I hope that chatting about fruits and vegetables is not getting on your nerves; but is just a friendly reminder that this enormous group of foods deserves lots of room on your plate and in your menus.