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Claudann Jones

June is right around the corner, and while June is best known for its scorching temperatures and the beginning of summer, did you know that June is also National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month? Fruits and vegetables are not only a great way to incorporate beautiful colors into our meals but they also are an important part of a healthy and balanced diet and help us perform our day to day activities.

Many of us are familiar with the slogan, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” and while this may not be entirely true, eating our fruits and vegetables does have many health benefits that can help keep the doctor away, says Amy Valdez, a health specialist with AgriLife Extension. Overall, a healthy diet filled with fruits and vegetables can help to reduce the risk of various chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Fruits and vegetables contain a variety of nutrients such as potassium, folate, dietary fiber and vitamins A and C. A healthy, well-balanced diet including foods such as spinach, bananas and sweet potatoes, which contain potassium, can help to maintain a healthy blood pressure. Folate or folic acid aids in the formation of red blood cells and can help reduce the risk of neural tube defects during fetal development. Dietary fiber found in fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and can aid in reducing cholesterol levels. Vitamin A plays a role in eye and skin health while both Vitamin A and C can help boost the immune system and help fight against infections. Fruits and vegetables are also great to eat as a snack or a side, as a majority of them are low in calories, sodium and fat and they add vibrant colors to our meals, making them more appealing to eat.

To celebrate National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month, Valdez recommends trying out these four ideas:

• Build a garden: Whether you are growing a large garden with raised beds or working with a smaller container garden, planting and growing your own produce can help increase your consumption, as this may increase your excitement to try new fruits and vegetables that you personally grew.

• Try new produce each week: Each week or each day, try to incorporate a new fruit or vegetable into your meals. Create a challenge among your family members to see who has tried the greatest variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.

• Visit a farmers market: Taking a stroll at the farmers market can help you explore all of the fresh produce that is available. Local farmers also can be a great source to learn about the benefits of their produce and they can help you with ideas on how to cook them.

• Learn about Path to the Plate: Visit Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s Path to the Plate website at https://pathtotheplate.tamu.edu to learn about making the connection between agriculture and health.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service offers some simple recipes that include fresh produce to help you incorporate fruits and vegetables, such as Dinner Tonight’s Summer Veggies with Bow Tie Pasta or Fresh Berry Caprese Salad recipes. To learn more about the recipes, visit https://dinnertonight.tamu.edu.

For more information on nutrition and food safety, contact Claudann Jones, Smith County Extension agent for family and community health, at 903-590-2980 or email at cmjones@ag.tamu.edu.

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