With only about a week left in the month of May, we can see summer is just around the corner, hopefully! So, let’s look ahead to the month of June. Did you know June is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month?

There are many benefits to consuming bright, colorful fruits and vegetables. While providing a variety of nutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber fruits and vegetables are also naturally low in calories, fat and sodium. They may also help lower the risk of developing specific diseases and maintaining a healthy weight.

The American Heart Association recommends consuming 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day to help build a healthier lifestyle, which is equal to about 4.5 cups. On average, American adults only eat about 1 — 1.5 cups per day. Increasing the amount of fruit and vegetable you eat, can help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by almost 20 percent.

Here are some ideas to help you incorporate more fruit and vegetables into your diet:

• Add color to your meals or snacks in the form of fruits and vegetables by using fresh, frozen, canned or even dried fruits and vegetables.

• Challenge yourself to try different fruit and vegetables.

• Add fruit or vegetables to foods you love (Like broccoli to chicken alfredo, or vegetables on top of pizza or maybe fruit to your breakfast cereal)

• Make a smoothie using your favorite fruits and vegetables (a simple frozen fruit mix with some non-fat milk or yogurt and 100 percent fruit juice blended until smooth and done!)

• Chop raw vegetables and take them with as a snack in the car or at work

And here are some fun facts that you maybe didn’t know:

• Watermelon helps keep you hydrated. After all, they are 92 percent water.

• Broccoli has more protein than steak with 2.57 grams per 1 cup.

• Brussels sprouts could be the healthiest vegetable. They are loaded with vitamins and minerals, and have practically zero calories, no fat, and no cholesterol.

• Apples give you more energy than coffee because they are high carbohydrate, vitamin, and minerals apples have the perfect combination of nutrition to help you stay energized all day.

So, when you are out enjoying the summer sun, explore the various farmers market around the area or take the time to plant a garden. No matter what you choose, summer is a great time to eat more fruits and vegetables.

Sandy Youngquist, CDM, CFPP is the Culinary Services Supervisor at Benedictine Community of Wahpeton, Benedictine Health System

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