Which sounds easier to live with: eating strawberries and carrots, or having a stroke?
Last month, data from the Framingham Study, started in 1948, showed that the men who ate the smallest amount of fruits and vegetables were the most likely to have a stroke. The more fruits and vegetables eaten, the lower the risk. The women's version of the study appears likely to show the same results.
Wherever you are right now on the fruit and vegetable hot line, you can decrease your chance of having a stroke by 22 percent just by eating three more servings per day of fruits or vegetables.
Apparently it doesn't matter what kind you eat. The study was unable to single out any that were more powerful than others, so choose your favorites and just eat a little more of them.
Listen to the list: strawberries, bananas, pears, apples, oranges, kiwi fruit, grapes, mangoes, cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew, apricots, blueberries. Even canned fruit counts. This hardly sounds like penance.
Vegetables could include peas, corn, baked beans, lima beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and tomato sauce, lettuce, cucumbers, onions, sweet green peppers, beets and broccoli.
Try some of these simple tips for adding fruits and vegetables to your diet:
* Put dried fruit (apricots, apple rings, raisins, dates and figs) in cereal or in a vegetable salad.
* Add lettuce, tomato, green or red pepper rings, sliced onion or alfalfa sprouts to a sandwich.
* Have Maryland crab soup or other vegetable-based soup with your meal.
* Rely on carrot curls, celery sticks, cucumber coins, zucchini slices, radish roses and cauliflower and broccoli florets to add crunch to your lunch instead of greasy chips. Most produce departments sell them ready to go.
* Add grated carrot and chopped yellow squash, cucumbers and radishes to shrimp, chicken, tuna or egg salad.
* Make a meal of a salad, baked potato or baked sweet potato.
* Halve the meat you put in soups, stews and pasta dishes, and double the veggies.
* Have black bean, navy bean, lentil or split pea soup as an entree.
* Add tofu to salads and stir-frys.
* Microwave frozen mixed vegetables for a nearly instant side dish.
* Add steamed or defrosted frozen vegetables to tomato sauce. Pile on top of spaghetti for pasta primavera.
* Add garbanzo beans to salads and pasta dishes.
K? * Try roasted vegetables on the grill or under the broiler.
Roasted Vegetables With Garlic and Rosemary Serves 4
2 baby eggplants
1 red bell pepper
1 thin zucchini
1 small yellow crookneck squash
2 medium carrots
1/2 cup water
10 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons dried or fresh rosemary
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Cut eggplants in half lengthwise. Cut all other vegetables into large, bite-sized chunks. Cook carrots in water for five minutes, drain and add to vegetable mix. Add garlic, oil and rosemary. Toss until vegetables are well-coated with oil. Spread on a broiler pan. Broil 10-12 minutes, until edges begin to turn crisp and brown. Place in a salad bowl. Toss with salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar.
Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center and Vanderhorst & Associates in Baltimore.