Add produce to diet for better health

March 09, 2009|By MEREDITH COHN

Eat your fruits and vegetables. It's not hard, and they'll help you stay fit. That's the message from state officials, who have launched a month-long educational campaign to support March's National Nutrition Month. Buying local produce will also provide the freshest and most affordable foods, say the officials from the departments of Agriculture and Health and Mental Hygiene.

The officials say 80 percent of heart disease, stroke and diabetes can be prevented by eating well, along with exercising and not smoking. A quarter of Maryland adults are obese and the rate of obese kids has more than doubled in the past two decades. Yet, nationally only 10 percent eat the recommended five or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables. In Maryland about a quarter of adults eat the right amounts. Fresh, frozen and canned all count.

Health Secretary John M. Colmers says people can easily up the amounts by adding, for example, a piece of fruit to breakfast, snacking on raw vegetables in the afternoon and eating fruit for dessert. The American Dietetic Association, which launched National Nutrition Month, says that, in addition to fruit, consumers should emphasize whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, beans and eggs. And they should cut down on saturated fats, cholesterol, salt and sugar.

Agriculture Secretary Roger L. Richardson says the state produces many types of healthy foods and many are available year-round. To find locally grown products and recipes, go to marylandsbest.net. For healthy recipes, tips on label reading and nutritional guidelines, go to fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org.

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