Power Plants

Why eating five, ten or more servings of fruit and vegetables each day is easier than it sounds.

Itís never too late to fall in love with veggies. If there is one widely accepted fact among health experts itís that consumption of fruit and vegetables play an essential role in human health -- and that most of us don't get enough of them.

Fruits and vegetables are naturally tasty, nutritious and low in calories. The best diet is one abundant in fruits and vegetables. Among other benefits, they are rich in phytochemicals that protect us against cancer and other diseases (itís more accurate to say that the absence of large quantities of phytochemicals in our diets causes cancer and other diseases). These powerhouses of nutrition are also packed with beneficial fiber and water, which contribute to satiety, prevention of disease and, importantly, weight control.


It is recommended that women eat a minimum of five servings of fruit and vegetables every day. The American Cancer Society urges men to eat nine servings of fruits and veggies a day. I donít think that goes far enough, though. All adults and adolescents should eat a minimum of nine servings of fruits and veggies per day and children a minimum of five. In other words, produce should constitute the bulk of any diet whether vegetarian or not.


Most of us react with shock at the prospect of eating so many servings of fruits and vegetables. Thatís because our cultural norms inform us that high-calorie packaged food, meat, concentrated fats like butter and mayonnaise and other non-plant foods should make up the lionís share of our breakfast, lunch and dinnertime calories. But our bodies are expecting that a high percentage of our daily calories will come in the form of fruits and vegetables.


In fact itís easier than you might think to get the recommended number of servings.  A fruit salad with lunch that includes an apple, a banana, an orange and a half cup of berries equals four servings of fruit. Add a small salad for dinner and the minimum recommendation for women is satisfied.


Wasnít that easy? Now add a glass of orange juice for breakfast, a couple of vegetables for dinner and throw a delicious snack of a half a mango in there and you've got nine easy servings.


Itís even easier when we eliminate junk food and other empty calorie foods altogether.


If you take a look at a one-cup measuring cup, which equals eight ounces, youíll notice that it doesnít hold very much. A six-ounce glass of juice makes one serving -- thatís less than one cup. This is not to say that having all your daily servings of fruit in the form of juice is the best practice. Fresh fruit is usually best when you do your own mastication. Fresh squeezed juice is usually not better than eating whole fruits. Juicing, blending, processing or cooking plants can reduce the amount of nutrients and enzymes. Of course, there are a few exceptions. Tomatoes, for instance, are richer in vitamin C when fresh, but when cooked they lose vitamin C and their content of lycopene, a beneficial antioxidant, increases.


Here are some easy ways to boost your consumption of fruits and veggies:

  • Eat a serving of fruit two hours before every meal

  • Commit to eating at least two servings of vegetables or leafy greens with lunch or dinner.

  • Add fresh or frozen fruits to all your servings of cold or hot cereal.

  • Add fresh raw vegetables to all salads (finely chopped or shredded).

  • Drink fresh fruit and vegetable juices instead of soda, beer, wine, coffee or tea.

  • Substitute desserts with a plate of fresh fruit, fruit smoothies or frozen blended fruit.

  • Make vegetable dips, fresh vegetable relishes and salsas to go with your meals.

  • Eat fresh, whole fruit for snacks instead of candy bars, scones, cookies, chips and other manufactured foods.

  • Incorporate vegetables into your recipes by adding them to soups, stews, casseroles and sauces.

As I always say, itís not just about looking healthy, itís about being healthy, which is easily achieved by adopting a healthful and active lifestyle consisting of daily exercise and an eating plan abundant in fruit, vegetables and other plant foods. Eating plenty of fruits and veggies are essential for not only optimum health, but also staying slim and trim.

A Personal Note

Many of you have been writing to me wondering why youíve not received any issues of Vegetarian Organic Life in the last three months, I would like to tell you that because of unforeseen circumstances, mainly having to do with my busy schedule and travel commitments, Iíve not had the time to pursue my passion. As you know, this newsletter is free of charge and has no advertising or revenue of any kind.

As much as Iíd love to make this newsletter my number-two priority (second only to my family), Iíve been forced to make the painful choice of not sending any issues recently.

I have to practice what I preach -- life has to be lived in a way that is conducive to total well being, including good physical and mental health. Not writing the newsletter for a while has been a necessity.

Although Iím an early riser (because I find that I can be very productive by getting up at 4:00 AM), I still cannot find enough time to do all the things that Iíd like to do. This is what I call the Art of Prioritizing as I published in my issue of April 9. I have a family to look after and support at all levels and lately that meant that I didnít have the time to work on the newsletter.

Iíve been striving to streamline my schedule so I can make the time to publish the newsletter as often as possible. I appreciate all my readers who make publishing Vegetarian Organic Life so gratifying. Getting e-mails from readers from different parts of the world, sharing with me their comments and stories is always a wonderful incentive for me to continue to do what I love.

Thank you all.

I'd love to hear from you. Click here to send e-mail!

Reader Q&A 

Hello Amira, I just found your newsletter and subscribed. It looks wonderful and the recipes are a welcome treat!  Thanks so much. 

I have a question about soy (tofu, tempeh, etc). A lot of people, myself included, have a real problem digesting soy products. Most of the vegan recipes really concentrate on soy as an ingredient and a main source of protein. Even Dr. Weil's advice is to "eat more soy!Ē  I'm not sure how to get enough protein on a vegan diet, since I have to avoid soy for digestive reasons.  My body just does not deal well with it. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks again,

Tom, Overland Park, Kansas

A: Dear Tom, thank you and welcome aboard. Thatís a great question. Research suggests that eating soy protein helps protect against cardiovascular disease.

As you point out, however, not everyone can or wants to eat soy. And even those who do should also get plenty of non-soy sources of protein.

In fact, there is controversy about the benefits of soy, especially certain compounds found in soy beans, namely, isoflavones. Some studies suggest that high intake of isoflavones lowers risk of breast cancer but others claim it increases the risk. The key to soy as with so many healthy foods is moderate consumption. A well-balanced diet consists of diverse and varied whole foods.

Fortunately, there are plenty of other great protein sources for vegans. For example, seitan is an excellent alternative to meat and soy products, and it also provides high-quality protein. Other specific sources include whole grains (barley, buckwheat, millet, oat, brown rice and quinoa), legumes (lentils, black-eyed peas, split peas, black beans, garbanzo beans, pinto beans, etc.), nuts (best raw and unsalted such as almonds, pine nuts, peanuts, cashews, walnuts) and seeds (flax, pumpkin, sunflower).

Whether you eat soy or don't eat soy, the important thing is to get plenty of protein from a wide variety of plant-based foods.

Words of Wisdom

ĒWe are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are.Ē

Adelle Davis

The Research Department

A new study conducted at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and published by the British Journal of Cancer has found that mixing cigarette smoke and saliva highly increases the chances of developing mouth cancer.

Saliva, which contains enzymes that protect the lining of the mouth by neutralizing harmful toxins, is basically altered and changed into a toxic substance by the chemicals in tobacco smoke damaging the cells in the mouth and causing cancer.

Not surprisingly, smoking and drinking are responsible for causing most of the head, neck and oral cancers (including mouth, lip, tongue, gums, larynx and pharynx). Statistics show that almost 400,000 new cases are diagnosed each year with a five-year survival rate of less than 50 percent.

Vegetarian Organic Recipe of the Week

Click on the picture for a closer look!

Radish and Tomato Relish (vegan)
Serves 4

When in the mood for something fresh, crunchy and tangy, look no further than this fabulous relish made with crisp red globe radishes. It goes especially well as topping on savory meals like Mexican and other Latin food.

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Get ingredients ready: (use organic ingredients if possible)
8 radishes
2 medium fresh tomatoes
Ĺ small red onion
⅓ cup fresh lime juice
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt

Finely chop radishes, tomatoes and onions by hand or in a food processor. In a large glass or ceramic bowl combine cabbage mixture with lime juice, pepper and salt. Serve as topping or eat as you would eat salsa.

Cookís tip: This relish should be made right before eating for a crisp and crunchy consistency.


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Comments? Please send e-mail to Amira at [email protected]

This newsletter is not intended to provide and replace medical advice. The author and editor expressly disclaim all responsibility for any adverse effects resulting from any information, diet or exercise suggestions. It is imperative that the advice of a physician is sought before any diet or exercise programs are adopted.

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