What nutrients do we get from fruits and vegetables and why are they important?
Fruits and vegetables give your child many of the nutrients needed for good nutrition and health. These nutrients include: Vitamins A, C and folate and minerals like potassium and magnesium, as well as dietary fiber, water and phytochemicals.
Vegetables contain carotenoids (beta-carotene) that form Vitamin A. Vital to maintaining a healthy immune system which helps your child’s body fight infection, Vitamin A helps keep eyes healthy, and supports the growth and repair of body tissue, bones, skin, teeth and even hair.
Good sources of Vitamin A and beta carotene include carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, spinach, pumpkin, winter squash, tomatoes, apricots, cantaloupe, milk and dairy foods.
Helping to heal wounds and cuts and keep gums healthy, increasing the iron absorption of calcium – Vitamin C has a big job to do. No healthy child’s diet should be without the recommended daily dose of this important vitamin.
Good sources of Vitamin C include the citrus juices: orange, pineapple and grapefruit juice as well as strawberries, watermelon, broccoli, plantains, mangoes, red peppers and tomatoes.
Folate (Folic Acid)
This vitamin is needed to make genetic material (DNA and RNA) in cells and for the production of red blood cells. If your child is consuming 8 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, they usually get the folate they need. Other sources of folate include eggs, chickpeas, nuts and whole-wheat products.
Minerals Matter – Potassium and Magnesium
Potassium is important for fluid balance, promotes transmission of nerve impulses and helps maintain proper muscle function. Magnesium activates enzymes to release energy in the body, promotes bone growth and is needed to make new cells.
Dietary fiber is the part of plants that the digestive tract cannot breakdown. The dietary intake of fiber is important for proper bowel function as fiber contributes to soft stools that are easy to pass. If your child is getting enough fiber, they are less likely to become constipated. Unfortunately, many kids do not get enough fiber in their diet. For this reason, health experts recommend increasing fiber intake by increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables in a child’s diet.
How can you make sure your child is getting the fiber they need? Include dry beans and peas in your meal planning- the best source of fiber. Also try to offer more whole fruits and vegetables with skin. You may recall the saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” The skin of an apple provides a good source of fiber. Consuming fiber every day will keep you regular, keeping the doctor away!
Proper hydration is important for all of us, especially for young children. Your child needs a minimum of 4 and ideally should drink 6- 8 glasses per day. Fruits and vegetables contain water that can contribute to this daily intake. This makes it very important that fruits and vegetables are a daily part of your child’s diet.
Fruits and vegetables are rich is these substances- found concentrated in the skin and providing the brilliant color of fruits and vegetables. Phytochemicals are naturally occurring plant compounds that are believed to block the action of many cancer-causing substances and fight other diseases. By eating fruits and vegetables representing the different colors of the rainbow, you are making sure your child is getting a good variety of phytochemicals.