Choose WHOLE Fruits and Veggies!

Yahoo!! You are now to week 3! Hopefully, making balanced meals and snacks is becoming easier and easier. Perhaps it is something you already did before or perhaps it is was something you had to struggle with. Either way, building balanced meals is a key aspect of eating for health! Congrats! Remember to share your progress on Instagram with #refreshme2015 so I can see how you are doing :) Now, on to plants!

I know I should eat more FRUITS AND VEGGIES, but WHY??

Eating plenty of vegetables and fruits is the corner stone of a healthy diet! One can get by with a simple diet of meat and potatoes. However, a diet containing little fresh produce will not be a diet that will help prevent chronic disease and reduce inflammation. Although fruits and vegetables do not carry many calories, they are rich in vitamins and minerals as well as bioactive compounds. Together they help reduce inflammation and support overall health and wellbeing. 

But first you might ask, what exactly is a bioactive compound? Well, bioactive compounds, or otherwise known as phytochemicals, are non-nutrient plant chemicals, that act as a defense mechanism against pests or help to attract beneficial animal interactions. Specifically, phytochemicals are the compounds that give fruits and vegetables their distinct flavors, colors, and aromas. For example, think of oranges and grapefruit, and their strong bitter flavor and aroma. This aroma is caused by flavonoids, specifically, hesperetin and naringenin, which are found mostly in the white spongy portion of the fruit. Several studies have reported a reduction in blood pressure and a reduction in inflammation with an increased intake of these flavonoids.  Pretty cool, right??

However, flavonoids are not the only phytochemical that has shown positive effects. There are many different categories, found in all plants, each with a wide variety of different benefits. Therefore, it is recommended to eat a WIDE VARIETY of whole fruits and vegetables. More and more evidence even suggests that the health benefits of the phytochemicals is dependent on the whole SYNERGY of the entire fruit or vegetable. Therefore, it is recommended to EAT fruits and vegetables instead of taking them in a supplement.

Generally, phytochemicals founds in plants have been shown to reduce the risk of major chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. That is why the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends at least 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day based on a 2000 kcal diet. However, just like water, Americans tend to eat less than half of the recommendation. SHOOT!

Key Point: Eat a rainbow of WHOLE veggies and fruits!
Tip: If you are in a fruit and vegetable rut, try a new produce item per week.

What does a SERVING SIZE look like?

I know 9 servings may sound like a lot, but let me show you what 9 servings actually looks like! If you start thinking about adding in veggies or fruits in all your meals and snacks it becomes easier as you go! Also remember that 2 cups of leafy greens such as kale and spinach quickly cook down into small amounts. Below you will find examples of what a serving of fruit and vegetables actually looks like. 

  • 2 cups of leafy greens (spinach, kale, collard green, chard, lettuce, romaine)
  • 1 cup cooked 
  • 1 cup raw veggies 
  • 1 cup cooked whole or mashed beans and legumes*
*Note: If beans/legumes are not your main protein source they can count towards a serving of vegetables!

  • 1 cup of berries
  • 1 cup of diced papaya, melon, or pineapple
  • 1 medium apple, orange, kiwi, or banana, etc



Egg scramble with 1 cup veggies (broccoli and mushrooms), whole wheat toast, and 1 orange.

1 medium apple and peanut butter.

Mason Jar Salad with cooked quinoa, smoked salmon, crumbled feta, fresh mint and basil, 1 cup chopped veggies (cherry tomatoes and cucumbers), and 2 cups leafy greens

Hummus and 1 cup veggie sticks.

Stir-fry with 2 cups mixed veggies (asparagus, green cabbage, carrot, bell pepper, onions, celery, mushrooms, etc), shrimp, and brown rice. 

1 cup fresh berries and plain yogurt.


Tips to Increase Veggie Intake:
  • Put mixed greens on your plate and top with you favorite cooked dish.
    • Example: make a veggie scramble and top it on a bed of greens!
  • Steamed, roasted, or blanched vegetables can be easier to eat and digest!
  • Raw greens like spinach and kale cook down to small amounts!
  • Blend veggies into smoothies! I love to blend in sprouts, leafy greens, and even steamed beets!
  • When making sauces, add pureed or shredded vegetables.
  • In hot soups, throw in extra fresh baby spinach.
  • Have a savory breakfast instead of a sweet breakfast.

Key Point: Aim for 9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day
Tip: Eating more veggies than fruit is better for weight maintenance.

Do I need to buy ORGANIC?

Simply put, YES and NO.

Pesticides, which are often used to grow commercial crops, can affect the nervous system, irritate the skin or eyes, disrupt your hormones, and some may even increase the risk of cancer. Therefore, I highly recommend eating organic.

However you do not have to buy all your produce organic, especially as organic tends to cost more. Luckily the Environmental Working Group does annual research regarding which conventional produce has the highest and lowest amounts of pesticide residue. Each year they release an updated list in April. The number 1 produce has the highest amount of pesticide residue while the 51st produce item has the least.

The EWG highlights a study that found children who ate conventional produce for 5 days had high levels of pesticides in their blood. However, after 5 days of eating organic, most pesticides found had disappeared. This indicates that in just a short period of time, a healthy body is able to eliminate pesticides rather quickly. So let's get started!

Some other interesting facts reported by the EWG:

  • The average potato has more pesticides by weight than any other food
  • All imported nectarines and 99% of apple samples tested positive for pesticide residues.

Therefore, even if you don't eat completely organic, choosing to buy organic for the first column, and buying conventional for the last column, can have a huge impact on the pesticide levels within your body and save you some money!

Key Point: Buy organic for at least the first "DIRTY" column of fruits and vegetables.
Tip: Eating in season is cheaper. For example, organic nectarines in the winter are extremely expensive and probably don't taste good—so wait till summer!

Here come the SUPERSTAR Veggies and Fruits!

Cruciferous Veggies
(kale, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, brussel sprouts, watercress)

These sulfur-containing vegetables are AMAZING because they are rich in phytochemicals called isothiocyanates and indoles which have been shown to exert powerful anti-cancerous and anti-inflammatory effects. In a recent study of 1000 Chinese women, researchers found that women with high intakes of cruciferous vegetables had significantly lower levels of pro-inflammatory compounds in their blood. This is great news because inflammation is a risk factor for many chronic diseases! Try this delicious Chipotle coleslaw, and this tasty New Year's Detox soup.


Animal studies have found that shiitake mushrooms exert powerful anti-tumor properties and are therefore promoted for the prevention of cancer and reducing its progression. In some human studies, shiitake mushrooms prolonged the life of patients with advanced and recurrent stomach cancers. These mushrooms are also an excellent source of plant-based selenium. I love to simply sauté mushrooms in ghee, season them with salt, and add them to any savory meal.


I love asparagus not just because it tastes delicious, like in this Spring salad, but also because it is great for detox support and because of it’s powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capabilities. Asparagus contains excellent amounts of minerals selenium and zinc, and vitamins A, C, and E, which are all powerful antioxidants. These help reduce inflammation in the body by quenching free radicals, which can increase the risk for cancer.

Papaya & Pineapple

Both papaya and pineapple are unique in their ability to offer digestive support because they contain digestive enzymes, papain and bromelain. These enzymes help break down protein and ease digestion, especially after a heavy meal. But the benefits do not stop there! These enzymes have also been found to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties aiding in everything from digestive upset to wound healing. Now you know why I love papaya so much! Plus its super tasty with a squeeze of fresh lime! Try this tasty papaya smoothie, or this easy papaya salad.


Don't we all love fresh berries? And there is good reason to! Berries are a rich source of phytochemicals that have shown to provide significant health benefits because of their antioxidant properties. Berries also have high amounts of vitamins C and E, which also help quench free radicals. Those that are especially rich in nutrients and bioactive compounds are blackberries, elderberries, cranberries, and blueberries. This quick berry cobbler is delicious and so is this sprouted berry smoothie!

Alright so here is your 3rd Challenge!!!
Now that you are full to the brim with exciting information on why to eat more WHOLE FRUITS AND VEGGIES, here is your next challenge. Take it by the horns and make it yours! Remember to print, download, and track on the REfreshME! Challenge Tracker to keep yourself accountable and motivated. Share your recipe inspirations, challenges, success with me @poppiesandpapayas and #refreshme2015.


Weekly Recipe Inspiration:

Massaged Kale Salad

This is a great salad to get in a lot of your cruciferous greens in one serving. By massaging the kale with sea salt you break down the fibers without cooking it. This makes the kale easier to digest and more enjoyable to eat because it is more tender and soaks up the flavors. If you are not a kale fan, try this recipe, as it has been a hit with many kale newbies :)

Serves 4

1 bunch green curly kale (~8 leaves)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons unrefined cold-press extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (white or brown)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped roasted maple almonds (see below for recipe)
**Crumbled gorgonzola, feta, or goat cheese
**Dried cranberries, raisins, or currants, chopped
Zest of 1 lemon (optional)
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Sea salt and fresh pepper to taste


Wash your kale and shake off any excess water. You can also shake them in a clean kitchen towel.

Devein each kale leaf by pulling down along the stem towards the tip of the leaf. Chop the leaves into bite sized pieces and toss into a large bowl.

Add the sea salt and gently massage the kale for about 1 minute or until the kale leaves begin to break down and look shiny. Do not over massage otherwise it will wilt too much. Add the olive oil and the vinegar and toss well.

Finally, add the chopped almonds, cheese and dried fruit of your choice, and mix until combined. **Add as much of the cheese and dried fruit as you like.

Add the lemon juice and lemon zest if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Variation: To make this salad dairy-free swap the cheese with diced avocado.

Note: To make this a balanced meal add a lean protein such as a hard boiled egg, fried tofu or tempeh, or even baked salmon and your choice of starch (whole grain, bean/legumes, potatoes)

Roasted Maple Almonds
Makes 1 cup

1 cup almonds 
1 tablespoons butter or ghee
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Generous pinch sea salt


Preheat oven to 325. Place almonds onto a baking sheet and roast for about 10 minutes until fragrant. Make sure to watch that they do not burn. Set aside to cool. 

Heat a medium cast-iron pan on medium. Add the butter and the maple syrup. Stir the mixture until it bubbles a lot, becomes syrupy, and reduces in amount. Add cooled nuts, and salt. Mix well to coat. Be careful as the syrup is extremely hot. 

With a spoon or spatula spread almonds onto a plate and allow to cool. Break into pieces. Serve with the salad or eat as a snack!

Recipe Links:

Feeling Motivated??? Here is how to prepare for next week!
  • Stock up on your favorite beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. Make sure to get low sodium canned beans/legumes if you like those for convenience. 
  • Stock up on your favorite organic plain unsweetened yogurt or kefir. 
  • If your feeling adventurous pick up some fermented kimchi or sauerkraut that contains live active cultures.
  • And if you like tempeh, pick up some of that too!


1. Liu RH. Dietary Bioactive Compounds and Their Health Implications. JFS. 2013;78(S1):A18-25.
2. Chanet A, Milenkovic D, Manach C, et al. Citrus Flavanones: What Is Their Role in Cardiovascular Protection?. J Agric Food Chem. 2012;60: 8809-8822.
3. EWG Shoppers Guide 2014. Accessed January 10, 2015.
4. Jiang Y, Wu SH, Shu X, et al. Cruciferous Vegetable Intake Is Inversely Correlated with Circulating Levels of Pro-inflammatory Markers in Women. JAND. 2014;114(5):700-708.
6. Pavan R, Jain S, Shraddha, Kumar A. Properties and Therapeutic Application of Bromelain: A Review. Biotech Research Int. 2012:1-6.
7. Nile SH, Park SW. Edible berries: Bioactive components and their effect on human health. Nutrition. 2014.;30: 134-144.

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