Back to School Focus: Providing Free Fruit & Veggies Helps Reduce Childhood Obesity

shutterstock_77073598More than a third of U.S. children and teens are overweight or obese, a reality that places a heavy burden on both their physical and mental health as they grow into adulthood. As experts nationwide focus their efforts on improving nutrition standards and advocating a healthier lifestyle for American kids, a new study offers hope that we may be on the right track.

Researchers from the University of Arkansas recently looked at the impact of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) on a sample of participating schools in their state. Since the 2008-2009 school year—when the program was first introduced to Arkansas schools—obesity rates have dropped from 20% to 17%. This is a notable decline in a state with some of the highest childhood obesity rates in the country.

The FFVP is a federally assisted program that allows for fresh fruits and vegetables to be provided for students free of charge throughout the school day. Aimed at encouraging smart eating habits in children and promoting long-term health, the program targets elementary schools with the highest free and reduced price enrollment. And, according to study co-author Rodolfo Nayga, it may be one of the simplest and most cost-effective strategies of its kind.

“By this measure, our results suggest that the fresh fruit and vegetable program is a very cost-effective obesity prevention tool,” said Nayga in a recent news release. “Moreover, prevention of childhood obesity is in addition to the other nutritional benefits that come from increased fruit and vegetable consumption.”


No tags

Color Your Diet for a Nutrient Boost!

shutterstock_213215713Have you ever heard the expression “Eat a rainbow”? It refers to the wide range of colors we see in our favorite fruits and vegetables and what those colors mean for our health. Each different shade of red, orange, yellow, green, and even purple and blue comes from different nutrients found naturally in fresh produce—and those nutrients provide numerous benefits for the whole body.

As we celebrate Fruit & Veggies—More Matters® Month, here is a quick list to help you put a little more color on your plate. Whenever possible, stick to low-sugar fruits and non-starchy vegetables for optimal health.

Red: Tomatoes and watermelon are both rich in lycopene, phytoene, and phytofluene, which promote healthy cholesterol and blood pressure to help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Red-Purple: Red grapes, strawberries, cherries, pomegranates, and raspberries contain natural compounds called anthocyanins, ellagic acid, and flavonoids, which support heart health and metabolism.

Orange: Squash, mangoes, apricots, carrots, and pumpkins contain alpha and beta carotenoids (powerful antioxidants that promote overall health)—not to mention plenty of vitamin A for healthy vision, vitamin C for immune health, and potassium and iron.

Orange-Yellow: Oranges, tangerines, and other citrus fruits contain bioflavonoids, which support heart health, along with plenty of essential vitamin C for healthy skin, eyes, and immune function.

Green-Yellow: Avocado, spinach, green beans, mustard greens, and collard greens contain lutein and zeaxanthin, natural compounds that promote heart and eye health.

Green: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and bok choy contain glucosinolates, isocyothianates, and indole-3 carbinol, which have powerful antioxidant properties.

White-Green: Garlic and onions contain allyl sulfides, which support healthy cells, bones, blood circulation, and immune function.

And don’t forget about fiber! Fresh fruits and veggies are chock full of dietary fiber, which has been shown to support healthy digestion, immune function, heart health, and more, so be sure to spend a few extra minutes in the produce aisle the next time you head to the market. Your body and your health will thank you!


No tags