Rena Salamacha
Rena Salamacha, CEO, Mee Memorial Healthcare System

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is a familiar proverb that appeared in 19th century America, advocating for the consumption of apples as a harbinger of good health. Could that be true?

Well, a 2015 study by JAMA Internal Medicine collected actual nutrition data from nearly 8,400 men and women — 753 of whom ate an apple a day — and followed rigorous study methods.

The study concluded that eating a daily apple does not necessarily keep the doctor away, “however, the small fraction of U.S. adults who eat an apple a day do appear to use fewer prescription medications.”

Apples alone may not have passed the test posed in that proverb, but a diet rich in many different fruits and vegetables has a profound effect on health and longevity. No single fruit or vegetable provides all of the nutrients you need to be healthy, but eating plenty of each every day works wonders.

Multiple studies clearly show that the consumption of fresh produce can help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect upon blood sugar, which can help keep appetite in check.

Eating non-starchy vegetables and fruits such as apples, pears and green leafy vegetables may even promote weight loss due to their low glycemic loads that prevent blood sugar spikes that can increase hunger.

At Mee Memorial Healthcare System, our highest priority is to serve the healthcare needs of our community — and that includes highlighting the cornerstone of a healthy and varied diet. That’s why MMHS is celebrating National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month in June.

It’s all part of practicing preventative medicine. It is our responsibility to protect, promote and maintain health and well-being, and to prevent disease and disability.

A good place to start is with a stroll through the produce aisle at your supermarket, or a visit to a local farmers market. And if you have children, these places provide so many opportunities for fun and educational experiences.

Young children especially are naturally curious, eager learners and haven’t yet fully formed lifestyle habits that will last into adulthood. The more fun you make the learning experience, the more excited and willing the kids will be when they are given the option to taste. A trip to the produce market gives them an opportunity to discover the colors, shapes, textures and smells of fresh fruits and vegetables, and allows them to be explorers of their food using their senses.

You may come away surprised at how excited they can become about choosing a pineapple, feeling the fuzz of a kiwi or discovering the wonders of rainbow chard. It can set the stage for a future filled with balanced diets and healthful lifestyles.

As a nonprofit, MMHS strives to be socially responsible in supporting and connecting to our rural community. We know that, on average, those living in rural areas experience higher rates of diabetes and coronary heart disease than those in urban areas.

It is our mission to help remove certain barriers that adversely affect their overall physical, social and mental health. Studies show that in comparison to non-rural U.S. adults, rural adults were less likely to consume five or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables, thus putting them at greater risk for health disparities.

While most of us know that eating more fruits and vegetables is important for overall good health, do we actually know how much to eat, or which choices provide added benefits?

Variety and color are key to a healthy diet. On most days, try to get at least one serving from each of the following categories: dark green leafy vegetables; yellow or orange fruits and vegetables; red fruits and vegetables; legumes (beans) and peas; and citrus fruits. Federal guidelines recommend that adults eat at least 1½ to 2 cups per day of fruit and 2 to 3 cups per day of vegetables as part of a healthy eating pattern.

Grow your own

As rural residents, we generally have more space to accommodate a garden. But you don’t have to dig a plot in the ground to grow your own fruits and vegetables. Whether you’d rather not plant in-ground or you have no yard at all, container gardening has several benefits over in-ground gardening. There’s no need for tilling, fancy irrigation or preparing the soil, and it’s easy to move pots around into the perfect position.

You can start a container garden almost anywhere: on your patio, deck, rooftop, or even kitchen counter. Whether it’s tomatoes, green beans, carrots, herbs, lettuce, strawberries or even pumpkins, growing your food is hugely satisfying and economical.

Whatever you decide to grow or buy, it’s fun to know more about these wonders of the food world, especially during National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month. Here are some interesting and fun facts about produce.

Did you know?

  • Tomatoes are a fruit, and the most popular fruit in the world.
  • Strawberries are technically not a berry. By definition berries have their seeds on the inside, and strawberries hold their 200 seeds on the outside.
  • A pomegranate is native to the Middle East and can hold up to 1,400 seeds.
  • Potatoes were the first vegetable to be grown in space when NASA partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Madison on the endeavor in 1995.
  • Broccoli is part of the cabbage family, and the parts you eat are actually flowers that haven’t opened yet.
  • Loaded with vitamins and minerals, with virtually no calories, fat or cholesterol, Brussels sprouts may be the healthiest veggie of them all.

Simply put, eating fruits and vegetables of different colors every day may not keep the doctor away, but it provides us with the best possible outcome toward an active and healthful life.

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CEO, Mee Memorial Healthcare System


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