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Fruits & Vegetables: Health Benefits and Safety

Why should I eat vegetables and fruits? Eating plenty of vegetables and fruits has many health benefits. They provide many nutrients that are important for good health and some that help protect against heart disease, stroke and some cancers. Choosing nutrient dense vegetables and fruits instead of calorie dense options like sweets, cakes, pies, pastries, chips and high fat crackers, fried foods and rich sauces can be helpful for managing weight.

Tips to keep fresh vegetables and fruits safe to eat:

  • In the produce section of the store choose fresh vegetables and fruits that are free of bruising or other damage. Keep away from raw meat, poultry and seafood items in your grocery cart, at the checkout counter and in grocery bags.
  • Go straight home if possible so all foods that need to be kept cold can be refrigerated quickly. If not going straight home put a cooler in the car with ice packs to store foods that need to be kept cold. Return home as soon as possible.
  • Once home, refrigerate foods that need to be kept cold. Generally if produce was kept cold at the store it needs to be refrigerated at home.
  • Wash fresh vegetables and fruits under cold running water just before serving. They need to be washed even if they will be peeled so that any dirt or germs on the peel or skin will not be transferred from the outside surface to the inside when cutting into the produce.
  • All vegetables and fruits that have been cut up, peeled or cooked should be refrigerated as soon as possible and within two hours. If outdoors, and the temperature outdoors is above 90 degrees F., they should be kept chilled in a clean container in a cooler at 40 degrees F. or below within one hour.
  • Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before beginning food preparation or handling food.

Becky Varner, MS RD LD 

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