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National Restaurant Association - Ask the Nutritionist: Cut through clutter on fruits, vegetables

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Ask the Nutritionist: Cut through clutter on fruits, vegetables

In her latest Ask the Nutritionist commentary, the National Restaurant Association’s Director of Food & Healthy Living Joy Dubost, Ph.D., R.D., addresses common questions about fruits and vegetables.

As a restaurant operator, you probably have encountered misperceptions or myths around fruits and vegetables.

Consumers may ask you about the type or source of the fruits and vegetables you are providing in your restaurant. The following provides some tips and information on incorporating produce in meals.

Consumption of fruits and vegetables by Americans is not quite two cups per day, which, depending upon caloric needs falls short of the recommended four to five cups per day. A recent scientific review published in the European Journal of Nutrition found considerable evidence indicating the preventive nature fruits and vegetables provide on a number of chronic diseases. In fact, there is convincing evidence that increasing the consumption of fruit can reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

Many consumers question the best form of fruit or vegetables for consumption. The answer to this depends on your preference. No matter the form ‑ fresh, canned, frozen, or dried ‑ the benefits of essential nutrients and phytochemicals are being provided. Many of those forms, in general, provide similar amounts of fiber and minerals. Also keep in mind when processing fruits and vegetables, the fat-soluble nutrients, such as vitamins A and E, can actually increase and allow for better absorption by the body. In addition, commercial production of fruits and vegetables, such as canned or frozen, allows for optimum preservation of nutritional value since it is produced within a few hours of harvest.

There also are questions around whether conventional or organic fruits and vegetables are nutritionally better for you. Based on current scientific evidence, such as an analysis of 46 studies published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2009, there is no evidence to indicate that organically produced items are significantly different or superior in nutritional quality relative to conventional. In general, all fruits and vegetables ‑ whether conventional or organic ‑ provide key nutrients and should be incorporated into the diet.

Another frequently asked question concerns the presence of pesticide residue on conventionally grown fruits and vegetables, often referred to as the “Dirty Dozen.” For science based, factual information, www.safefruitsandveggies.com is a valuable resource provided by the Alliance for Food and Farming that provides answers to questions on this topic. The bottom line is there is no convincing evidence that pesticide residue at the levels found on fruits and vegetables pose a risk. Just be sure to wash the produce before consumption. The benefits of consuming fruits and vegetables far outweigh any risks.

The good news for restaurants is consumers say they desire more produce on the plate, according to new research. A study conducted by Technomic indicates menu mentions of vegetables have risen more than 11 percent in the past three years, led by such standouts as kale, cauliflower and zucchini. New preparation techniques, such as roasting and caramelization, have helped increase the demand.

National Restaurant Association research also shows that locally grown produce and fruit and vegetable side items for children are among the top 20 trends for 2013. In general, 71 percent of adults said they are trying to eat healthier now at restaurants than they did two years ago.

For more information and recipes on fruits and vegetables, visit www.FruitsandVeggiesMoreMatters.org or www.PBHFoundation.org.

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