Category Archives: vegetables

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Types of produce for natural food coloring

A large portion of the foods that we consume contain artificial food colorants. Many of these artificial food dyes have been banned for use in food manufacturing in the United Kingdom, Norway and other European countries. However, they are still considered safe for use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Thankfully, there is a growing number of various concerned groups who heed the warnings of numerous reports linking artificial food colorants to a myriad of health problems. Health-conscious consumers, for instance, actively take matters into their own hands and opt for natural food colorants. Some food manufacturers are giving in to the demands of these consumers, along with the outcry of health advocates and medical communities. Kraft, General Mills, Nestlé and a few more companies have pledged to phase the use of synthetic food colorants out in their manufacturing process.

While FoodFacts.com joins the American public in celebrating the ingenuity of the country’s confectioners during National Candy Month, we maintain that you should take caution in consuming sweet treats that are filled with artificial food colorants. This month, we shared important information of two of the most commonly used artificial food dyes according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Red Dye #40 and Yellow Dye #5, including the risks they pose to our health.

Staying away from vibrant, artificial food dyes doesn’t mean you’re left with dull, colorless foods. The great news is, you can make your own natural food dyes from produce. In the previous blog post, we shared a recipe for homemade red and yellow food dyes made from raspberries and mangoes, respectively. Today, we’re sharing other types of produce that you can use to make natural food colorants. After all, June isn’t just all about the candies; it’s also National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month!

Red and Pink

  • Beets
  • Pomegranate

Yellow

Blue  and Purple

  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Radicchio
  • Red cabbage

Green

  • Spinach
  • Matcha powder

Orange

  • Carrots
  • Paprika

Bear in mind that there are different processes in making your own natural food colorants, depending on the type of produce you decide to use. Homemade natural food dyes are boiled, puréed or dissolve with vinegar.

If you don’t have the do-it-yourself bone in you, there are brands of natural food coloring that you can easily purchase from grocery stores. Use the All My Food Facts app to see their health scores. Get the app on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon!

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Foods you should eat to stay healthy this summer

Summer is officially here, and it is time to sit back and relax! Whether you’re off to epic outdoor adventures or just staying put for low-key backyard or poolside barbecues, there’s no doubt that the tranquility of the season makes eating, all the more, one of life’s simple pleasures.

Thankfully, summertime brings an abundance of fruits and vegetables available for us. So, while you’re gallivanting and gormandizing, FoodFacts.com lists foods that can help you stay in tip-top shape during the summer months.

Corn

Make corn your official side dish for those grilling sessions with family and friends! Corn contains two specific antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, which help form macular pigment that filter out the sun’s ultraviolet rays. To put it simply, corn is a natural sunblock that can help protect your skin from damages caused by the sun.

Tomatoes

Tomato is rich in lycopene that help protect your skin from sunburn, making it another great produce that you can add to your line of defense against the blazing summer sun. Bear in mind that tomato increases its lycopene content when processed and/or cooked.

Berries

Berries make for a delicious and healthy snack whether you’re eating them off of a bowl at home or off of a container when you’re on the road. Munching on berries can significantly improve your diet as they are rich in antioxidants and fiber. These fibrous fruits can help you combat constipation, which is a common problem when traveling.

Green tea

Green tea is one of the most highly recommended foods for detoxing and hydrating. It should be a staple regardless of where you are. In her article, A Top Chef’s Tips for Keeping It Healthy While Traveling, celebrity chef Marisa Churchill recommends bringing your own supply so you’ll always have some on hand and consuming 20 ounces of green tea per day.

Water

Water still remains the best way to stay cool and hydrated during the scorching summer months. Drink 16-32 ounces, plus additional amounts when you’re being active to replenish the loss from perspiration. Be sure to always have water with you when you are traveling. You may also want to consider bringing a portable water filter so you can have access to clean, drinking water wherever you go.

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Safety tips for handling fresh produce

Eating fresh produce is integral in achieving a balanced, healthy diet. However, over 80% of the United States’ population do not meet the recommended daily consumption for both fruits and vegetables. This National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month, our goal is definitely to get people to eat more fresh produce, but we should also send caution about food poisoning from the consumption of these foods.

Food becomes contaminated through a variety of ways. For fruits and vegetables, they may come in contact with harmful bacteria in the soil or water from which they are grown, or during storage and preparation after they are harvested. Eating contaminated produce may lead to foodborne illnesses; and they are especially more common in the warm summer months when foodborne bacteria multiply faster, and fruits and vegetables are often eaten raw.

FoodFacts.com shares some safety tips in handling fresh produce to avoid foodborne illnesses (also called “food poisoning”).

Choose Right

Whether it’s from a grocery store, farmers’ markets or roadside stands, be sure to inspect produce properly and avoid the ones that are damaged or have bruises. Whole, uncut produce is always preferable, but for pre-prepared fruits and vegetables like sliced cantaloupe or bagged lettuce, grab only those that are chilled in the refrigerator or on ice.

Note: Segregate fruits and vegetables from raw meat, poultry and/or seafood in your cart, and place them in separate shopping bags.

Store Properly

Proper storage is important in maintaining the quality of fruits and vegetables. Perishable goods, especially pre-cut, peeled or packaged, must be refrigerated at a temperature of 40°F or below. Some produce, such as apples, potatoes, onions and garlic, are better stored at room temperature.

Preparation Tips

When dealing with produce, be sure to begin with clean hands. Wash hands with soap and warm water. Cut and discard any damaged or bruised areas before preparing and/or eating fruits and vegetables.

Washing

  • Do NOT use soap or detergent.
  • No matter where you got the produce – homegrown or from any merchant – it’s highly recommended that you wash them thoroughly with running water to rid them of as much chemicals as possible.
  • Even if you plan to take the peel off of fruits and vegetables, washing the outer layer is still necessary to remove dirt and bacteria. For firm produce such as watermelon and zucchini, use a produce brush.
  • Dry washed produce with a clean paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may still be present.

Putting together

  • Always keep raw meat, poultry and seafood (as well as cutting board, knives, utensils and dishes used to prepare them) separate from produce that will be eaten uncooked.
  • If possible, use different cutting boards and other kitchen tools for meat, poultry and seafood, and for fresh produce.
  • Or, wash cutting boards and other kitchen tools with soap and hot water between preparing raw goods and produce.

 

If you or a family member have contacted foodborne illnesses, call your healthcare provider immediately. For serious cases, take afflicted to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.

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Recipe: Provençal Tian

While FoodFacts.com is all about promoting more fresh produce consumption this National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month, we thought we’d share this healthy, delicious and easy-to-prepare comfort food from Provençe, France.

Provençal tian is a French term that pertains to both the shallow earthenware as well as the dish prepared in it. Traditionally, Provençal tian is made with eggplant, zucchini and tomato.

Time: 20 minutes to prepare ingredients; 40 minutes to bake

Serving: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggplant, cut into thick slices
  • 2 zucchini, sliced
  • 2 large brown onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 ½ tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Provençal herbs: rosemary and thyme sprigs
  • Ground black pepper and salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Coat earthenware with olive oil, and arrange eggplant alternately with zucchini, tomatoes and onions.
  3. Repeat sequence to fill the dish, making sure to fit the ingredients tightly.
  4. Sprinkle minced garlic, salt, pepper, and rosemary and thyme sprigs.
  5. Drizzle with olive oil.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes or until vegetables are tender and browned around the edges.

Provençal tian is usually served as a side dish for grilled, baked, barbecued or roasted meat.

Note: Serve in a clear dish to show off the layers!

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It’s National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month!

June is National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month! It’s no surprise that FoodFacts.com would take every opportunity to encourage our readers to increase their consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. If we haven’t said it enough, fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals that are essential in making your body work, feel and look its best. They provide the nutrients for vital health and aid in lowering your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and other chronic diseases.

The dietary guidelines for the amount of fruits and vegetables intake basically depend on one’s gender, age, and activity level. Based on a 2,000-calorie daily diet, two cups of fruits and 2 ½ cups of vegetables are recommended, whether fresh, frozen or canned.

There are many easy ways you can get yourself eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. Below are some of them:

Grow them yourselves

Vegetable and fruit gardens in people’s backyards are always a pleasant sight. Making use of space this way is a great way to utilize and maximize it. For those who don’t have the room and time for an edible garden, there are small and low-maintenance herbs that you can grow indoors, such as basil and parsley.

Buy locally grown

If homegrown is not an option, locally grown is the next best thing. The shorter the distance the fruits and vegetables have traveled, the fresher they are. Roadside stands and farmers’ markets are the best places for those! Be sure to find out if your farmers’ markets are selling goods that they have grown or made themselves or are carrying other farms’ goods. National, state and city laws require farmers’ markets to disclose if they are “producers only” or “carrying” products from others.

Buy in-season produce

Nature has its way of telling us what the best foods to eat are and when to eat them. Fruits and vegetables offer the most nutritional value and flavor when they are in season; plus, they cost less when supplies are aplenty.

Learn fast and easy ways to prepare them

While eating raw produce have many health benefits, there are certain fruits and vegetables that are better consumed cooked. For instance, cooked tomatoes contain increased lycopene, a phytochemical rich in antioxidant properties, than raw tomatoes.

Be sure to always wash produce before eating. It’s also a great idea to prepare ahead – wash, cut and store them safely for future use.

Go for the healthy snacks

When you’re craving snacks, you want something convenient and ready-to-eat. This is where the pre-prepared fruits and vegetables come to play. Go for the cut-up fruits and veggies when you have the urge to reach for some bag of chips!

Try something new

Keep things interesting by trying something new, not just for the enticing colors and flavors, but for the body’s nourishment. No fruit or vegetable contains all of the nutrients that your body needs. So, shake things up and keep a variety – the options are limitless!

Tips to help you transition to veganism

vegan-1161192If you’re planning to transition to veganism, you couldn’t have chosen a better time. In the recent years, there has been a burgeoning popularity of organic produce as well as awareness on the health benefits of meatless diets. In addition to that, a vast number of people became more concerned on the environmental costs of meat production, including the cruelties involved in animal farming.

There are varying reports as to the percentage of the U.S. population that is vegan. However the number is large enough to catapult vegan restaurants and food manufacturers, and other related businesses. Vegan blogs and social accounts are also thriving. Needless to say, there are plenty of resources out there that cater to the vegan market and can also help those who wish to make the transition. Foodfacts.com shares some helpful tips to kick-off your plant-based diet.

Do your research

While we’ve known that fruits and vegetables are good for us since kindergarten, that piece of wisdom merely scratches the surface of what you need to know as you embark on this journey towards veganism. Educate yourself on how the lifestyle can be beneficial for you before taking the leap.

Find recipe inspirations

If you need get over the notion that meatless diets are boring, all you need to do is look for vegan recipes. Creative vegans on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and the run-on-the-mill recipe blogs will show you just how enticing vegan food can be.

Tip: Look for instructional posts that teach you how to turn your favorite foods into vegan meals. Almost every animal product has a plant-based substitute. The texture and taste will definitely be different, but this trick has found a lot of success in helping people switch to a vegan diet.

Keep it simple

If the whole vegan meal preparation intimidates you, start with the basics. Keep things simple - oatmeal with chopped fruits for breakfast, soup or salad for lunch, and seasoned, roasted root vegetables with quinoa for dinner. Throw in some fruity smoothies for refreshments, too!

Remodel your shopping list

Focus on what you’ll be gaining, not what you’re giving up. Instead of thinking you shouldn’t buy meat, eggs and milk on your next trip to the grocery, realign your psyche on shopping for quinoa, sweet potatoes and coconut milk. Besides, no one ever brings a things not to buy list to the grocery stores!

Take it easy

Remember to take it one day at a time and transition at your own pace. If you’re not ready to go all out, start by incorporating these vegan superfoods in your daily diet. When you’re finally ready to give up meat and meat products, be sure to avoid processed vegan foods. Opt for a variety of vegan whole foods to keep your diet balanced.

The all my foodfacts app can help with your efforts towards becoming vegan. By selecting the types of food that you want to avoid, all my foodfacts will show you which products contain them. In this case, when you add “animal-derived” to your avoid list and run a search on condiments, the app includes the products that are derived from animals in the results and indicates that you should avoid them. 

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Find out if the products you are using are really vegan with the all my foodfacts app. Get it on iTunesGoogle Play and Amazon!

Vegetables take center stage on dinner plates across America in 2016

salad barVegetables are trending this New Year. As consumers become more aware and educated they’re making some serious changes to their diet and lifestyle. Part of those changes is the reframing of the main course of a meal. In years past, FoodFacts.com the main course of an American meal focused on the protein – whether that protein was meat, poultry or fish, the protein was the star of the show. The times are changing though. Vegetables take center stage on dinner plates across America in 2016. Consumers everywhere are assigning new value to the vegetable component of the meal.

About a decade ago, food writer Michael Pollan issued a call to action: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. As 2016 opens, it looks like many American cooks and diners are heeding that call.

Vegetables have moved from the side to the center of the plate. And as another year begins, it appears that plants are the new meat.

Bon Appetit magazine named AL’s Place in San Francisco the best new restaurant of 2015. Meats at AL’s Place are listed under “sides.” The rest of the menu features vegetable-centric dishes sometimes featuring animal protein as an ingredient – pear curry, black lime yellowtail, persimmon, blistered squash. The hanger steak (with smoked salmon butter), however, is a side dish.

This and other restaurants are also using the whole vegetable. What used to go in the compost heap is now fermented, roasted or smoked and used in other dishes. The stem-to-leaf approach follows the example of nose-to-tail eating.

WastED is a project that brings together chefs, farmers, fishermen and food purveyors to “reconceive waste” in the food chain, according to the group’s website.

The WastED salad has been available at Sweetgreen restaurants, making use of the restaurants scraps – broccoli leaves, carrot ribbons, roasted kale stems, romaine hearts, roasted cabbage cores, roasted broccoli stalks and roasted bread butts all mixed with arugula, Parmesan, spicy sunflower seeds and pesto vinaigrette.

Food waste has become a concern to the U.S. government as well as chefs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency have set a goal to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2030, calling in a joint statement to “feed people not landfills.” The statement says that food loss and waste account for about 31 percent (133 billion pounds) of the nation’s food supply.

The ascendance of vegetables has added a new word to the food lexicon: spiralizing. Piles of spiralized vegetables – produced with, yes, a spiralizer – are replacing pasta in some home and restaurant kitchens. Cookbooks, blogs and tools are available to help.

Eaters in 2016 also are likely to see more dried beans, peas and lentils on their plates. The United Nations has declared this the International Year of Pulses to raise consumer awareness of the nutritional and environmental benefits of the edible dry seeds. Chickpeas seems to be the rising star of the pulse world. They’re not just for hummus anymore.

The rise of vegetables and focus on food waste are the culmination of more than a decade’s worth of government, consumer and food and environmental activists’ concerns that have finally trickled into the mainstream. Sustainability issues are becoming particularly visible in the fish we’re eating. More overlooked fish and some invasive species are being offered to diners.
So-called “clean labels” are another expression of these concerns. Both consumers and food purveyors are focused on removing GMOs, artificial ingredients, preservatives, antibiotics and growth hormones from food. Even fast-food outlets are using more eggs from cage-free chickens and dumping ingredients that have been genetically modified.

There are generational shifts, too, in the way we eat.

Millenials – now more numerous than Baby Boomers – have a huge impact. The corporate food world is keenly interested in how and what this large group of consumers eats. And they do buy and eat differently than older generations. They order ingredients online, learn to cook from You Tube as well as cookbooks and websites. They care about the environment, ethical treatment of animals and community. They frequently use food delivery services rather than going to the supermarket, and order meal kits that deliver prepared ingredients.

Whatever your age, expect 2016 to be the year not only of the vegetable, but of more awareness of what we spear with our forks.

FoodFacts.com is looking forward to a new take on the dinner plate. We’ll be following this important trend closer as we get further into the new year!

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/01/01/461704287/vegetables-likely-to-take-more-of-your-plate-in-2016

Just in case we all need a reminder … the importance of your five a day

fruits-and-veggies_625x350_71443011288We spend a lot of time telling our kids to eat their vegetables. We also spend plenty of time making sure they consume healthy snacks and pushing the desirability of an apple over cheese crackers. And we pour hours into planning well balanced meals that will give our kids the healthiest start in life. It is still questionable, though, how much attention we pay to our own advice. FoodFacts.com wants everyone to think of this seriously … are we all making sure we consume our five a day? It’s an important question. And if you need a reminder of why this is so important, you may want to give this a read.

Increased consumption of fruits and non-starchy vegetables is inversely associated with weight change, according to a study published in PLOS Medicine. The longitudinal study, conducted by Monica Bertoia of Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues, shows differences by type of fruit or vegetable, suggesting that characteristics of these foods influence the strength of their association with weight change.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults and children should eat a variety of fruits and vegetables to help them achieve and maintain a healthy weight. In this study, Bertoia and colleagues examined associations between changes in the intake of specific fruits and vegetables recorded in dietary questionnaires and self-reported weight changes in 133,468 US men and women followed for up to 24 years in the Nurses’ Health Study, Health Professionals Follow-up Study and Nurses’ Health Study II. After adjusting for self-reported changes in other lifestyle factors such as smoking status and physical activity, an increased intake of fruits and of several vegetables was inversely associated with 4-y weight change (-0.53 lb (- 0.24 kg) for each extra daily serving of fruit, -0.25 lb (-0.11 kg) for vegetables). However, starchy vegetables, for example peas (1.13 lb; 95% CI 0.37 to 1.89 lb) and corn (2.04 lb; 95% CI 0.94 to 3.15 lb), were associated with weight gain.

These findings may not be generalizable–nearly all the participants were well-educated white adults, and the use of dietary questionnaires and self-reported weight measurement may have introduced measurement errors. However, study strengths include a very large sample size and long follow-up, with consistent results across three cohorts. The authors state, “our findings support benefits of increased fruit and vegetable consumption for preventing long-term weight gain and provide further food-specific guidance for the prevention of obesity, a primary risk factor for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and many other health conditions.”

We’re all incredibly busy and we’re all under more stress than generations before us. The world is more complicated and demanding. While we all keep up, there are things that we sacrifice, consciously or unconsciously. Often those sacrifices are made in our diets. Eating on the run. Grabbing a sandwich for lunch. Making the quickest dinner possible. Let’s reevaluate our fruit and vegetable consumption and make a renewed effort to get the five a day we need to survive and thrive!

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150922150040.htm

Foods rich in Vitamin C can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and early death


vitamin-cFoodFacts.com
has always believed that a long, healthy life can be achieved through a healthy, balanced diet. As we all strive for optimal health and well-being we take into consideration the latest information available on those foods we shouldn’t – and should – be consuming. Let’s face it, those recommendations can change from year to year and decade to decade. Trends and fads aside though, certain things have staying power – like the importance of fruits and vegetables in our diets. New research is now linking fruit and vegetable consumption with a whole new health benefit.

New research from the University of Copenhagen and Herlev and Gentofte Hospital shows that high vitamin C concentrations in the blood from the intake of fruit and vegetables are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and early death.

The study, which has just been published in the well known American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is based on the Copenhagen General Population Study.

As part of the study, the researchers had access to data about 100,000 Danes and their intake of fruit and vegetables as well as their DNA. “We can see that those with the highest intake of fruit and vegetables have a 15% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and a 20% lower risk of early death compared with those who very rarely eat fruit and vegetables. At the same time, we can see that the reduced risk is related to high vitamin C concentrations in the blood from the fruit and vegetables,” says Camilla Kobylecki, a medical doctor and PhD student at the Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Herlev and Gentofte Hospital.

Among other things, vitamin C helps build connective tissue which supports and connects different types of tissues and organs in the body. Vitamin C is also a potent antioxidant which protects cells and biological molecules from the damage which causes many diseases, including cardiovascular disease. The human body is not able to produce vitamin C, which means that we must get the vitamin from our diet.

“We know that fruit and vegetables are healthy, but now our research is pinpointing more precisely why this is so. Eating a lot of fruit and vegetables is a natural way of increasing vitamin C blood levels, which in the long term may contribute to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and early death. You can get vitamin C supplements, but it is a good idea to get your vitamin C by eating a healthy diet, which will at the same time help you to develop a healthier lifestyle in the long term, for the general benefit of your health,” says Boerge Nordestgaard, a clinical professor at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, and a consultant at Herlev and Gentofte Hospital.

The researchers are now continuing their work to determine which other factors, combined with vitamin C, have an impact on cardiovascular disease and death.

Including foods rich in vitamin C in our diets isn’t a difficult proposition. There are so many options that are easy to incorporate each day. These significant findings are a great motivation for us all to expand our dietary universe and make sure we’re consuming our share of vitamin C foods. Let’s all live a longer, healthier life!

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150707082350.htm

Only one in five Americans are eating their five a day

parsnip soup1There’s definitely a good reason why every adult remembers being sternly told to “eat your vegetables,” and why those same adults tell their children the same thing. Our bodies need fruits and vegetables. They’re an essential component to our good health. So FoodFacts.com was dismayed to read information today that clearly shows that not many of us have really gotten the message.

In every state in the U.S., fewer than one in five American adults are eating enough fruit and vegetables, new federal data shows.

In a report published July 9 using nationwide surveys that looked at produce intake in 2013, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that while states vary when it comes to fruit and vegetable consumption, they all could use improvement in the produce department. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that Americans consume 1.5 to two cups of fruit every day, along with two to three cups of vegetables. Fruits and vegetables add necessary dietary nutrients, which help maintain healthy body weight and keep health risks like heart disease, stroke and some cancers at bay, the CDC reports.

Even so, only 6% of people in Mississippi met government recommendations for vegetables, while 13% of people in California met them. Fruit didn’t fare much better. The most fruit-averse state was Tennessee, where only 8% of people met government recommendations, while in California, 18% of people met those recommendations.

The new data, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, reveals that overall, only 13% of the survey respondents met the recommendations for fruit intake and only about 9% met the vegetable intake recommendations. Past research indicates that children in the U.S. are often not meeting produce requirements either, the study authors write.

“Substantial new efforts are needed to build consumer demand for fruits and vegetables through competitive pricing, placement, and promotion in child care, schools, grocery stores, communities, and worksites,” the study authors conclude.

We’ve always thought that the best thing about fruits and vegetables is the variety available to us. If you don’t find one palatable, there are others to try. Incorporating fruits and vegetables into a healthy diet is actually easier than removing or reducing your consumption of other foods. While it may take some thought and some experimentation, the addition of healthy fruits and vegetables into your daily meal planning can, in fact, present you with new flavor combinations and a better overall eating experience. Five a day (or seven as some have stated) doesn’t have to be a chore. Let’s all try to pay more attention to giving our bodies the healthy, clean and beneficial foods they deserve. A little extra thought can go a long way to getting your five a day!

http://time.com/3950253/fruits-vegetables-intake/