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A quick and easy dose of fruits

Strawberry

Yogurt Shake


Ingredients:
½ cup unsweetened pineapple juice
¾ cup plain low fat yogurt
1½ cups frozen, unsweetened strawberries

Directions:
Add ingredients, in order listed, to blender container. Puree at medium speed, until thick and smooth.

Source: www.cdc.gov/nutrition

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Walk right in

No appointment necessary these days and times

MGH Cox 5
55 Fruit Street, Boston
T, Th, F: 8:30 - 11:00 a.m.
W: 1-3 p.m.

Chelsea Health Center
151 Everett Avenue, Chelsea
T: 1:30- 3:30 p.m.
Th: 3-6 p.m.

Fruits & veggies:
More needed on American plates

 


Muller Mirville (left) hands healthy treats to his cousins, Yvekerly (middle) and Francesca Louis. Mirville works at the Dudley Town Common farmers’ market run by the Food Project. (Photo by Greig Cranna, courtesy of the Food Project.)


Say this about Muller Mirville. He doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty.

Farming is not a very typical past time for an 18-year-old city kid that grew up in Mattapan and Dorchester. But then again, Mirville is not your typical kid.

He plants, weeds, nurtures and harvests his own vegetables. “I grow the ones I like,” he said, as he reeled off his long list — beets, broccoli, string beans, peppers and even eggplant.

And unlike a significant number of his peers, he actually likes and consumes fruits and vegetables. According to the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance system, a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 22 percent of students interviewed said that they had eaten fruit or drunk 100 percent fruit juices three or more times per day the week preceding the survey. A mere 15 percent of the students said they ate vegetables three or more times a day.

ChooseMyPlate.gov, a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, recommends that teens consume at least five cups of fruits and veggies every day.

It’s not just teens that are lacking in fruit and vegetable intake. The 2009 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System for adults pointed out that nationwide only 23 percent of those interviewed reported that they ate at least five servings a day, as recommended. The percentage ranged from a low of 15 percent in Oklahoma to a high of 32 percent in Washington D.C.

In Massachusetts, consumption varied by gender, race, educational status and income. Females, whites, college graduates and those who make at least $50,000 a year were more apt to consume the minimum recommended amounts.

Studies have shown that fruits and vegetables contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals that can reduce the risk of several chronic illnesses, including heart disease, some cancers, diabetes and stroke.

The link to food and good health is not new. Back in 1932, it was found that a diet deficient in vitamin C was the culprit behind scurvy, the bane of sailors. Scurvy was characterized by extreme weakness, anemia and bleeding gums. Vitamin C is plentiful in citrus fruits.

In more recent times, the Harvard-based Nurses’ Health Study found that the higher the average daily intake of fruits and vegetables, the lower the chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Of the 110,000 people studied, those who averaged eight or more servings a day were 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack or stroke.

Healthy food in the inner city

Courtesy of the Food Project
In addition to vitamins, minerals and fiber, fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, substances that may help reduce the risk of cancer, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). Antioxidants neutralize “free radicals,” molecules that can damage DNA, often resulting in a mutation and eventually cancer. An increasing body of research by the AICR suggests that eating a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of many types of cancer.

Fruits and vegetables can multi-task. For example, broccoli fuels the body with not only folate, a B vitamin that helps produce and maintain cells, but also potassium, an essential element for the proper functioning of the heart, kidneys, muscles, nerves and digestive system. It’s also a good source of magnesium, which helps prevent the formation of “bad” cholesterol.

Some veggies are considered more healthful than others. The cruciferous family — broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage and bok choy — is one such example. These particular veggies are very high in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber that are important to your health. The AICR claims that diets high in cruciferous foods are strongly linked to a lower incidence of colorectal cancer, but may also reduce the risk of cancers of the esophagus and pharynx.

Mirville said he recognizes the health benefits of produce and tries to meet the requirements for his age. He cut back on his consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages when he learned that the life-span of his generation may be less than that of his parents. Sugared drinks have been linked to diabetes and obesity in youths, two risk factors that can decrease life expectancy. He now prefers smoothies that count toward his daily quota of fruits.

Mirville caught the bug for working in the soil when he joined the Food Project, a nonprofit community program that helps youths and adults from diverse backgrounds build sustainable food systems. He has worked with the Food Project for three years and his responsibilities have grown.

In addition to farming, he now leads workshops in the community to help others grow their own food. Between June and October, he can be found on most Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Project’s farmers’ market in Dudley Town Common selling produce raised by the organization.

Mirville boasts that fresh grown produce trumps that found in grocery stores. “There’s a big difference,” he said. “When you pick fresh grown it’s perfect.”

He is looking forward to a new chapter in his life. He will attend Tuskegee University in the fall to study mathematics. He realizes he has a long haul ahead of him, but that should not be a problem.

After all, he is not afraid to get his hands dirty.