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Vegetables and fruit

One way to start improving your heart health immediately is to increase your intake of vegetables and fruit. Eating 4 to 10 servings every day may help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Along with their great taste and versatility, vegetables and fruit offer a host of heart-healthy nutrients. And with such a wide variety, you can easily include one or more at every meal and snack time.

It is easy to fit in 4 to 10 servings a day because the portions are manageable. For example, one serving equals either 250 mL (1 cup) of dark green leafy lettuce, or a medium stalk of broccoli, or 125 mL (half cup) of frozen peas, or a medium-size apple or banana, or 125 mL (half cup) of canned peaches, or 125 mL (half cup) of low-sodium tomato juice.

Heart-disease prevention

Many vegetables and fruit are particularly rich in vitamin C and in beta-carotene, which is a form of vitamin A. These work as antioxidants in your body, helping to slow down or prevent atherosclerosis by reducing the build-up of plaque from cholesterol and other substances in the arteries. Some of the vitamin C dynamos are broccoli, red peppers, strawberries, oranges, kiwi and cantaloupe. Since beta-carotene gives food a distinctive dark-orange, red or dark-green colour, you can easily spot the best sources, such as carrots, tomatoes, squash, pink grapefruit, sweet potatoes and Swiss chard.

Here's a bonus: almost all vegetables and fruit are low in calories, fat and sodium. In fact, research shows that high consumption of vegetables and fruit is associated with maintaining a healthy weight.

Good source of fibre

Eating fresh vegetables and fruit provides a good source of fibre. Whenever possible, eat the peels, too – it will make a big difference to your total daily fibre intake. For example, a raw unpeeled apple has almost 10 times more fibre than a cup of apple juice.

Cooking fresh and frozen

Frozen and canned vegetables and fruit have about the same nutritional value as fresh. When buying frozen or canned fruit, look for the products with no-added sugar or syrup.

The best methods of cooking fresh or frozen produce is to steam, roast or grill to preserve as many nutrients as possible. If you're using canned vegetables, look for ones with no-added salt or rinse them under water to remove much of the added salt. Warm up to eat.

Last reviewed: April 2011.