As we age, the nutritional content of our diets gets progressively less nutritious.
So why not eat more fruit and vegetables?
And, for some kids, they can be a lifesaver.
We sat down with Dr. Michelle Kagan, the director of pediatric nutrition for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, to find out.
Kagan was one of the doctors that helped develop a “healthy fruit and veggie diet” for kids that can help them lose weight and avoid many of the health problems that can come from overeating.
What makes a good fruit and a good vegetable?
“We’ve found that fruit and veggies have a variety of nutrients and fiber,” Kagan said.
“And they’re good for kids to digest.
And we’ve found they’re very good for your brain.
So we’ve been really interested in understanding how to do that, because fruit and greens are really good for children.”
The fruit and the vegetable are often packed with antioxidants and nutrients, which can help boost kids’ health and well-being.
For example, kale and apple have been found to be among the most healthful vegetables for kids.
Kogan said she often finds that children with asthma, ADHD, or other chronic health problems have a lower intake of fruits and vegetables because the fruits and veggies are so high in antioxidants.
“We do see that in our pediatric population, children are a little bit more sensitive to the antioxidants in fruit and green vegetables,” Kogan told us.
“They’re really good at absorbing them, and kids are also more sensitive.”
One study found that kids who ate fruit and/or vegetables as their main food for the week tended to have better immune systems, which could help protect them from some types of viruses and infections.
The children in the study who ate a lot of vegetables and fruit, on the other hand, tended to get sick more frequently and to have higher rates of diabetes.
Koga, the research scientist who conducted the study, said she was particularly interested in kids who were already obese.
Kogans work was conducted with a group of parents who had children ages 6-8.
Kagen told us that her group of children ate between 2,000-3,000 ounces of fruit and 3,000 to 4,000 vegetables per day.
She said they were all healthy eaters.
The researchers found that children who ate more vegetables and fruits in the week had a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
What about sugar?
“There’s a lot that goes into a healthy diet, but it’s also important to be aware of what kind of foods you eat and how much sugar is in them,” Koga said.
She noted that the amount of sugar in fruits and greens can vary widely from one person to another.
“A lot of fruits are actually high in sugar and sugar-containing foods,” she said.
But there’s no way to tell which ones are high in calories or carbohydrates.
“So for us to get a good picture of whether it’s healthy or not, we really have to do a lot more research,” she added.
For some kids who don’t eat a lot or don’t want to eat too much fruit and other vegetables, it may be time to start cutting back on the sugar in your diet.
For kids who are getting sick or have a chronic health problem, it can be good to focus on eating more fruit, veggies, and lean meats.
“You can reduce the number of sugars in your food and you can reduce your sugar intake,” Kogan said.
Kagner also noted that children need to eat more whole grains and legumes.
“There are so many things that you can do to try to reduce your intake of sugar, because it’s the main fuel that is used for your body,” she explained.
“In a lot [of] countries, sugar is used as a fuel for all sorts of things.
It’s really hard to change this.”
This interview has been edited for clarity.
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