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Veggies and fruit are preventative medicine

Eating five to 10 servings of vegetables and fruit each day has been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, a leading cause of death in Canada. Yet many people still have a hard time reaching this goal.

Eating five to 10 servings of vegetables and fruit each day has been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, a leading cause of death in Canada. Yet many people still have a hard time reaching this goal.

Factors such as cost, time to prepare, and availability all affect how much produce we eat. Using canned or frozen vegetables and fruit can help overcome barriers. But are they just as good as fresh? Fresh produce can't be beat when it comes to taste, texture and colour. Canned and frozen foods are picked at their peak and processed the same day, making them just as nutritious as  fresh.

Buying local produce and freezing it are great and inexpensive ways of helping to reach the goal of five to 10 servings a day. Not only will this help provide vegetables and fruit through the winter, but it will also support local farmers and promote a healthy environment.

Fruits such as berries are great to freeze, but they will be softer than fresh berries when thawed.

A simple way of keeping them from clumping during the freezing process is to use the tray freezing method. All you have to do is arrange the berries in a single layer on a cookie sheet and put the sheet in the freezer for one or two hours. Once the berries are frozen, store them in a sealed bag or container.

When storing vegetables and fruit there are a few things you can do to keep them from spoiling too quickly:

- Keep the refrigerator cold and clean.
- Never store raw meats above uncovered vegetables and fruit. Bacteria may spread to  produce.
- Store vegetables and fruit separately in the refrigerator.
- Store vegetables and fruit whole and unwashed.
- Use a paper towel to wrap washed lettuce. This will help keep the lettuce fresher longer.

Sometimes you can't always find ripe vegetables and fruit. If this happens, continue the ripening process at home. Certain vegetables and fruit ripen best on the counter. These include melons, peaches, pears and plums. Once ripe, store these in the refrigerator. Other produce shouldn't be stored in the refrigerator. Some examples include bananas, tomatoes, onions, and potatoes. 

Store these some place dry, like on the countertop.

For more information on how to buy, store, and prepare vegetables and fruit, visit www.foodland.gov.on.ca or www.cpma.ca .

The Sudbury & District Health Unit is a partner of the Sudbury Heart Health Coalition and cares about your health. Phone the Sudbury & District Health Unit at 522-9200 or visit www.sdhu.com . Northern Life supports the efforts of the Sudbury Heart Health Coalition by publishing a monthly health column.