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Being creative with fruits and veggies

June heralds the time to focus on fruits and vegetables in the kitchen.

Summer produce offers a cornucopia of variety, color and flavor.

And it's National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month.

If these aren't reason enough to start getting creative with produce in the kitchen, fruits and vegetables are critical to good health.

A diet high in fruit and vegetables can help reduce the risk of chronic disease like stroke, diabetes and heart disease.

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), eating at least five servings for vegetables and fruit per day can reduce cancer risk by 20 percent and, combined with physical activity and weight management, raises that figure to 30 to 40

percent.

Scientists believe there are thousands of phytochemicals, with names like lycopene and lutein, and found only in plant foods, that are vital to our health.

They help prevent or interrupt many different diseases and other health problems.

Each plant food has its own unique array of phytochemicals that differ from those found in other foods.

The interaction between one plant food's phytochemicals and another's creates a powerful, synergistic effect, providing "more bang for the buck."

Scientists, therefore, advise us to eat a variety of vegetables and fruits in order to maximize the health benefits we receive.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends five or more servings of vegetables and fruit each day.

Since a standard serving of vegetables or fruit is generally one-half cup, this goal is not difficult to achieve.

Many nutrition experts advise choosing vegetables and fruits in deep colors - dark green, yellow, orange and red.

Since different colors often indicate the presence of different phytochemicals, eating a rainbow of colors is a good way to bolster your health defenses.