Thursday, February 26, 2015

Guest Post - An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away: The Importance of Fruits and Vegetables by Susan Karpiel

red apple


Why are fruits and vegetables important? 

The list of reasons why a diet high in fruits and vegetables is important is very long. To begin with, the fruit and vegetable food group provides an array of vitamins and minerals, all necessary for optimal health. In fact, I would suggest that although eating a variety of food groups is important for health, the fruit and vegetable group provides a plethora of goodness that other food groups cannot beat. This plethora of goodness includes not just the vitamins, minerals, and fiber our bodies need, but an extensive amount of phytochemicals and antioxidants. Phytochemicals are special properties that certain foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains have that provide some protection from illness and disease. Some of the ways that phytochemicals benefit us include: as antioxidants they help prevent the formation of free radicals which can cause toxins to build up in the body; they improve metabolism; reduce inflammation within the arteries; and slow the growth of cancer cells (Produce for Better Health (PBH), n.d.). In fact, some scientists have estimated that phytochemicals can lower the risk of cancer by up to 40% (Breast Cancer, 2013). Even though research has identified over 4,000 different phytochemicals, only 150 have been studied in-depth (PBH, n.d.). Much more research is needed to discover the full potential that phytochemicals provide and the foods that supply them. Other benefits of eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables include:

  • Lower risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease strokes, high blood pressure
  • Promote eye health and prevent cataracts, night blindness, and macular degeneration 
  • Lower risk of bone loss and kidney stones 
  • Lower caloric intake 
  • Fiber from fruits & vegetables can lower cholesterol, improve bowel function, lower constipation and diverticulitis 
  • Increase the feeling of fullness with fewer calories 
  • Improve skin health 
  • Helps improve gum health 
  • Protects against infections
    (USDA, n.d.; Harvard School of Public Health, n.d. ). 

Are some fruits and vegetables better for you than others? 

There are two types of vegetables: starchy and non-starchy. Whenever I ask people to name a non-starchy vegetable often the answer I receive is - peas and beans. Starchy vegetables include: peas, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and acorn squash. These vegetables are nutritious and beneficial, but they also supply more carbohydrate, similar to pasta and beans. If you eat according to the My Plate method (USDA Choose My Plate.Gov), starchy vegetables go in the "starch" section of the plate. The non-starchy vegetables have fewer calories, are a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals such as: iron, potassium, Vitamins A and C, calcium, folate, and magnesium (Fruits & Veggies More Matters, n.d.). Many fruits and vegetables with deep color are high in phytochemicals. For example, the carrot has over 100 identified phytochemicals. However, keep in mind that even white vegetables are nutritious. Be sure to eat a wide variety of this food group every day.

How many fruits and vegetables should be eaten every day? 

The Nurses Health Study & Health Professionals Follow-Up Study found that the higher the intake of fruits and vegetables, the lower the chances of developing cardiovascular disease (Harvard School of Public Health, n.d. ). In addition, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 5-13 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. A serving of vegetables is considered to be one-half cup. Unfortunately, many Americans do not get the minimum recommended amounts of this food group each day. Its reported that 38% of children eat vegetables less than one time per day and adults eat vegetables only 1.6 times per day. Given this information, maybe the goal for most Americans needs to be: eat more.
Another method of determining adequate intake of fruit and vegetables is Plate Method, as recommended by the USDA (USDA Choose My Plate.Gov, n.d). This is a simpler method of calculating serving sizes. The rule of thumb is to fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables, one-fourth of the plate is lean meat and the other one-fourth is a starch. In addition to this plate, a serving of fruit and dairy are included to round out the meal. This method provides a good visual way to evaluate the quality of each meal.

Regardless of how you estimate the number of servings to eat each day, the first step is to eat more. Try including fruits and vegetables at every meal.

Given the plethora of goodness that fruits and vegetables offer, why not make sure to get plenty each day? The array of benefits is so extensive it's worth the time it takes to plan, shop, and prepare fruits and vegetables at every meal. At the same time keep in mind that as important as fruits and vegetables are, it's equally important to eat a balance of food groups. Each food group has it's own list of health benefits. Be sure to prepare meals made fresh, filled with bright colors, and a variety of food groups. This will help ensure that your body is well nourished and performing with optimal health.

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (2014). Discover the health benefits of produce. Retrieved from

Breast (2013). Foods containing phytochemicals. Retrieved from

Fruits & Veggies More Matters. (n.d.). What are phytochemicals? Retrieved from

Harvard School of Public Health. (n.d.). Vegetables and fruits. Retrieved from fruits/

Heneman, K., Zidenberg-Cherr, S. (2008). Nutrition and health info-sheet for health professionals. Retrieved from

Produce for Better Health Foundation. (n.d.). Phytochemical information center. Retrieved from

USDA Choose My Plate.Gov.(n.d.). Why it is important to eat vegetables. Retrieved from:

Susan Karpiel is a doctoral student in the Department of Health Studies at Texas Woman's University.

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Job Possibilities for February 12, 2015

Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention Program Coordinator - Stephenville, TX

Responsible for developing and maintaining a comprehensive, holistic wellness program focusing on alcohol and other drugs and violence prevention education efforts. The coordinator will support student success by working closely with departments in the Division of Student Life as well as other relevant campus departments, students, faculty, staff and appropriate community agencies to develop and articulate a University vision and consistent messages regarding healthy student behaviors.

Health Coach - Wellness - Greater Dallas, TX

This exciting Aetna Wellness Health Coach position is a work-at-home/telework opportunity in the greater Dallas, TX OR Ann Arbor, MI OR Houston, TX area, but also includes up to 75% weekly local travel.

POSITION SUMMARY As a Wellness Health Coach, you will utilize a collaborative process of health and wellness education and delivery, in conjunction with the client's health and wellness staff, to plan and implement wellness events and programs to promote/influence members in decisions related to achieving and maintaining optimal health status. The goal of these programs/events is to help members achieve healthy lifestyle behaviors and align these lifestyle behaviors with individual wellness goals.

Health Coach (Diabetes CDE)- Dallas, TX - 1010107 

DESCRIPTION POSITION PURPOSE: Provide telephonic disease management services to individuals with diabetes. Services may include educating members, counseling and coordinating care. Act as the Health Coach for patients with diabetes Has discretion on clinical care plans but will have oversight by a Clinical Specialist Meet minimum standards for productivity and clinical results Provide assessments on new participants to determine clinical risk and readiness to change Maintain accurate and timely documentation in member management software of telephonic and written communications Act as case manager when integrating with other health care service vendors as specified by individual clients May make calls to newsletter participants/members as individual client needs dictate Complete required reports in a timely manner Enhance clinical and counseling knowledge by attending and actively participating in Company training sessions. Attend relevant professional seminars to maintain licensure/certification Comply with company policies and procedures including handling confidential forms and accreditation standard.

Program Specialist II - Arlington, TX

JOB DESCRIPTION: Under the direction of the Manager, Community Health Services, performs duties that support population-based regional issues, increasing local capacity to carry out public health essential functions and create or enhance the public health presence in counties with limited or non-existent public health resources. Coordinates and collaborates population-based activities with staff of other regional programs, Public relation skills are required in order to disseminate information regarding TDH, State and Federal standards, policies, and procedures, guidelines, health promotion, public health issues, disease prevention and population-based services in Health Service Region 2/3. Assist in responding to regional public health emergencies such as disease outbreaks, biological, environmental and weather. This may include but is not limited to prevention, surveillance and control. This position requires travel. Employee must provide transportation. If an employee operates a personal or state motor vehicle in performance of their official duties, the employee must possess a current valid Texas driver's license for the appropriate type vehicle.This position requires that an employee's driving record be verified with law enforcement to ensure compliance with TDSHS driving policy.

Health Educator-Intermediate - San Antoinio, TX

We are seeking qualified individuals to help develop and implement evidence-based substance abuse treatment within the context of a federally-funded treatment program for juvenile and criminal justice involved populations. This position offers the opportunity to work within a multidisciplinary team providing clinical care to community outpatients with a substance use disorder and other co-morbid conditions. Primary activities will involve screening adults for substance use problems, providing a brief intervention, and referral to treatment. Primary activities and decision making authority will be performed under the supervision of a licensed clinician. Bilingual educators and/or those experienced with the SBIRT model are preferred.

Wellness Communications Specialist (Contract) Austin, TX

The Wellness Communications Specialist is a member of the Wellness & Recognition team that works closely with the Communications team, and is committed to designing and writing informational and promotional pieces for Southwest Key’s Employee Wellness and Employee Recognition programs. This position reports directly to the Wellness & Recognition Program Administrator to maintain awareness of upcoming initiatives and anticipate corresponding communications needs so that they can notify the Communications Director in a timely and effective manner. The Wellness Communications Specialist is responsible for conceptualizing, writing and designing a myriad of internal campaigns meant to educate, inform and incentivize Southwest Key’s 2000+ employees to better health, wellbeing, and job satisfaction.

ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS: Works with the Southwest Key Employee Wellness & Recognition team to evaluate and anticipate the communications needs of the two programs. Forms creative strategies to solve for the communications needs of Southwest Key’s Employee Wellness and Employee Recognition programs. Conceptualizes, writes and designs collateral pieces such as posters, flyers, email blasts and more in order to achieve communications goals of Wellness & Recognition Programs. Collaborates with the Communications Director to keep the rest of the Communications team apprised of upcoming job requests from the Wellness and Recognition team. Works with the Communications Director and Graphic Designers to ensure that Southwest Key branding standards are upheld and that effective and realistic communications timelines and goals are set and maintained.