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The Real Fruits and Vegetables Bonus

Along with helping in a weight loss diet, don’t forget the ultimate boon when you enjoy crisp veggies and succulent fruit: You’re getting disease-fighting nutrition with all that taste, too.

A palmful of potato chips won’t reduce your risk of certain types of cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and lower bloodcholesterol, but research shows that the antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals in produce like a sweet peach, handful of berries, or a bowlful of bok choy may.

Of course, to get the full benefits of fruits and vegetables -- weight loss, great taste, a reduced risk of chronic disease -- produce needs to replace at least some of the fattier, calorie-dense foods in your diet.

But what if you’re not ready to cut out your favorite cookies or forego a single chip? “Even if you change nothing else in your diet, you’re still getting the phytonutrients, chemicals, and as-yet unknown nutrients [in produce] that can help protect you from cancer, diabetes, and heart disease,” says Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

Yet, once we start snacking on fruits and veggies, most of us will gradually eat fewer calorie-rich goodies, says Gerbstadt, who adds that because produce helps fill you up and gives your body a boost, “you naturally eat less chips, cookies, and other foods that just don’t make you feel good.”

Fruits and Vegetables: Fresh, Frozen, Canned, or Dried?

So the great news is that fruits and vegetables can give weight loss a real boost. Now the question is, how should you enjoy them: fresh or frozen, canned or dried?

“All of the above,” Gerbstadt tells WebMD. Though local, seasonal produce may have a slight nutrient edge at times, "dried, canned, and frozen fruits and vegetables are usually picked just before peak ripeness and then packaged,” says Gerbstadt, “so you’re really getting very fresh food.”

Fresh and healthy -- so long as you avoid the butter sauce or drenching of cheese, say the pros.

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