While June is best known for its scorchingly hot temperatures and the beginning of summer, did you know that June is also National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month?

Fruits and vegetables are not only a great way to incorporate beautiful colors into our meals but they are also an important part of a healthy and balanced diet and help us perform our day to day activities.

Many of us are familiar with the slogan, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” and while this may not be entirely true, eating our fruits and vegetables does have many health benefits that can help keep the doctor away, says Amy Valdez, a health specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.

Overall a healthy diet filled with fruits and vegetables can help to reduce the risk of various chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Fruits and vegetables contain a variety of nutrients such as potassium, folate, dietary fiber, and vitamins A and C which are all good for us.

A healthy, well balanced diet including foods such as spinach, bananas and sweet potatoes, which contain potassium, can help to maintain a healthy blood pressure.

Folate or folic acid aids in the formation of red blood cells and can help reduce the risk of neural tube defects during fetal development.

Dietary fiber found in fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and can aid in reducing cholesterol levels.

Vitamin A plays a role in eye and skin health while both Vitamin A and C can help boost the immune system and help fight against infections.

Fruits and vegetables are also great to eat as a snack or a side as a majority of them are low in calories, sodium and fat and they add vibrant colors to our meals making them more appealing to eat.

To celebrate National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month, Valdez recommends trying out these four ideas below:

Build a Garden — Whether you are growing a large garden with raised beds or working with a smaller container garden, planting and growing your own produce can help increase your consumption of good, fresh foods.

It will likely increase your excitement to try new fruit and vegetables that you personally grew.

Try New Produce Each Week — Each week or each day, try to incorporate a new fruit or vegetable into your meals. Create a challenge amongst your family members to see who has tried the most variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Visit a Farmer’s Market — Taking a stroll at the farmer’s market can help you explore all of the fresh produce that is available.

Local farmers can also be a great source to learn about the benefits of their produce and they can help you with ideas on how to cook them.

Learn about Path to the Plate — Visit Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s Path to the Plate website at https://pathtotheplate.tamu.edu/ to learn about making the connection between agriculture and health.

For more information on National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month, contact the Harrison County Extension Office at (903) 935-8414.

One can also visit www.choosemyplate.gov/fruits-nutrients-health or www.choosemyplate.gov/vegetables-nutrients-health online to find out ways to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into the daily diet.

Louisareal McDonald is the county agent for family and community health.