Gazpacho and other chilled soups are a tasty way to boost your intake of veggies and fruits.
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As temperatures climb outdoors, the heat should go down in the kitchen. One way to accomplish this is by serving a chilled soup, which can make a refreshing beginning to a meal or a meal in itself. And it’s a great way to increase your portions of fruits and vegetables.

Nutrition experts have for years encouraged Americans to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day for better health. The American Institute for Cancer Research says these foods are rich in the substances that help reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and other chronic diseases. AICR urges nine daily servings of fruits and vegetables for maximum dietary protection.

This is not as big a challenge as it may seem. A standard serving is just one-half cup for most types of fruits and vegetables.

A recent study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that the potato — whether fresh, french-fried, or turned into chips — was America’s most widely eaten vegetable. But it’s more starch than veggie. Iceberg lettuce, a vegetable low in nutrients compared to other leafy greens, is in second place. The deeply-colored green and yellow vegetables that are rich in vitamins and disease-fighting substances represent only 0.4 percent of Americans’ daily servings.

Many Americans, surveys show, barely eat two or three servings of vegetables and fruits each day.

In addition to powerful anti-cancer substances called phytochemicals, fruits and vegetables contain dietary fiber that creates a “full” feeling, with a minimum of calories, far more effectively than starchy, higher calorie foods. One serving of raspberries, for example, has twice as much fiber as one serving (one slice) of whole-wheat bread, which is considered a good source of fiber.

There are many easy ways to get more fruits and vegetables into your diet. Use fresh or dried chopped fruit to garnish everything from breakfast cereal to dinnertime salads. Replace high-fat, high-calorie snacks with fruit or sliced raw veggies. Switch from soft drinks to 100 percent fruit or vegetable juices or smoothies. Dried and canned fruit make portable snacks. Stock frozen, dried and canned fruit and veggies for the times when you’re out of fresh produce.

A chilled fruit soup is refreshing in hot weather. It will also ease the appetite and prevent overeating the higher-calorie main course.

Chilled melon soup recipe

1 large cantaloupe (or other melon or fruit) cut into small cubes (4-6 cups)

2 Tbsp. honey, or to taste

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Juice of 3 limes, or to taste

Pinch of cardamon

Sliced fresh strawberries for garnish (optional)

1/4 cup whole fresh mint leaves

Fill a wide, shallow container with cantaloupe and place in microwave. Cook at 50 percent power for 2 minutes, or just until melon softens slightly. Transfer cantaloupe to a blender or food processor. Add honey, lime juice and cardamon, and blend until smooth. Refrigerate until cold.

Before serving, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary with more honey, cardamon and/or lime juice. Garnish with strawberry slices and mint leaves.

Makes four 1-cup servings. Per serving: 85 calories, 0 g. total fat (0 g. saturated fat), 22 g. carbohydrate, 1 g. protein, 1 g. dietary fiber, 26 mg. sodium.

Nutrition Notes is provided by the American Institute for Cancer Research in Washington, D.C.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive Reprints

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