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updated: 1/26/2011 10:04 AM

Choose a variety of produce for optimum freshness

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Q. I only have time to grocery shop once every seven to ten days. How can I include plenty of vegetables and fruits without losing lots of them to spoilage by the end of a week?

A. Each time you shop, buy a range of vegetables and fruits that includes some you can count on to last longer. Then make sure to use the choices that go bad more quickly in the first few days, followed by the others in an order based on their storage qualities.

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Limit your purchases of more perishable vegetables and fruits to only as much as you're likely to use in the first few days. This includes artichokes, fresh asparagus, ripe avocados, broccoli, green beans, mushrooms, watercress, and mustard greens and other fresh greens. Get another few days' worth of produce for use after that, such as cucumbers, eggplant, zucchini, kale, fresh spinach, lettuce and fruits such as grapes, plums and fresh pineapple. Produce for the end of the week can include cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bell peppers, and fruits such as oranges and grapefruit.

Some vegetables can easily survive a week to ten days if stored correctly, so save those for last: carrots, celery, beets, sweet potatoes and winter squash, as well as fruits like apples. Buy choices like bananas, avocados and pears that ripen after purchase in several stages of ripeness to become ready at different times when you are ready for them.

It also pays to pick up a few frozen vegetables and fruits, dried fruit, canned tomatoes and other canned vegetables and fruits (with no added salt or sugar) for use after you've gone through your fresh produce.

Q. I've read that diet and exercise prevent cancer, but I know someone who got cancer who did everything right. So is that just for some people?

A. Healthy eating habits, regular physical activity and a healthy weight can reduce Americans' risk of getting some of our most common cancers by about a third. That adds up to a huge number of cancer cases, but this does not mean that all cases of cancer can be prevented.

Heredity and early life experiences also seem to play a role in cancer risk, as does exposure to tobacco (smoking and chewing as well as secondhand smoke), workplace and environmental hazards (such as asbestos, radon and other chemicals) and other yet-unknown influences. Genetic differences make some of us more sensitive to the impact of compounds in our foods, but we are still a long way from being able to identify who will benefit most from particular healthy habits.

Avoiding tobacco, eating a healthy diet, reaching and maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active every day won't prevent all cancer, but for now these steps offer your best chance for preventing or delaying cancer as well as helping prevent many other diseases.

• Provided by the American Institute for Cancer Research. More about the group and its New American Plate program at aicr.org.

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