With summer approaching, it’s a good time for a reminder about the nutrient power of fruits and vegetables. According to nationwide surveys by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most Americans eat less than 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. But the latest USDA ChooseMyPlate recommends 9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day (in an average 2000 calorie diet).
Why are fruits and vegetables so healthy?
Several studies have shown the more fruits and vegetables in your diet, the lower is your risk of cardiovascular disease. Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and sodium, but packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and important substances called phytochemicals. Many of these nutrients work together as antioxidants to keep compounds called free radicals from causing damage to your cells which in turn leads to diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
What is a serving of fruits or vegetables?
A standard serving of most raw or cooked fruits or vegetables is ½ cup or the size of a baseball. So you can think of 9 servings as 2½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day. If you measure your foods for a couple days, you may be surprised to find that your typical serving is double or triple the standard serving size.
How can I eat so many fruits and vegetables in a day?
Include 2 servings of raw or cooked fruits and vegetables at every meal. Then plan 3 more servings as snacks throughout the day. A few practical tips for increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables are:
- Keep fresh fruits and vegetables cleaned, cut, and handy in your refrigerator for “grab-and-go” snacks.
- Add carrots, grape tomatoes, spinach leaves, and mandarin oranges to your salad greens.
- Add extra vegetables to your marinara sauce, casseroles, soups, and pizza.
- Add fruit to your cereal, yogurt, and grilled kabobs.
Where can I find tasty, healthy recipes?
If you are interested in a cookbook with over 175 recipes using nutritious and delicious foods, visit the Nutrition Council website. Each recipe has been tested in home kitchens to guarantee that the step-by-step instructions make it easy to bring healthy, flavorful foods to your table. All proceeds benefit the Nutrition Council’s educational programs in the Greater Cincinnati area.
Visit your neighborhood farmers markets and produce stands this summer for healthy and delicious fruits and vegetables!
This article originally appeared in Nutri-bytes (June 2007), a service of the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission.
For more information:
Go to the Diet and Nutrition health topic.