For a number of years now, US dietary guidelines have been promoting the health benefits of “5 a day” for your intake of fruits and vegetables. Despite this ongoing campaign, the average American eats only about one serving of fruit and 1.5 servings of vegetables per day.
If you are one of those underachievers when it comes to your daily fruit and vegetable servings, a new study about the role that fruits and vegetables play in prevention of serious diseases might make you rethink your choices. The study found that compared to people who eat only two servings a day, people who consumed five daily servings — specifically two fruits and three vegetables — had
- 12 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease
- 10 percent lower risk from cancer
- 35 percent lower risk from respiratory disease
The Washington Post offers more information about the study and looks at which fruits and vegetables count to your “5 a day” and which don’t. We’ve highlighted a few of the tips they offer:
- One “serving” is a half-cup of any vegetables or fruits, or a whole cup of salad greens.
- Almost all fruits and vegetables, including leafy greens, citrus fruits and berries, were associated with lower mortality.
- Fruit juices and starchy vegetables such as peas, corn and potatoes were not associated with reduced risk of death or chronic diseases. They aren’t bad for you, but they don’t lower your risk.
- Fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and veggies are all beneficial.
- Eat produce in all forms. To get a wide range of nutrients and health benefits, aim for variety in your choices.
One common question that people have is whether eating more than 5 portions of fruits and vegetables increases the benefits. In this study, the benefits topped out at five per day, but some other research differs. The article cites a few examples:
“Karen Collins, a registered dietitian nutritionist and the nutrition adviser to the American Institute for Cancer Research, says that consuming more than five servings daily is linked with a further decreased risk of developing cancer. And the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 2½ cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit daily for overall health, which amounts to about nine servings per day. “
We’ve compiled several resources to help you add more fruit and vegetables to your daily diet.
- What foods are in the Fruit Group? Focus on whole fruits.
- What foods are in the Vegetable Group? Vary your veggies.
- 20 Great Vegetable Recipes
- 31 Quick and Healthy Veggie Side Dishes in 30 Minutes or Less
- Add nutritious smoothies to your diet
- CDC: How to Use Fruits and Vegetables to Help Manage Your Weight
- Tips to store fruits and vegetables for best freshness, flavor & safety