What are the health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables? How many servings should I be eating per day? How much is in a serving? Should I be purchasing organic fruits and vegetables? Find out the answers and STEP UP YOUR FRUIT AND VEGETABLE GAME!
We all learned at an early age that eating fruits and vegetables was good for us. I remember my grandma saying, “Eat your carrots. They are so good for your eyes.” Just like most people, I’ve also read and heard on the news different information from this study or that study about the health benefits of fruits and vegetables.
But, it wasn’t until my husband had a heart attack that I actually took the time to find out more about the health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables. This, of course, led to a host of other questions to which I am continually trying to find the latest answers.
The more I learn, the more I try to up my intake of a variety of fruits and vegetables. This year, I am on a mission to be more conscious of including bigger portions and a wider variety of fruits and vegetables. I’m going to be a GRAMMY in a few months, Y’all! It’s time to step up my game! Here is some of the info I have learned. I hope it will help you to step up your game too!
Health Benefits Of Fruits And Vegetables
These days we have greater access to information about diets and healthy eating than ever before. However, this plethora of inconsistent information can create confusion about what is considered healthy. One thing that has remained consistent generation after generation – the key to any healthy diet is eating a variety of mostly plant-based foods. I don’t seem to have a problem eating a variety and enough whole grains, nuts, and seeds. However, for optimal health, I know I can be eating more fruits and vegetables.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), “Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables is associated with a decreased risk of many chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and some cancers.” In fact, every article I read about the health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables listed a decrease in these exact same chronic diseases.
In addition to reducing the risk of the diseases listed above, fruits and vegetables also supply dietary fiber and essential vitamins and minerals to the diet. They contain phytonutrients which are considered to be anti-inflammatory and offer many other health benefits some of which include: anti-cancer properties, repair DNA damage, aid detoxification, enhance immunity, and influence glucose balance.
My husband had a heart attack at the age of 45 and my mom died of breast cancer at the age of 58. My dad is 72 and has been a diabetic for the past 20 years. He has high blood pressure, has had multiple heart surgeries, and could fill a pharmacy with all of the medications he takes. If eating a variety of more fruits and vegetables can aid in decreasing my chances of getting these diseases and taking multiple medications, then bring on the rainbow!
How Many Serving Of Fruits And Vegetables Should You Eat Per Day?
The CDC reports that our awareness of recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption is increasing, but fewer than 1 and 10 Americans eat enough fruits and vegetables. So how much should we be eating?
These recommendations are the minimum, but depending where you look this number varies. New research has found that eating 10 servings per day is optimal for healing and disease prevention. Across the board, the most consistent numbers I found were that at least 5 servings per day are recommended.
How Much Is In A Serving?
Remember when I said there is a plethora of inconsistent information? Well here is where I found the most inconsistent information. There is no universal standard for how much is in a serving of fruits and vegetables! Not only do different countries have different standards, but I couldn’t find consistent information for an American standard. The American Heart Association has different information than the CDC and ChooseMyPlate.gov.
Some sources say that a 1/2 cup of fruits and vegetables are a serving and some say that 1 cup is a serving. Since I gave you the servings per day table from ChooseMyPlate.gov, I will give you their measurements for serving size.
Vegetables – 1 cup of raw or cooked, 2 cups of raw leafy greens
Examples: 2 medium carrots, 1 large red pepper, 1 large whole tomato, 1 large ear of corn
Fruits – 1 cup of fruit or 1/2 cup of dried fruit (be sure to look for dried fruit that doesn’t contain added sugar)
Examples: 1 small apple, 1 large banana, 1 large orange, 1 large peach, 1 medium pear, 8 large strawberries
You can go to Choosemyplate.gov for the complete tables.
If you have been following my blog, you know that I am not about measuring when it comes to food. I don’t count calories, fat grams, or carbs, and I’m not about to start measuring my fruits and vegetables. I am, however, making sure to include a variety of fruits and vegetables into all of my meals throughout the day. A good rule of thumb is to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, as shown below.
Should You Purchase Organic Fruits and Vegetables?
In a perfect world, we would not have to worry about whether or not our produce was sprayed with toxic chemicals. Unfortunately, the world is not perfect, and a large number of conventionally grown produce is contaminated with pesticide residue even after it has been washed or peeled.
That is why when it comes to purchasing organic produce, I use The Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. Each year, the EWG publishes a shopper’s guide that contains The Dirty Dozen List. The Dirty Dozen List contains the produce with the highest loads of pesticide residues.
The EWG’s Shopper’s Guide also has a Clean Fifteen List, which contains produce least likely to contain pesticide residues. The report also states, “According to the USDA, a small percentage of zucchini, yellow squash, and sweet corn is genetically modified. Most Hawaiian papaya is GMO.”
EWG’s 2018 Dirty Dozen
- Sweet Bell Peppers
EWG’s 2018 Clean Fifteen
- Sweet Corn
- Frozen Sweet Peas
I try to purchase all organic produce, but that’s not always feasible. These lists help me to prioritize which fruits and vegetables to buy organic.
There are pesticides allowed in organic farming, but most are natural pesticides, rather than synthetic. There are about 25 synthetic pesticides allowed in organic farming vs conventional farming which allows about 900. The synthetics go through rigorous testing by the National Organic Standards Board. It’s also important to mention that “EWG always recommends eating fruits and vegetables, even conventionally grown, instead of processed foods and other less healthy alternatives.”
Now that we know the benefits, the amounts we should be eating, and what organic fruits and vegetables we should purchase, it’s time to STEP IT UP! Here are a few tips to help.
Tammy’s Tips For Adding More Fruits And Vegetables To Your Diet
Plan – If you do not have the produce in your fridge, it’s hard to add it to your diet. Take some time on the weekend to plan and shop for the week. We have found that this is key for us. Read my Meal Plan Like A Boss post for some tips on meal planning. It contains a FREE Meal Plan Checklist and Grocery List Template with The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen.
Prep – Prep your fruits and veggies over the weekend so they are easy to grab for snacks and ready to go for your meals. Read Meal Prep Like A Boss for some tips.
Make Smoothies – Smoothies are a great way to get extra servings of fruit and greens into your diet.
Add Sneaky Vegetables – I love adding grated zucchini, grated carrots, cauliflower, spinach, and peppers to stews, sauces, soups, and chili.
Substitute – Cauliflower rice, zoodles, and spaghetti squash are just a few veggies you can substitute for rice or pasta.
Visit The Freezer Aisle – Frozen fruits and veggies are just as nutritious as fresh and are convenient for smoothies or a quick addition to meals when you are short on time.
I am ready to step up my fruits and veggies! Are you ready to join me? Let me know how you are adding more fruits and vegetables into your day in the comments below.