The Value of Fruits and Vegetables

We all have childhood memories of our parents telling us to eat our vegetables before we could be excused from the table—and then trying to hide our Brussels sprouts under the napkin or feed them to the dog. This is sometimes a constant battle with children and even adults. The number of Americans meeting adequate fruit consumption guidelines is just under one-third, and this number is even lower when it comes to vegetables. That’s a far cry from the Healthy People 2010 goals, which include 75% of Americans eating two servings of fruit and 50% of Americans eating three servings of vegetables daily.

The Benefits

Fruits and vegetables are beneficial for almost anyone. They are low in calories, but dense in nutrients and fiber. This makes them ideal for a filling snack or meal. In addition

to vitamins and minerals, plant foods are abundant in phytochemicals, which are special nutrients that may have cancer-fighting proper- ties. Research has shown that people who eat more fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of diseases like stroke, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and coronary heart disease. Fruits and vegetables should be an integral part of a weight-control diet, a train- ing diet and an everyday diet.

How much is enough?

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 2 cups of fruit and 21⁄2 cups of veg- etables for a 2000-calorie diet. But how many people know that they actually eat a 2000-calo- rie diet? is a great resource to monitor your food intake and see how many fruits and vegetables you need based on your age, gender, height, weight and physical- activity level. Whole fruits are recommended above fruit juice, which lacks fiber and is much less filling. Vegetables are categorized into five subgroups, and you should try to eat the rec- ommended amount of each group throughout the week.

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