Researchers in Sweden followed 71,706 adult individuals between the age of 45 and 83 over a 13-year period in an effort to determine the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables every day. They found that eating five servings of fruits and vegetables each day contributes to a longer life. And it seems that five servings is the right number. Those who ate more didn’t show any greater health benefit. But those who ate less showed less. The researchers found that those with limited fruit and vegetable consumption had “shorter survival and higher mortality rates.”
This isn’t surprising. Fruits and vegetables are health. They can help ward off some chronic diseases and aid us in our weight management efforts. I tell my patients that fruits and veggies are like multi-vitamins and the more different-colored ones we eat, the better. But how many of us are actually partaking in these oh-so-giving edibles? Well, in the United States at least, not enough.
The National Center for Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recently reported that the average adult in the U.S. eats 1.1 servings of fruit and 1.6 serving of vegetables per day. Let’s do the math - 1.1 plus 1.6 doesn’t add up to 5. How do the different states compare? The ones with the lowest median fruit and vegetable consumption were North and South Dakota, Louisiana, Iowa and Mississippi. The states with the highest consumption were Oregon, California and New Hampshire. All the others were somewhere in between. None of them get a gold star.
I’ve love fruits and veggies and enjoy at least five servings just about every day. And I live in California. I contributed to my state’s ranking for highest consumption! But my husband dragged our household down. He only wants to eat what I call “brown food”, which consists of meat, potatoes, pizza and other like items. I call him a work in progress.
Many of my patients don’t eat enough fruits and veggies. There are different reasons for this. For some, five daily servings seems difficult. The good news is that serving sizes aren’t as large as you may think. One-half of a banana, for example, is a full serving size of fruit. So is a small-to-medium piece of whole fruit, 17 small grapes, ¾ cup of blueberries, or 1 ¼ cup of whole strawberries. What about the veggies, you may ask? A serving size is just a cup of raw veggies or ½ cup cooked. Not bad.
To help us have balanced meals that include the important fruits and veggies, I always recommend the healthy plate. One-half of the plate is non-starchy veggies, one-quarter of the plate is starch and the other quarter of the plate is lean protein. Fruit and nonfat/low fat dairy are outside the plate, Imagine Mickey Mouse’s head. That’s the healthy plate. A slightly different version of this can be found on www.choosemyplate.gov. Check it out. After all, we’re only as good as our health.
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CDC. (2013). State indicator report on fruits and vegetables 2013. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/downloads/State-Indicator-Report-Fruits-Vegetables- Karst, T. (2013, July 10). Longer life linked to greater fruit and vegetable consumption The Packer. Retrieved from http://www.thepacker.com/fruit-vegetable-news/Longer-life-linked- to-greater-fruit-and-vegetable-consumption-214947961.html