Hartford Hospital

Conditions In Depth

Search for

Eating a Diet Rich in Fruits and Vegetables

En Español (Spanish Version)

Here's Why: | Here's How: | No Cheating!

Here's Why:

Produce has certainly earned its healthful reputation. It is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber, while being low in calories and fat. All of these factors contribute to many health benefits, such as:

  • Lower blood cholesterol levels
  • Decreased risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease
  • Decreased risk of certain types of cancer
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower risk of overweight and obesity

Here's How:

How much fruits and vegetables you need is based on your age, sex, and activity level. In general, adults should aim for these amounts every day:

  • About 1-½ to 2 cups of fruit (1 cup = 1 cup fresh fruit, 1 cup fruit juice, ½ cup dried fruit)
  • About 2-½ to 3 cups of vegetables (1 cup = 1 cup raw or cooked vegetables, 1 cup vegetable juice, 2 cups raw leafy vegetables)

Try to fill half your plate with fruits and veggies! Visit the MyPlate website (http://www.choosemyplate.gov/) for more information.

Focus on color when eating fruits and vegetables. Dark green, red, and orange vegetables are especially packed with good-for-you nutrients. Also, within your daily servings, try fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin A or beta-carotene and vitamin C. Produce rich in vitamin A and beta-carotene (which is converted to vitamin A in the body) includes:

  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Mangoes
  • Spinach
  • Cantaloupe
  • Kale
  • Apricots
  • Tomato juice
  • Nectarines
  • Papayas
  • Peaches

Produce rich in vitamin C includes:

  • Bell pepper
  • Papayas
  • Oranges and orange juice
  • Broccoli
  • Strawberries
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Tomatoes and tomato juice
  • Potatoes
  • Cabbage
  • Spinach
  • Collard greens
For breakfast:
  • Fresh or dried fruit mixed with cereal or oatmeal
  • Bagel or English muffin topped with onion and tomato or cucumber and cream cheese
  • Glass of tomato juice with a spear of celery
For lunch and snacks:
  • Bake a sweet potato (microwave on high for 5-8 minutes) and top with black beans
  • Stir fresh fruit into yogurt
  • Pop open a can of mandarin oranges
  • Dip carrot, celery, red pepper, and zucchini sticks into hummus, yogurt, or low-fat dip
For dinner:
  • Roast vegetables—onion, squash, peppers, and eggplant—and spread on a pizza crust with tomato sauce and cheese
  • Top baked potatoes with steamed broccoli, beans, and salsa
  • Add dried fruit to rice and stuffing
  • Grate carrots and zucchini into pasta sauce
For dessert:
  • Fresh cut-up fruit
  • Top frozen yogurt with sauteed apples, fresh peaches, or canned pineapple
  • Choose a fruity dessert, such as a cobbler

No Cheating!

While it may be tempting to just pop a supplement instead of eating more produce, this is not the best way to go. The majority of the research has shown positive health effects from foods rich nutrients, not from isolated nutrients. Experts think it may be the package of nutrients in fruits and vegetables that delivers the biggest health benefits. Additionally there are hundreds of phytochemicals in each bite of fruits and vegetables that are not available in pill form.

RESOURCES:

American Dietetic Association

http://www.eatright.org/

Fruits and Veggies: More Matters

http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov/

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Dietitians of Canada

http://www.dietitians.ca/

Food and Nutrition

Health Canada

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/

References:

Fabulous fruits...versatile vegetables. United States Department of Agriculture website. Available at: http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/DietaryGuidelines/2000/2000DGBrochureFabulousFruits.pdf. Accessed June 27, 2012.

Food groups: fruits. United States Department of Agriculture, Choose MyPlate.gov website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/fruits.html. Updated June 21, 2011. Accessed June 27, 2012.

Food groups: vegetables. United States Department of Agriculture, Choose MyPlate.gov website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/vegetables.html. Updated June 21, 2011. Accessed June 27, 2012.

How many vegetables are needed daily or weekly? United States Department of Agriculture, Choose MyPlate.gov website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/vegetables-amount.html. Updated June 21, 2011. Accessed June 27, 2012.

How much fruit is needed daily? United States Department of Agriculture, Choose MyPlate.gov website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/fruits-amount.html. Updated June 21, 2011. Accessed June 27, 2012.

Jiang R, Jacobs DR Jr, Mayer-Davis E, et al. Nut and seed consumption and inflammatory markers in the multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis. Am J Epidemiol. 2006;163(3):222-231.

Kuriyama S, Shimazu T, Ohmori K, et al. Green tea consumption and mortality due to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all causes in Japan: the Ohsaki study. JAMA. 2006;296(10):1255-1265.

United States Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th ed. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, December 2010.

Vlachopoulos C, Aznaouridis K, Alexopoulos N, Economou E, Andreadou I, Stefanadis C. Effect of dark chocolate on arterial function in healthy individuals. Am J Hypertens. 2005;18(6):785-791.

Last reviewed June 2012 by Brian Randall, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.