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
(plaque build up in the arteries) and heart disease
- Decreased risk of certain types of cancer
- Lower blood pressure
Lower risk of overweight and
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 vegetables. Visit the
website 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
or beta-carotene and
vitamin C. Produce rich in vitamin A and beta-carotene (which is converted to vitamin A in the body) includes:
- Sweet potatoes
- Tomato juice
Produce rich in
- Bell pepper
- Oranges and orange juice
- Tomatoes and tomato juice
- Collard greens
- Fresh or dried fruit mixed with cereal or oatmeal
- Bagel or English muffin topped with whole fruit jam or 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
- 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
- Fresh cut-up fruit
- Top frozen yogurt with sauteed apples, fresh peaches, or canned pineapple
- Choose a fruity dessert, such as a cobbler
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.
Dietary guidelines for Americans 2010. US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services. Available at: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2010/DietaryGuidelines2010.pdf. Accessed April 23, 2014.
Food groups: fruits. United States Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/fruits.html. Accessed April 23, 2014.
Food groups: vegetables. United States Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/vegetables.html. Accessed April 23, 2014.
How many vegetables are needed daily or weekly? United States Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/vegetables-amount.html. Accessed April 23, 2014.
How much fruit is needed daily? United States Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/fruits-amount.html. Accessed April 23, 2014.
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.
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.
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 May 2014 by Michael Woods, 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.
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