Numerous studies have reported that consuming adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables helps to lower the risk for chronic health conditions and can be an important aspect of weight management.
Fruits and vegetables are nutrient-dense foods, which means that they contain a high level of various nutrients (fiber, vitamins, minerals, etc) while being low in calories. In contrast, energy-dense foods are high in calories and low in nutrients. Because of this, following a diet rich in energy-dense foods often leads to either consuming too many calories, consuming inadequate levels of needed nutrients, or both. Therefore, it is important to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables in order to get all the nutrients we need without consuming too many calories.
But how much do we need? According to Fruits & Veggies Matter, a website from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the amount of fruits and vegetables that we each need depends on our age, sex, and level of physical activity. Adult women over 19 years of age that are moderately active (30 â€" 60 minutes of physical activity per day beyond everyday life activities) should include 1.5 â€" 2 cups of fruits and 2.5 cups of vegetables. In contrast, moderately active adult men need to consume slightly more, 2 cups of fruits and 3 â€" 3.5 cups of vegetables. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating more vegetables than fruits as part of a healthy eating plan, partly because vegetables typically contain fewer calories than fruits.
While this might seem like a lot of fruits and vegetables, there are plenty of ways to get in your daily requirements.
(1) Redesign your plate... instead of focusing on meat and pasta; make half your plate a combination of fruits and vegetables.
(2) Make fruits and vegetables that require little to no preparation your main snacking option. Apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, and baby carrots make delicious and nutritious mid-morning, mid-afternoon, or evening snacks.
(3) If you are having yogurt for breakfast, add sliced fruit or berries to make a refreshing way to start your day.
(4) Add fresh or frozen vegetables to any casserole or pasta dish. Not only does this help you reach your daily requirement for fruits and vegetables, but it also reduces the calorie-content of the meal on a cup-for-cup basis.
While it can be easy to get enough fruits and vegetables in our daily diet, it probably will not happen without a conscious effort. So the next time you go shopping for food, make a point of adding a variety of fruits and vegetables to your grocery list in place of less healthy, energy-dense options.
Aaron Tabor, MD
Diet, Anti-Aging, and Nutritional Cosmetic Expert
Author of Dr. Tabor's Diet and FIGHT NOW.
Learn more about Dr. Tabor's diet and anti-aging research at www.DrTabor.com.
Learn more about Dr. Taborâ€™s breast cancer prevention book at www.fightBCnow.com.