How many fruits and vegetables do you normally eat each day?
The average person only eats two servings a day, which is less than half of the recommended amount.
By now, we all know that fruit and vegetable intake is linked to decreased risk of diseases like cancers, heart disease, and diabetes. We know that it helps prevent weight gain and obesity.
But knowledge does not always translate into action.
Many people are still haunted by childhood memories of sitting at the dinner table until they finished their broccoli. Veggies have become correlated with punishment or being the bad guy that stood in the way of us playing with our toys.
No wonder we’re not quite feeling them as adults.
We know that fruits and vegetables are good for us, but do we know why?
Micronutrients are nutrients that we need in small amounts. According to Harvard Medical School, micronutrients help maintain our brain, muscle, bone, nerves, skin, blood circulation, and immune system.
But if we don’t get the right amounts daily, over time, it causes our bodies to malfunction.
You see, our bodies do not store most micronutrients, so we need to eat them every day to replenish our supply.
There are about 30 vitamins and minerals that we need to stay in optimal health. For a complete list, click here.
Many people complain about being tired all the time, but did you know that vitamins and minerals are needed to convert your food into energy?
There are people who get sick often, but did you know vitamins and minerals help strengthen your immune system?
Want to prevent premature aging? Again, vitamins and minerals are here to save the day.
Vegetables aren’t looking as much like the bad guy anymore, are they?
Instead, fruit and vegetables are like super-heroes. They fight off chemicals that cause the cell damage that leads to certain diseases.
Bottom line, we need these nutrients to stay healthy, so it’s imperative to increase your intake.
Another nutrient provided by fruits and vegetables is fiber. Fiber is important for both heart and gut health.
It helps push foods through the digestive tract, keeping you “regular” and decreasing constipation.
It also helps to stabilize blood sugar levels by slowing down the absorption of sugars, reducing the risk for diabetes.
Fiber benefits heart health by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.
Most Americans do not eat the daily recommended amount of fiber, which is 25g for women and 38g for men.
Eating whole fruits and vegetables will help you consume the right amount of fiber each day.
Keep in mind fruit and vegetable juices typically provide little fiber, if any.
Also, be cautious of smoothies. Though they can be an easy and delicious way to get in your nutrients, they also tend to be very high in sugar. Stick with a smaller size (20oz.), and choose smoothies that have more veggies than fruit.
The current recommendation is 2 ½ to 3 cups of vegetables daily and 1 ½ to 2 cups of fruit daily. A cup is also equivalent to a medium piece of fruit and 2 cups of leafy, green veggies (like lettuce or spinach).
If you’re not used to eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, increasing your intake will take a conscious effort.
- Aim to eat a fruit or vegetable every time you have a meal or snack. When you eat, do a quick check- have you included a fruit or veggie? If not, make a point to add one in.
- Sneak veggies into combination dishes. Salads, stir-fries, casseroles, and soups are easy dishes to stuff vegetables into, boosting the nutrient intake without sacrificing taste.
- Try new recipes. Many of us haven’t tried certain vegetables since being forced to eat them as a child. Food has come a loooong way since then! There are tons of different ways to prepare veggies, including using different herbs and spices to bring out the flavors. Experiment and find new favorite ways to enjoy veggies.
- Try new vegetables. Bored with eating the same ‘ol veggies? Farmers markets and international grocery stores can help you switch it up by introducing you to new foods and flavors.
- Purchase fruits and veggies pre-chopped or do it yourself. Make eating fruits and veggies quick and convenient by already having them prepared to eat or throw into a meal.
Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption to reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases. World Health Organization website. October 2018. https://www.who.int/elena/titles/fruit_vegetables_ncds/en/
Health Benefits of Micronutrients. Healthline website. September 2018.
Micronutrients have a major impact on health. Harvard Medical School website. September 2016.
All About the Fruit Group. USDA Choose My Plate website. January 3, 2018.
All About the Vegetable Group. USDA Choose My Plate site. January 3, 2018.
Listing of Vitamins. Harvard Medical School website. August 2017.