Protecting Your Health With Fruits and Vegetables

Try these easy tips to get more fruits and veggies into your diet.

By Susan G. Warner, Contributing Writer

Eating a diet full of fruits and vegetables is one of the things you can do to help you stay healthy. But most Americans don’t eat enough of these important foods each day. Only about a quarter of all adults eat vegetables three or more times a day. Skimping on fruits and vegetables may lead to a greater chance of developing obesity, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some kinds of cancer.

The benefit is in the food
What's the magic? Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals give natural foods their color. They also have protective properties. Scientists believe these natural chemicals are important in helping prevent disease and may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Most fruits and vegetables, if prepared without added fats and sugars, are low in calories, which is important for people watching their weight.

Government experts recommend that as part of a healthy eating plan, we eat more fruits and vegetables. We should eat a mix of vegetables, especially dark green, red and orange vegetables, and beans and peas.

How much is enough?
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests different minimum servings of fruits and vegetables based on age and gender. These are the daily recommendations:

Children 2 to 3 years old 1 cup vegetables 1 cup fruit
  4 to 8 years old 1 ½ cup vegetables 1 to 1 ½ cups fruit
Girls 9 to 13 years old 2 cups vegetables 1 ½ cups fruit
  14 to 18 years old 2 ½ cups vegetables 1 ½ cups fruit
Boys 9 to 13 years old 2 ½ cups vegetables 1 ½ cups fruit
  14 to 18 years old 3 cups vegetables 2 cups fruit
Women 19 to 30 years old 2 ½ cups vegetables 2 cups fruit
  31 to 50 years old 2 ½ cups vegetables 1 ½ cups fruit
  51+ years old 2 cups vegetables 1 ½ cups fruit
Men 19 to 30 years old 3 cups vegetables 2 cups fruit
  31 to 50 years old 3 cups vegetables 2 cups fruit
  51+ years old 2 ½ cups vegetables 2 cups fruit

Planning your diet
With some planning, getting your daily servings of fruits and vegetables is easier than it seems. Here are some easy tips to get your fruits and veggies every day:

Whatever you choose, get into the habit of adding more fruits and veggies to your daily meal plan.