You've heard it before -- and you'll hear it again: Eat your fruits and vegetables! There is no doubt that a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables offers a whole host of health benefits, including protection from heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, some types of cancer, eye disease, and gastrointestinal troubles. Eating healthy can be part of an alternative treatment against illness. In addition, fruits and vegetables can even help beat back the effects of aging.
Some fruits and vegetables are good natural sources of vitamin A, while others are rich in vitamin C, folate, and potassium. Almost all are naturally low in fat and calories, none have cholesterol, and many are great sources of fiber. Fruits and vegetables also add wonderful flavors, textures, and colors to your diet.
In this article, we will review the fruits and vegetables in a balanced diet, with an emphasis on the specific foods and eating patterns that provide the best health benefits. Let's get started by reviewing the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables.
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The latest MyPyramid guidelines recommend a daily intake of 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables for a person eating a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet. Higher or lower amounts are recommended, depending on your caloric needs.
To cut calories and fat, take extra servings of fruits and vegetables. They are excellent and satisfying substitutes for higher-calorie meats and sweets. Here's what counts as a one-cup serving:
- 1 medium piece of fruit
- 1 cup cut-up or cooked fruit
- 1 large banana
- 1/4 small cantaloupe
- 1/2 cup dried fruit
- 1 cup berries or grapes
- 1 cup 100% fruit juice
- 1 cup raw or cooked vegetables
- 2 cups raw leafy vegetables
- 1 cup baby carrots (approximately 12 carrots)
- 1 medium potato
- 1 cup cooked or canned dried beans or peas
- 1 cup vegetable juice
Not sure which fruits or vegetables have the nutrients or vitamins you need? The next section will explain how a produce's color can give you a good clue.