Eating a Diet Rich in Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are superstar foods. They have lots of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other natural compounds the body needs. They are also low in calories and fat. All of this can help your health by lowering your:
- Cholesterol levels
- Risk of buildup in your arteries atherosclerosis and heart disease
- Risk of some cancers
- Blood pressure
- Risk of being overweight or obese
- Risk of constipation
How much produce you need is based on your age, sex, and how much you move. In general, adults should eat this much every day:
- About 1½ to 2 cups of fruit (1 cup = 1 cup fresh fruit, 1 cup fruit juice, ½ cup dried fruit)
- About 2½ 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 http://www.choosemyplate.gov website for more tips.
Focus on color when eating fruits and vegetables. Dark green, red, and orange vegetables are packed with good-for-you nutrients. Include fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin A or beta-carotene such as:
- Sweet potatoes
- Tomato juice
Also include vitamin C rich foods such as:
- Bell pepper
- Oranges and orange juice
- Tomatoes and tomato juice
- Collard greens
Tips for Adding Fruits and Vegetables to Your Diet
- Mix fresh or dried fruit with cereal or oatmeal
- Top a bagel or English muffin with whole fruit jam, onion and tomato, or cucumber and cream cheese
- Try a glass of tomato juice with a celery stick
For lunch and snacks:
- Bake a sweet potato and top with black beans
- Stir fresh fruit into yogurt
- Eat 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
- Eat fresh cut-up fruit
- Top frozen yogurt with sauteed apples, fresh peaches, or canned pineapple
Smoothies are great for a fast, healthy breakfast, snack, or dessert. Try them with fruit, yogurt, juice, proteins, and/or vegetables. Use a blender that can crush ice and frozen fruit to make them even easier.
No Short Cuts
It may seem easier to take a vitamin pill instead of trying to eat more produce. Research shows that it is better to get your nutrients from food. Fruits and vegetables also have hundreds of natural compounds that you cannot get from a supplement. They taste a lot better, too!
Choose My Plate—Department of Agriculture
Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Dietitians of Canada
Health Canada Food and Nutrition
Dietary guidelines for Americans 2010. Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services. Available at: http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2010/DietaryGuidelines2010.pdf. Accessed November 9, 2020.
Food groups: Fruits. Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/fruit. Accessed November 9, 2020.
Food groups: Vegetables. Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/vegetables. Accessed November 9, 2020.
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. 2006;163(3):222-231.
Liven up your meals with fruits and vegetables. Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/sites/default/files/tentips/DGTipsheet10LivenUpYourMeals.pdf. Accessed November 9, 2020.
Last reviewed November 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Last Updated: 1/21/2020