Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

Eating a Diet Rich in Fruits and Vegetables

Here's Why:

Produce has certainly earned its healthful reputation. It is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber, while being low in calories and fat. All of these factors contribute to many health benefits, such as:

Here's How: ^

How much fruit and vegetables you need is based on your age, gender, and activity level. In general, adults should aim for these amounts every day:

Try to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Visit the ChooseMyPlate website for more information.

Focus on color when eating fruits and vegetables. Dark green, red, and orange vegetables are especially packed with good-for-you nutrients. Also, within your daily servings, try fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin A or beta-carotene and vitamin C. Produce rich in vitamin A and beta-carotene (which is converted to vitamin A in the body) includes:

Produce rich in vitamin C includes:

Tips for Adding Fruits and Vegetables to Your Diet

For breakfast:

  • Fresh or dried fruit mixed with cereal or oatmeal
  • Bagel or English muffin topped with whole fruit jam or onion and tomato or cucumber and cream cheese
  • Glass of tomato juice with a spear of celery

For lunch and snacks:

  • Bake a sweet potato (microwave on high for 5-8 minutes) and top with black beans
  • Stir fresh fruit into yogurt
  • Pop open a can of mandarin oranges
  • Dip carrot, celery, red pepper, and zucchini sticks into hummus, yogurt, or low-fat dip

For dinner:

  • 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

For dessert:

  • Fresh cut-up fruit
  • Top frozen yogurt with sauteed apples, fresh peaches, or canned pineapple
  • Choose a fruity dessert, such as a cobbler

Smoothies with fruit, yogurt, juice, proteins, and/or vegetables are great option for a fast, nourishing breakfast, snack, or dessert. Consider investing in a blender that can crush ice and frozen fruit. You can use any ingredients you like for a healthy alternative to sweets.

No Cheating! ^

While it may be tempting to just pop a supplement instead of eating more produce, this is not the best way to go. The majority of the research has shown positive health effects from foods rich nutrients, not from isolated nutrients. Experts think it may be the package of nutrients in fruits and vegetables that delivers the biggest health benefits. Additionally there are hundreds of phytochemicals in each bite of fruits and vegetables that are not available in pill form.

RESOURCES:

Choose My Plate—Department of Agriculture
http://www.choosemyplate.gov

Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
http://www.eatright.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Dietitians of Canada
http://www.dietitians.ca

Health Canada Food and Nutrition
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

REFERENCES:

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 February 16, 2016.

Food groups: Fruits. Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/fruit. Accessed February 16, 2016.

Food groups: Vegetables. Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/vegetables. Accessed February 16, 2016.

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. Updated September 2011. Accessed February 16, 2016.

Last reviewed February 2016 by Michael Woods, MD  Last Updated: 2/16/2016