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Volume 8, No. 4     August 24, 2012
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Fruits and vegetables satisfy all of our senses. Whether it is the smell of a fresh orange, the colorful sight of summer berries, the sound of biting a crisp celery stalk, the feel of a fuzzy kiwi, or the creamy taste of a sweet potato, it’s all there, the colors, textures, taste, and smells of nature’s bounty. Fruits and vegetables are pleasing to the senses and provide numerous health benefits.


Each bite of a fruit or a vegetable packs a punch of nutrition. All fruits and vegetables offer a unique variety of nutrients. By eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, our bodies are supplied with the water, fiber, and vitamins and minerals such as folate, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, and K needed to stay healthy and strong.

Fruits and vegetables not only contribute to overall good health but can also reduce the risk of some diseases such as cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers.

Fruits and vegetables are loaded with fiber and eating plenty of them is a great way to meet your daily requirement of fiber without extra calories. Some fiber rich fruits and vegetables are beans, peas, artichokes, pears, apples with skin, sweet potatoes with skin, raspberries, pumpkin, oranges, and bananas.

Folate is necessary to make normal red blood cells and reduce the risk of anemia. It is also crucial during periods of rapid cell division and growth such as infancy and pregnancy. Fruits and vegetables that are high in folate include spinach, asparagus, avocado, oranges, papaya, tomatoes, and strawberries.

Two and a half cups of fruits and vegetables will provide over half of the daily requirement for potassium, which can help decrease the risk of hypertension, and stroke and may reduce the risk of developing kidney stones and decreased bone loss. To add this naturally occurring potassium into your diet, try a baked potato with the skin left on, ¼ cup of prunes, ¼ cup of dates, or one half of a pomegranate. Fruits and vegetables can also provide a sufficient amount of magnesium. Magnesium helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system, and keeps bones strong. Try magnesium rich fruits and vegetables such as Swiss chard, spinach, avocado, bananas, or raisins.

Vitamin A rich fruits and vegetables are typically dark yellow. Some sources include sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, cantaloupe, broccoli, tomatoes, nectarines, and summer squash. Fruits and vegetables that are good sources of vitamin C include red peppers, leeches, kiwis, and oranges. Vitamins A and C are considered to be powerful antioxidants.

Vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting, can also be found in some fruits and vegetables such as greens, broccoli (1/2 cup offers a full day’s supply of Vitamin K), asparagus, plums, blackberries, and grapes.

How much should you eat?

Adults should have a least 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables a day. Four and a half cups of fruits and vegetables may seem like a lot of food, but it is actually less than you may realize. A cup equivalent of fruits or vegetables from the USDA MyPlate food guidance system is equal to 1 cup raw or cooked vegetables or fruits, ½ cup dried vegetables or fruits, 1 cup vegetable or fruit juice, or 2 cups leafy salad greens. Eating 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups vegetables is as easy as eating a small orange at breakfast, a handful of grapes for a snack, a salad of leafy greens with a few slices of cucumber with lunch, and ½ cup cooked carrots with a baked potato the size of a computer mouse with dinner. These foods will contribute approximately 335 calories, and you also get approximately 10 grams of fiber, 7 grams of protein, and vitamins and minerals. Choosing whole fruits and vegetables instead of fruit and vegetable juice will help you to increase your daily fiber intake, making it easier to reach the recommended daily intake of dietary fiber of 14 grams per 1,000 calories consumed. Check out the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Appendix 13 to see a list of sources and amounts of dietary fiber in certain foods.

Help yourself to an extra serving of fruits and vegetables and feel good about your health. For more information about healthy eating and about fruits and vegetables, contact your local Registered Dietitian and also check out these websites for additional resources:


Center for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov
United States Department of Agriculture: http://fnic.nal.usda.gov
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: www.eatright.org
Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010: http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/DGAs2010-PolicyDocument.htm