Increasing Fruit and Vegetable Intake

Fruits and vegetables have a low energy density but are very rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Substituting fruits and vegetables for high-energy-dense foods may also help people feel full without consuming too many calories, so it can help with achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

The CDC recommends that children and adults consume anywhere from two to six-and-a-half cups of fruits and vegetables per day, depending on age, sex and activity level. For a physically active young man, that could be as many as 13 "servings." ("Servings" are not necessarily the same as cups; for example, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, one-half cup of sliced fruit equals one serving of fruit.) Yet only about one in four U.S. adults ate even five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, and according to the 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, fewer than one in four high school students ate this amount. There is a large gap between the amounts of produce we currently eat and the optimal levels recommended by the CDC. Increasing not only the amount but also the variety of fruits, vegetables, and legumes (lentils, beans, peas) that we eat is an important goal.

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