The endless benefits of fruit and vegetables!

Vegetables have the ability to decrease our risk of chronic disease and may be helpful in maintaining a healthy weight.

As we begin to approach the summer months filled with an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, exactly why and how much do we need?

Fruits and vegetables have many health benefits such as reducing our risk of certain types of cancer, heart disease, developing kidney stones, Type II Diabetes, high blood pressure and may help to decrease bone loss. They can also be helpful in maintaining a healthy weight and are low in calories, sodium, fat and cholesterol and high in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Many fruits and vegetables are also naturally sweet. They can be purchased in various forms such as fresh, canned, frozen, dried and as 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice.

We need to fill half of our plates with fruits and vegetables as referenced by MyPlate recommendations. But what is half and how do I add up each item to get there?

The United States Department of Agriculture recommends 1-2 cups of fruit per day based on age and gender and 1-2 ½ cups of vegetables per day based on age and gender.

So what does a 1/2 cup of fruit and vegetables look like? Here are some common examples:

  • ½ c. canned fruit, or cut up raw
  • ½ c. (4oz) 100% fruit juice
  • ¼ c. dried fruit
  • 1 small (< 6 inches) banana
  • 16 grapes
  • ½ c. raw or cooked vegetable
  • ½ c. (4oz) 100% vegetable juice
  • 1 cup raw leafy vegetables
  • ½ medium potato
  • 1 medium carrot or 6 baby carrots
  • 1 small ear of corn

Fruits and vegetables differ in their nutrient content so it is very important to eat a variety. A good way to remember this is to eat a ‘rainbow of colors’ to get a variety of nutrients.

So how do you plan to get your recommended amount of cups of fruits and vegetables? You can add fruit to yogurt or cereal, fill your omelet or scrambled eggs with vegetables such as mushrooms, peppers or onions or load your pizza with fruits and veggies. Whichever way you choose, the benefits of adding fruits and vegetables are endless with you and your family!

For more information on nutrition education for a healthy weight visit MSU Extention health and nutrition or call your local MSU Extension office.

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