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Nutrition Library: Nutrition Basics

Fruits and Vegetables: Eating Your Way to 5 A Day

The challenge offered by the National Cancer Institute--a branch of the National Institutes of Health--is to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Here are some ways consumers are rising to the occasion.

Emphasis on More

The average American consumer eats only about three servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Forty-two percent eat less than two servings a day. Compare those figures with the five to nine servings a day recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and you can see that many of us have a way to go.

A major reason to eat more fruits and vegetables is their nutritious value. Unless baked in a pie or dripping in butter, most are low in fat and calories--except avocados, coconut and olives, all of which contain fat naturally. Many are excellent sources of the important vitamins A and C and provide ample fiber.

What to Eat

For the most part, any fruit or vegetable will do in helping consumers reach their 5 A Day goal. But certain types of fruits and vegetables should be selected regularly because of their nutritional value. These include those that are good sources of vitamins A and C and fiber.

A High Five

In selecting your daily intake of fruits and vegetables, the National Cancer Institute recommends choosing:

  • At least one serving of a vitamin A-rich fruit or vegetable a day.
  • At least one serving of a vitamin C-rich fruit or vegetable a day.
  • At least one serving of a high-fiber fruit or vegetable a day.
  • Several servings of cruciferous vegetables a week. Studies suggest that these vegetables may offer additional protection against certain cancers, although further research is needed.

(Reprinted with permission from the United States Food and Drug Administration)

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