Fruits and Veggies:
Are You Getting Enough of a Good Thing?
Recent research gives plenty of ammunition to the pro-plant-food faction. For example, two studies (1,2) found that fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of stroke. Other studies reveal that:
These and other study results have led to revisions in dietary recommendations.
The Power of the Pyramid
The traditional strategy of eating foods from four equally important food groups--milk, meat, fruits and vegetables, and grains--was widely used. In 1992, though, after research had clearly demonstrated that the four food groups were not nutritionally equal, the federal government developed the Food Guide Pyramid (6). The pyramid shows that plant foods--grains, vegetables, and fruits--need to be the foundation of our diet. Smaller quantities of dairy, high-protein foods, fats, oils, and sweets should be eaten.
The Food Guide Pyramid now has more specific guidelines that separate vegetables from fruits and recommend more daily servings of each. According to the pyramid, a diet that contains 1,600 calories per day should contain at least three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit. A diet of 2,800 calories per day should have at least five servings of vegetables and four servings of fruit. Table 1 helps clarify what constitutes a serving.
The Food Guide Pyramid de-emphasizes animal foods because the body does not require a large serving to get the nutrients found in these foods and because they tend to be high in fat and saturated fat.
Changing Dietary Guidelines
The federal government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans complement the Food Guide Pyramid. The original Dietary Guidelines, which were developed by the US Department of Agriculture in the early 1970s, suggested a diet low in fats, sodium, and alcohol and emphasized foods high in carbohydrate and low in sugar. The goals of these recommendations were to prevent disease and meet the body's needs for vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates like those found in starchy foods like bread, and dietary fiber.
Today's Dietary Guidelines for Americans (7), published in 1995, suggest a diet with plenty of grain products, vegetables, and fruits. Specifically, these include breads, cereals, pasta, rice, potatoes, corn, dried beans, and all types of fruits and vegetables. The guidelines endorse a vegetarian diet as an alternative healthful way of meeting the recommended dietary allowances (RDAs).
A Firm Foundation
Plant foods like fruits and veggies should be the foundation of your diet. That's not because animal foods are bad for you--it's because plant foods are so good for you. If you eat at least the minimum number of recommended servings per day, you'll be on the road to better health, now and for the rest of your life.
Remember: you, your physician, and your nutritionist need to work together to discuss nutrition concerns. The above information is not intended as a substitute for appropriate medical treatment.
Dr Kleiner is a private nutrition consultant to athletes in the Seattle area. She is a member of the American College of Sports Medicine; a member of the American Dietetic Association and its practice group, Sports and Cardiovascular Nutritionists (SCAN); and a fellow of the American College of Nutrition.
Kleiner's contact information:
This article has informational purpose and isn't a substitute for professional advice.
© 1999-2018 Helio A. F.
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