The Down & Dirty on Fruit and Veg Consumption

Want to increase your fruit and vegetable consumption? Great, because by eating more fruits and vegetables will decrease your risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and even improve your mental health!

In two long-running Harvard-based research projects (Nurses’ Health Study & Health Professionals Follow-up Study) the higher fruit and veg consumption the lower the chance of developing cardiovascular disease. How much lower of a chance? Well, people that consumed 8 or more servings for fruit and veg a day were 30% less likely to have a heart attack or stroke than folks that consumed fewer than 1.5 services daily of fruit and veg. However, eating 1.5 servings is a great start and that alone could help reduce your risk of cancer. A research has shown that eating 1.5 to 6.5 servings of lowers your risk of getting mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, stomach, and lung cancer, and there is growing evidence it may also lower your risk of colon, pancreas, and prostate cancer. This boost in fruit and vegetable consumption may also increase your vigor, ward off depression, even improve existing depressive symptoms, anxiety and feelings of perceived stress.

So, what’s a good target for fruit and veg consumption in a day? Well according to all-cause-mortality analysis regarding fruit and vegetable consumption, you should be aiming for more than 5 servings a day, as anything less was associated with progressively shorter survival and higher mortality rate. Bottom line, work to consume 6 or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the “Dirty Dozen” or “Clean Fifteen” when talking about fruit and vegetable consumption. The Clean Fifteen are conventionally grown fruits and veggies that are less likely to harbor pesticide residue. Whereas, the Dirty Dozen is a list of the most pesticide laden conventional fruits and vegetables on the market. Thus, these are the fruits and veggies you should try to buy organic if possible. Otherwise you'll get more than the nutrients they contain, you'll also get the pesticides they carry. This is particularly important if you have kiddos at home. As the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a report in 2012 that said, children have "unique susceptibilities to [pesticide residues'] potential toxicity." The organization cited research that linked pesticide exposures in early life to pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function and behavioral problems. Don't have kids, but thinking about getting pregnant? Be aware that fertility issues have been linked to increased consumption of fruits and vegetable with pesticide residue for both sexes.

Dirty Dozen

  1. Strawberries

  2. Spinach

  3. Nectarines

  4. Apples

  5. Peaches

  6. Pears

  7. Cherries

  8. Grapes

  9. Celery

  10. Tomatoes

  11. Sweet Bell Peppers

  12. Potatoes

Clean Fifteen

  1. Avocados

  2. Sweet Corn

  3. Pineapples

  4. Cabbage

  5. Onions

  6. Frozen Sweet Peas

  7. Papayas

  8. Asparagus

  9. Mangos

  10. Eggplant

  11. Honeydew

  12. Kiwi

  13. Cantaloupe

  14. Cauliflower

  15. Broccoli

I’ve found the best way to ensure my family and I get 5 or more servings of fruit and veg is to include vegetables in every meal. Yes, even breakfast! So, my daughter always gets at least two servings of fruit/veg with breakfast, and if I’m making her a smoothie she usually gets even more.

How might you incorporate more fruits and veggies into your day?

Some goals to consider:

1. Track your fruit and vegetable consumption for a week to see where you’re at

2. Aim to eat a greater variety of colored fruits and veggies

3. Try to increase your daily consumption of fruits and vegetables by x1 serving

4. Eat at least two servings of fruit and veg with every meal

5. Research what specific fruits & vegetables may be the most therapeutic for your health goals

Want to learn more....