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Fruits & Vegetables Vital Information

“Eat your fruits and vegetables” is one of the tried and true recommendations for a healthy diet. And for good reason. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables can help you ward off heart disease and stroke, control blood pressure and cholesterol, prevent some types of cancer, avoid a painful intestinal ailment called diverticulitis, and guard against cataract and macular degeneration, two common causes of vision loss.

What does “plenty” mean? More than most Americans consume. If you don’t count potatoes – which should be considered a starch rather than a vegetable – the average American gets a total of just three servings of fruits and vegetables a day. The latest dietary guidelines call for five to thirteen servings of fruits and vegetables a day, depending on one’s caloric intake.(1) For a person who needs 2,000 calories a day to maintain weight and health, this translates into nine servings, or 4½ cups per day.

Fruits, Vegetables, and Cardiovascular Disease

There is compelling evidence that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.

The largest and longest study to date, done as part of the Harvard-based Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study, included almost 110,000 men and women whose health and dietary habits were followed for 14 years. The higher the average daily intake of fruits and vegetables, the lower the chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Compared with those in the lowest category of fruit and vegetable intake (less than 1.5 servings a day), those who averaged 8 or more servings a day were 30% less likely to have had a heart attack or stroke.(2)

Some basic fruit and vegetable tips:

Try to eat more fruits and vegetables. If you need 2,000 calories a day to maintain your weight and health, aim for at least nine servings (4½ cups) a day.

Choose a variety of different fruits and vegetables. It’s easy to get into a rut when it comes to the food you eat. Break out and try a wider variety – include dark-green, leafy vegetables; yellow, orange, and red fruits and vegetables; cooked tomatoes; and citrus fruits.