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Stanford Medicine

Nutrition

Most Americans don’t eat enough plant-based foods

I consider myself a pretty healthy eater, but even I know I don’t eat nearly as many vegetables as I should be on a daily basis. According to this HealthDay News piece, I’m not alone: In fact, more than 9 of 10 Americans consume fewer fruits and vegetables than the daily amount recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines, which is anywhere between 2 cups to 6.5 cups.

Eating more plant-based foods has been shown to help reduce cholesterol, contribute to weight loss, lower blood pressure, prevent birth defects and may even change the behavior of our genes. Bottom line: fruits and veggies are good for you.

So how do we get the 90 percent of Americans to eat up? Angela Ginn, a nutrition education coordinator and diabetes educator at the University of Maryland Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology, and Jessica Crandall, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, share some tips in the piece. And, because I believe that we really do eat with our eyes first, I especially liked how the fruits and veggies were grouped by color and their health benefits:

  • Blue and purple fruits and vegetables contain anthocyanins, which have been shown to help fight some cancers and are helpful in anti-aging and memory function. They are found in blueberries, blackberries, plums, grapes, figs and raisins.
  • Green fruits and vegetables contain luteins, which lower cancer risk and help promote better vision and strong bones and teeth. They are found in avocados, kiwi fruit, pears and apples.
  • Red fruits and vegetables contain anthocyanins and lycopene, which can help keep the heart healthy, maintain better memory function and lower the risk for some cancers.

Ginn and Crandall, who are both spokespersons for the American Dietetic Association, also say not to worry too much about whether or not you’re eating fresh, frozen or canned. “They’re all good for you. Fresh or frozen vegetables might have slightly more nutrients [they] said, but canned veggies are cheaper and available throughout the year. Just be sure to rinse canned veggies, to reduce the amount of sodium they contain, or buy low-sodium alternatives.”

Previously: British teens not getting enough fruits, veggies, Campaign unsuccessful at getting people to eat their fruits and veggies, Better diet in pregnancy shown to protect against birth defects, You are what you eat: Study suggests eating plant-based foods may alter gene expression, Research shows eating berries may boost brain health, Stanford nutrition experts discuss top cancer-preventing foods and Stanford nutritionist offers guidelines for eating healthy on the go
Photo by Jon Aslund

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