The nutrition world is fraught with controversy about what is and isn't good for you, but there is one thing most everyone can agree on: we should all be eating more fruits and vegetables. And you don't have to be a mathematician to know the advice about eating five servings of fruits and veggies a day. Or do you?
Researchers discovered that eating 400 grams of fruits and vegetables each day could help prevent chronic illnesses like cancer, heart disease, stroke, and dementia. They translated that into five servings a day, which became the predominant public health message for decades. Today, the message has been simplified even more to "fill half your plate" with produce, thanks to the USDA's MyPlate guidance. Despite the catchy slogan, only about 10% of Americans meet their needs on a typical day.
"The message hasn't really changed, as much as the USDA determined that it's easier for people to relate to a plate visually," says Taylor Wallace, Ph.D., the chief food and nutrition scientist for the Produce for Better Health Foundation. The magic number is still five a day. But today, USDA guidelines recommend cups instead of servings, and the precise number is a function of your individual nutritional needs. For most people, that's about 2 cups of fruits and 3 cups of vegetables.
It's also important to remember that some vegetables are better than none. Only1 in 10 Americans are consuming the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. Therefore, any potential negative effects of choosing conventional foods on health should not beused as an argument for reducing fruit and vegetable consumption. If you are following a budget and are able to purchase more vegetables if you choose conventionally grown instead of organically grown, you will still reap the health benefits.
Illustration of woman eating on a background of fruits and vegetables
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What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Enough Fruits & Vegetables
While half of your plate might not seem that ambitious, most people are not getting enough produce in a typical day. But there can be some serious benefits to upping your intake. Here's what the science says you can expect if you hit the magic number of around five servings per day.
You may have a lower risk of heart disease
"The strongest evidence for the benefits of fruits and vegetables is regarding the prevention of cardiovascular disease," says Wallace. Produce is so helpful that an International Journal of Epidemiology study found that people who ate about six servings (or 18 ounces) of fruits and veggies a day were 16% less likely to die from coronary heart disease than people who ate less than 1½ ounces daily.
One big reason is that the soluble fiber in produce can help block the reabsorption of cholesterol from the intestine and can help lower blood cholesterol levels, explains study co-author Edward Giovannucci, M.D., M.P.H., a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (Top sources of soluble fiber include apples, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, pears, oranges, peas and grapefruits). Fiber also slows glucose absorption, a bonus for your heart and your blood sugar. "When sugars are rapidly absorbed in the intestine, blood glucose rises, quickly leading to a rapid increase in insulin," says Giovannucci. "Over time, high levels of insulin and glucose can contribute to diabetes, and can also damage blood vessels, leading to heart disease."
The heart-forward benefits of produce aren't just about fiber. Bell peppers, citrus, kiwis, broccoli, strawberries and others deliver vitamin C, an antioxidant that controls artery-damaging inflammation. Vitamin C also boosts nitric oxide, a gas that relaxes the arteries for better blood flow. It's so helpful that research reveals people who consume a vitamin C-heavy diet may be 21% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those who eat little of this nutrient.
You may have a reduced stroke risk
The World Health Organization estimates that feasting on 7½ servings of produce a day might reduce the risk of stroke by anywhere from 10% to 19%. This is in part thanks to potassium. Produce provides more of this blood pressure-lowering mineral than any other food group. And high blood pressure is a leading risk factor for stroke.
But isn't high blood pressure all about sodium? Actually, that's only part of the picture. When you eat, say, a salty pickle, its sodium pulls water into your cells, increasing the pressure in your blood vessels. On the other hand, potassium coaxes water out of cells, lowering blood pressure. "Interestingly, studies show that people who have both very high potassium and very high sodium intakes don't have a problem with hypertension because these electrolytes are in balance," says Wallace. Considering fruits and veg like potatoes, bananas and avocados help deliver the potassium our bodies need and are naturally low in sodium, they're a slam-dunk for stroke prevention.
Your brain health might improve
Whether your goal is emotional well-being now or warding off dementia later, colorful produce can be a helpful ally. A 2020 Nutrients systematic review concluded that consuming five or more daily servings is linked to better mental health, particularly less depression. While any produce was a win, citrus, bananas, berries, apples, kiwis, cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes and leafy greens like spinach provided the best brain-supporting benefits. Researchers can't say exactly why produce is a boon for your brain, but they note nutrients that are plentiful in produce, like B vitamins, vitamin C, carotenoids, polyphenols and fiber-rich carbs, are linked to better brain function.
If longer-term brain health is on your mind, flavonoids can help (get them from oranges, berries, apples, pears, peppers and celery). This family of plant compounds is believed to guard against memory loss and dementia by increasing blood flow to the brain, suppressing inflammation and shielding brain cells from harmful beta-amyloid plaques that lead to Alzheimer's disease. For example, a 2021 Neurology study reported that adults who downed the most flavonoids were 19% less likely to experience the early stages of age-related memory loss than those who ate few flavonoids. And if you're an OJ drinker, good news: Volunteers consuming the most flavones, a type of flavonoid abundant in oranges and orange juice, trimmed three to four years off their brain age.
fruits and vegetables
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You may be protected from certain cancers
Wallace shared that 1 in 5 cancers is linked to unhealthy diet and lifestyle habits, which include low intake of fruits and vegetables. How does produce fit in? "In very large epidemiologic studies, where people provide detailed information about everything they eat and drink, the rates of developing some cancers are lower in people who eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables," says Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of epidemiology at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Why only "some" cancers? "Certain cancers are so rare that they don't show up enough to study," explains McTiernan. "Or they may be so strongly associated with another cause that it's difficult to see the effects of vegetables and fruits [like cervical cancer and the HPV virus]."
The strongest evidence, according to the National Cancer Institute, is for cancers of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, colon, breast and lungs. For the best defense, they recommend up to 6½ cups of produce a day. But they don't stop there. They call out specific colors and types, namely orange, dark green and cruciferous veg for their carotenoids and glucosinolates, phytochemicals that shield cells from carcinogens and guard against DNA damage.
These colorful veggies are also a powerful weapon against breast cancer. In one recent study, women who loaded up on four weekly servings of yellow-orange and cruciferous vegetables (especially winter squash, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower) were 17% less likely to develop breast cancer than those who ate these vegetables just twice a week.
You might have easier healthy weight management
Keeping off unwanted weight is as much about what you eat as what you don't. In one study, participants who reported eating nine servings of produce a day were 74% less likely to gain weight over a decade than those who consumed half that amount. The secret ingredient? The volume of fruits and veg that comes from water. Flavorful as produce is, it's roughly 90% H20. "Water provides lots of volume and weight, but no calories," says Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., director of the Laboratory for the Study of Human Behavior at Penn State University, who was not affiliated with the study. "This allows you to eat larger, more satisfying portions for relatively few calories."
However, it's not just about water. As anyone who's ever tried to wolf down a salad can attest, fiber-filled fruits and vegetables take time to chew, especially if they're raw. In addition to giving your mouth a workout, fiber also slows down the rate that food empties from your stomach, explains Rolls, allowing your brain extra processing time to register that you're full. Perhaps that's why research reveals loading up on fruits and nonstarchy vegetables can be as effective as a calorie-restricted diet for modest weight loss.
You may live longer
No pill can come close to the cocktail of vitamins, minerals, fiber and 5,000-plus bioactive compounds that fruits and vegetables offer. No wonder they might help you live longer, says a recent study that tracked the eating habits of 108,735 people for three decades. Those who downed two servings of fruit and three servings of nonstarchy vegetables daily enjoyed the greatest longevity, reducing their odds of early death from conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease by 13% compared to people who only ate two produce servings a day.
Today, most of us still aren't following the advice to eat our fruits and veggies, but there are some compelling reasons to up your intake. Whether it's through adding them to things you already eat, keeping canned or frozen versions at-the-ready or adding a side of salad or fruit to your meals, strive to eat five (or more) servings of produce each day.
What happens if you eat too much vegetables and fruit? ›
“While fruits are nutritious, too much of even a healthy food can lead to weight gain,” Schantz says. “The key is to remember to control the portion sizes of the foods you consume." Schantz reported that overeating healthful foods is easy to do, but the same rules apply to healthful food as junk food.What happens when you eat enough vegetables? ›
Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of many leading causes of illness and death, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and obesity.What happens to your body when all you eat is fruit? ›
Eating a diet made up mostly of fruit, however, can result in nutrient deficiencies and serious health problems. A fruit diet is low in protein, for example, and it can lead to spikes in blood sugar. For this reason, a fruitarian diet is not suitable for a person with diabetes.What happens to your body if you only eat vegetables for a week? ›
With a vegetable-only diet, you'll miss out on the broad range of vitamins and minerals present in a balanced meal plan. In particular, you may grow deficient in vitamin B-12 and vitamin D. You also run the risk of an iron deficiency.Can you live on only fruit and vegetables? ›
You won't get important vitamins and minerals
“A diet with fruits and vegetables alone as the sole source of fuel sustenance would be lacking in several key nutrients, as well as total calorie volume,” says New York-based nutritionist Stephanie Di Figlia-Peck.
While some people feel great after doing a juice cleanse or eating raw, it's not for everyone. We see a lot of patients who suffer from gas, bloating, constipation, insomnia, dry skin, decreased vitality, feeling cold and low libido from eating too much raw food.What happens to your skin when you eat more vegetables? ›
3Your skin will look better than ever.
Phytonutrients, vitamin C, and high water content hydrate the skin and reduce wrinkles. Phytonutrients can even act as an all-natural anti-aging method by preventing cell damage from stress, sun, and environmental toxins.
Studies have also suggested that an increased intake of vitamin B12, also present in fruits and vegetables, may boost a neurotransmitter in the brain called serotonin, which plays a role in regulating mood, the researchers said.What happens to your body if you eat only fruits for a week? ›
Nutritional deficiencies: Fruitarians frequently have low levels of vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, iodine and omega-3 fatty acids, which can lead to anemia, tiredness, lethargy and immune system dysfunction. Low calcium can also cause osteoporosis.What happens if you only eat vegetables for a month? ›
Eating only vegetables for an extended period can result in massive weight loss which may not be entirely healthy. A vegetable only diet starves the body of other necessary nutrients needed to support growth.
What health problem may arise if a person does not eat enough vegetables and fruits? ›
Not eating enough of these foods can harm your health, putting you at higher risk for diabetes and heart disease and even certain cancers, not to mention leaving you at risk for nutritional deficiencies.What diseases can fruits and vegetables prevent? ›
A diet rich in vegetables and fruits can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect upon blood sugar, which can help keep appetite in check.What are 5 deficiency diseases? ›
These include, but are not limited to, Protein Energy Malnutrition, Scurvy, Rickets, Beriberi, Hypocalcemia, Osteomalacia, Vitamin K Deficiency, Pellagra, Xerophthalmia, and Iron Deficiency.What happens if you eat only fruits and vegetables for a month? ›
There will be an insufficiency or imbalance of macronutrients, as fruits and vegetables do not contain fats and proteins which are essential for the body. The low calorie intake will gradually result in a significant drop in energy levels, making daily activities hard to carry out.What happens if you eat vegetables for 30 days? ›
Regularly consuming a wide variety of vegetables is said to reduce the risk for heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers, lower a person's blood pressure, and improve digestive issues. Savani said that people can experience positive changes after just a few weeks of eating vegetables every day.Can you survive on only vegetables? ›
While a healthy vegetarian diet that includes a variety of different foods can provide all of the nutrients you need, a diet consisting of only vegetables doesn't. Vegetables don't contain sufficient amounts of certain vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B-12 and vitamin D.What food can you survive only on? ›
However, there is no known food that supplies all the needs of human adults on a long-term basis. Since Taylor is determined to follow a one-food diet, then potatoes are probably as good as anything, as they contain a wider range of amino acids, vitamins and minerals than other starchy foods, such as pasta or rice.Can you gain weight by eating too many raw vegetables? ›
It's true that fruits and vegetables are lower in calories than many other foods, but they do contain some calories. If you start eating fruits and vegetables in addition to what you usually eat, you are adding calories and may gain weight.Is it OK to eat unlimited vegetables? ›
“Vegetables are considered a free food, meaning you can eat unlimited amounts and still lose weight.”How many vegetables a day is too much? ›
According to results from a recent study, three to four servings of vegetables was deemed ideal. Any more than that, and the longevity benefits dissipated. Since your stomach will be filled to the brim with stems and leaves, you won't have much room for the other types of foods you need to stay healthy.
What happens when you start eating more? ›
When you eat, your body uses some of the calories you consume for energy. The rest are stored as fat. Consuming more calories than you burn may cause you to become overweight or obese. This increases your risk for cancer and other chronic health problems.Does eating healthy change your face? ›
Numerous studies have looked at what nutrients affect skin wrinkling, dryness and thinning. The vitamins, minerals and antioxidants present in foods like fruit, vegetables and healthy fats are consistently associated with fewer wrinkles and less age-related dryness.Does vegetable make you look younger? ›
Many vegetables are also high in carotenoids, like beta carotene and lycopene. Some research suggests that a diet high in carotenoids may protect the skin against the sun's UV rays, which are the main cause of premature skin aging ( 39 , 40 ).
Eating a wide variety of fruit and vegetables that contain lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants will help to nourish the brain and protect it from oxidative stress, which can potentially damage cells. Research suggests a healthy eating pattern – in particular, the Mediterranean diet – protects brain health.What vegetables make you happy? ›
One recent study also found a connection between higher concentrations of carotenoids, an antioxidant that gives foods like carrots or tomatoes their rich color, and optimism. Even if you already eat fruits and vegetables, increasing your intake even more may produce a bump in happiness, says Oswald.What happens if you eat a lot of fruit in one day? ›
"Risks associated with excess fruit intake include stomach discomfort, diarrhea, bloating, heartburn, and potential nutrient deficiencies if excess fruit is replacing other important nutrients in the diet," she says.What happens when you eat only fruits for 3 days? ›
One of the most common things people report about this diet is that they feel more energetic than usual during those three days. They report feeling like their normal diets leave them tired and sluggish, but after following this 3-day fruit diet they feel more awake and capable of taking on the day.What happens if you only eat fruit for 2 weeks? ›
Eating only fruits for two weeks or more will likely increase your vitamin and antioxidant levels, but any weight you lose will find its way back as soon as you return to normal eating. The daily recommended intake of fruits is at least one and a half to two cups per day.What happens to your stomach when you don't eat vegetables? ›
You could develop digestive problems
Without fruits and veggies, you're more prone to digestive ailments such as constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulosis. “Fruits and vegetables contain cellulose, which increases stool weight, eases passage and reduces transit time,” Moore explains.
How Much Longer Do Fruit and Veggie Eaters Live? According to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “Subjects who consumed five fruits and vegetables a day lived an extra three years compared to their non-plant-eating counterparts.”
Are potatoes good for you? ›
Potatoes for health and nutrition
They're rich in vitamin C, which is an antioxidant. Potatoes were a life-saving food source in early times because the vitamin C prevented scurvy. Another major nutrient in potatoes is potassium, an electrolyte which aids in the workings of our heart, muscles, and nervous system.
As has been well documented, deprivation levels of nutrients produce adverse effects such as loss of function or overt disease, and excessive levels of some nutrients also lead to adverse effects such as hypervitaminosis, tissue mineralization, and electrolyte imbalance.What happens if your body doesn't get enough nutrients? ›
There are now strong links between low intakes of particular nutrients and the risk of developing chronic disease including some cancers, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and depression. During pregnancy, insufficient nutrient intake can have long-term health implications for the health of the child.What is the number 1 vegetable to avoid? ›
Vegetables that belong to the cabbage family such as cauliflower, Brussels, broccoli, and sprouts should never be consumed raw. These vegetables contain sugar that is difficult to digest. Eating these vegetables raw may lead to a number of gastronomical problems.
Good choices include oranges, blueberries, apples, avocados, and bananas, but there are many more to choose from. Fruits are an excellent source of essential vitamins and minerals, and they are high in fiber. Fruits also provide a wide range of health-boosting antioxidants, including flavonoids.What is the number 1 deficiency? ›
Iron. Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide and is one of the leading factors contributing to the global burden of disease. Iron deficiency can also lead to anemia, a blood condition that results in fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and low immune support.What is the most common vitamins to be deficiency? ›
50 percent of Americans are deficient in vitamin A, vitamin C, and magnesium. More 50 percent of the general population is vitamin D deficient, regardless of age. 90 percent of Americans of color are vitamin D deficient. Approximately 70 percent of elderly Americans are vitamin D deficient.Is it OK to eat fruits and vegetables all day? ›
Unless you are following a ketogenic diet or have some sort of intolerance, there really is no reason to limit the amount of fruit you eat. While most studies suggest that the optimal amount is two to five servings of fruit per day, there seems to be no harm in eating more.Can you gain weight from eating too many fruits and vegetables? ›
It's true that fruits and vegetables are lower in calories than many other foods, but they do contain some calories. If you start eating fruits and vegetables in addition to what you usually eat, you are adding calories and may gain weight.Can you eat unlimited fruits and vegetables? ›
“Vegetables are considered a free food, meaning you can eat unlimited amounts and still lose weight.”
Will I lose weight if I eat mostly fruits and veggies? ›
Yes. A fruit and vegetable diet promotes weight loss and overall better health. Most fruits and vegetables are low in calories and fat, and high in fiber and various essential micronutrients, which makes them two of the best food options for successful weight loss.What happens if you eat only fruits for a month? ›
Nutritional deficiencies: Fruitarians frequently have low levels of vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, iodine and omega-3 fatty acids, which can lead to anemia, tiredness, lethargy and immune system dysfunction. Low calcium can also cause osteoporosis.What happens if you eat vegetables for a month? ›
Regularly consuming a wide variety of vegetables is said to reduce the risk for heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers, lower a person's blood pressure, and improve digestive issues. Savani said that people can experience positive changes after just a few weeks of eating vegetables every day.Can you live on vegetables alone? ›
While a healthy vegetarian diet that includes a variety of different foods can provide all of the nutrients you need, a diet consisting of only vegetables doesn't. Vegetables don't contain sufficient amounts of certain vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B-12 and vitamin D.What happens if I only eat fruits and vegetables for a month? ›
There will be an insufficiency or imbalance of macronutrients, as fruits and vegetables do not contain fats and proteins which are essential for the body. The low calorie intake will gradually result in a significant drop in energy levels, making daily activities hard to carry out.