Tuesday, November 29, 2011

5 Servings of Fruits and Vegetables

The CDC explains that fruits and vegetables contain essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber that may help protect a person from chronic diseases (1). The American Cancer Society (ACS) says that these essential vitamins minerals and oxidants in fruits and vegetables help prevent cancer (2). Such cancers include breast, prostate, esophageal, stomach, colon and rectal cancers (3). Many weight loss programs also recommend substituting calories from carbohydrates with fruits and vegetables. It is interesting to know that we have a Fruits and Vegetable Council which works to ensure that each state, territory, and the District of Columbia have one person designated as the Fruit and Vegetable Nutrition Coordinator(3).

Just how affordable is eating  the recommended 5 servings of fruits and vegetables recommended by health authorities such as DHHS, USDA, the American Cancer Society, physicians and nurses? In some states like Tennessee, the WIC program which provides supplemental foods to low-income women, infants, and children at nutritional risk (4), has included fruits and vegetables cash vouchers to ensure women/children eat fruits and vegetables. This is good (but leaves out men!). The Food Stamp program should also use fruits and vegies vouchers to recipients.

According to a February 2011 study report, USDA Economic Research Service, researchers  found that, in 2008, an adult on a 2,000- calorie diet could satisfy recommendations for vegetable and fruit consumption in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (amounts and variety) at an average price of $2 to $2.50 per day, or approximately 50 cents per edible cup equivalent(5).

A new research report on WebMD actually recommends 8 servings(6)! We’re all urged to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, but new research finds eight servings may be needed to cut the risk of dying from heart disease.The research on the diet and lifestyles of more than 300,000 people across eight countries in Europe found that people who ate at least eight portions of fruits and vegetables a day had a 22% lower risk of dying from heart disease than those who ate three portions a day. Each additional portion in fruits and vegetables was linked to a 4% lower risk of death.

Exactly how much is a serving? The ACS has the following explanations to help.

  • ½ cup of fruit
  • 1 medium piece of fruit
  • ¼ cup of dried fruit
  • ½ cup (4 ounces) of 100% fruit or vegetable juice
  • 1 cup of leafy vegetables
  • ½ cup of cooked or raw vegetables
Trying to visualize the serving sizes? This may help:
  • 1 medium apple or orange = the size of a tennis ball
  • 1 cup vegetables or fruit = the size of a baseball
  • 1 medium potato = the size of a computer mouse
  • 1 cup of lettuce = 4 leaves

The CDC has an interesting and useful interactive tool called “analyze my plate”, which enables one to calculate meal portions and calorie. This can be found at http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov/activities/analyze_my_plate.html.
The CDC also has a tool for calculating the amount of fruits and vegetables a person needs using age, sex and activity level (http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov/form.html)
The USDA has a similar tool “Myplate” .


1.       Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Among Adults --- United States, 2005. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5610a2.htm

4.     Ephraim Leibtag and Aylin Kumcu.  The WIC Fruit and Vegetable Cash Voucher: Does Regional Price Variation Affect Buying Power? Economic Information Bulletin No. (EIB-75) 21 pp, May 2011. http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/EIB75/

5. Hayden Stewart, Jeffrey Hyman, Jean C. Buzby, Elizabeth Fraz√£o, and Andrea Carlson. How Much Do Fruits and Vegetables Cost? Economic Information Bulletin No. (EIB-71) 37 pp, February 2011. http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/eib71/

                                6. Tim Locke. 5-a-Day ‘Not Enough’ Fruits and Vegetables. WebMD Health News


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Get your flu shot today!

"Got my flu shot today and it didn't hurt! If you hate the needle, the nasal spray option is available and I guarantee you this doesn't hurt! My kids were happy to choose this option! They cried all the way to the Pediatrician's office but came back very excited and happy! They told me to get the shot instead. Get your kids protected too! ...and, you know what? My wife took the shot first!"