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How Many Fruits and Vegetables Do You Need Daily?

How Many Fruits and Vegetables Do You Need Daily?

I’m pretty sure you’ve heard that you’re supposed to eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day. But do you have any idea what that means?

Studies show that eating more vegetables and fruits has been linked to a lower risk of lung, oral, esophageal, stomach, and colon cancer–and the USDA food pyramid recommends eating 3 to 5 servings of vegetables and 2 to 4 servings of fruit a day. Which actually equals out to a range of 5 to 9 servings a day. But how do we know what’s in a serving, and how many should we eat within the combined 5 to 9 range? It has become even more confusing when the talk shifts from servings to cups, which are not necessarily the same.

Your daily fruit and vegetable needs depend on your calorie needs, which are determined by your age, sex, and physical activity level. To find out how many servings you need, I really like this calculator created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It keeps it very clear by telling you how many cups you need daily. I was interersted to find that for my age, gender and activity the calculator recommends 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables every day–how much do you need?

To get an idea of how much one cup is, here is a quick summary:

  • one large banana
  • eight large strawberries
  • two large plums
  • fifteen grapes
  • one apple
  • one pear
  • one cup of raw or cooked vegetables
  • two cups of raw leafy greens
  • one half cup dried fruit
  • twelve baby carrots
  • one large ear of corn

A half cup is equal to:

  • one half cup orange or other fruit juice
  • five broccoli florets
  • six baby carrots
  • one half grapefruit
  • one medium wedge of cantaloupe
  • half of a baked sweet potato
  • one quarter cup of raisins
  • five broccoli florets

Do you meet the recommended requirements? Do have any great tips for getting extra fruit and vegetables in your daily diet?

Read more: Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Food, , , , ,

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

19 comments

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11:09PM PST on Mar 1, 2014

Thanks for sharing.

7:48AM PDT on Jul 29, 2012

Thanks.

6:49PM PDT on Sep 26, 2011

Thanks. I need more fruts and veggies!

8:30AM PDT on Sep 7, 2011

Good to know, thanks!

3:04PM PST on Feb 20, 2011

The calculator link was fun. The major part of my diet are fruit and vegetables but honestly, I can't consume the quantity that was recommended. I then used the calculator for my kids and I am certain that the quantity of fruit and vegetables is greater than the total amount of food they eat.

8:23AM PST on Feb 20, 2011

My diabetes doctor made it really simple. divide a plate in half. One half veggies, 1 quarter meat or other animal protein and the other quarter carbs, including fruit--2/da. I eat less than a quarter carbs--no breads, rice, potatoes, pasta, etc. I have just lost my desire for carbs. Sometimes I hsve some beans, but not much or my glucose spikes. Best fruits--cantelope and berries. Apples send my sugar through the roof, yet, peaches, pears and others don't. Go figure. I don't touch bananas. Don't even want to try them. I I have lowered my glucose over 300 points without insulin.

9:41AM PDT on Aug 26, 2010

I think it's a great idea, but I don't know many people who can pull it off, at least not regularly. For us (my lovely wife and me), it came down to finding a supplement to help -- a friend turned us onto this, and it's made a huge difference in our overall health and energy level. If anyone's interested..... http://bit.ly/b32mf9

8:38PM PDT on May 30, 2010

thanks for the link to the calculator. as per calculator, i need 2 cups of fruits and 3 cups of vegetables. i think i'm on track :)

3:43AM PST on Jan 30, 2010

A serving of fruit at least once a day,..more is better. Breakfast and dinner is a good time for a fruit dessert. Three different veggies a day is good. Try to get at least one yellow and one green. Beans and all legumes are also veggies and very healthy. Eat the raw ones too at least twice a day,..in salads or just munch them raw. I love to snack on raw carrots. Sliced tomatoes are great anytime.
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6:08AM PST on Jan 13, 2010

Five servings a day? We are lucky if we have at most 1 to 2 servings of fruits and vegies a day.

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