Forget “an apple a day.” This past winter, a new study suggested that ten is the new sweet spot when it comes to the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables. That’s every day!
To be honest, an apple a day never really made the grade. For some time now, experts have been suggesting at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. On the USDA’s famous “food pyramid,” 3-5 servings of vegetables and 2-4 servings of fruit are recommended.
So why the big jump to ten servings per day?
The study, by the Imperial College of London’s School of Public Health, found that eating that number of fruits and vegetables per day could potentially reduce a person's chance of having a stroke by a third, while lowering the risk of heart disease by around 24 per cent. Additionally, cardiovascular disease and cancer could be staved off. The study found that if everyone followed the new rule nearly 8 million premature deaths could be prevented worldwide.
Since most people struggle to eat even a few portions of fruits and vegetables a day, the new guidelines could prove daunting. The good news is that boosting your intake of these healthy foods, even in smaller amounts can have great health benefits.
The study found that apples, pears, citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce and chicory, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower were found to be best at preventing heart disease and stroke, while green vegetables, such as green beans; yellow and orange vegetables such as peppers and carrots; and cruciferous vegetables could reduce cancer risk.
In addition to simply eating more fruits and vegetables, there are some great ways to “sneak” them into one’s daily diet:
- Add veggies to pasta sauces, chili or Sloppy Joes
- Serve steamed veggies with cheese sauce
- Use a spiral slicer to make veggie “pasta”
- Puree veggies into soups and sauces
- Fruit smoothies (of course!) -- use frozen fruit to make smoothies extra thick!
- Frozen fruit pops – puree fruit and pour into molds or ice cube trays
- Toss fruit into Greek yogurt, pancakes and oatmeal
While the message from the latest study is that we should all try to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in our diet, the ten-per-day recommendation is for adults. Websites such as http://www.buildhealthykids.com/servingsizes.html contain suggested serving sizes and amounts for children.
An you can rest assured that your kids are enjoying a lunch that is balanced, healthy and nutritious if their school or camp is being served by Lunch in Hand (www.lunchinhand.com).