By Linda Searing, HealthScoutNews
about less is more.
More is definitely
better, at least when it comes to eating fruits and vegetables.
And "more" means consuming at least five -- and as many
as nine -- servings a day of leafy greens and juicy fruits. Doing
so can drastically cut your risk of cancer and possibly prevent
a range of other diseases as well, health experts say.
who eat five or more [servings a day] versus those who eat one
or less have half the risk of developing certain types of cancers,"
says Gloria Stables, a dietitian and director of the "5 A
Day" program at the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
A diet rich
in fruits and vegetables also has been shown to protect against
cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and eye degeneration.
just trying to get the population to the minimum" -- which
means at least five servings a day -- "because we know there
are great health benefits to be gained by just getting to the
minimum," Stables says of the government effort to improve
people's eating habits and ultimately their health.
is "astounding," agrees Jeff Prince, vice president
for education at the American Institute for Cancer Research. An
international panel of experts assembled by the institute in 1999
found 158 studies that showed fruits and vegetables protected
against cancer, Prince says.
And yet getting
Americans to eat enough fruits and veggies remains a struggle.
The average adult eats less than half the ideal amount -- or approximately
four servings a day, Stables says.
Part of the
problem, Prince adds, is that "people seem cowed by the notion
of five servings." But that's because they misunderstand
just how much -- or little -- a serving is, he says.
size in America has grown humongous, largely because of commercial
entities and their value marketing," he says. "People
tend to think a portion is a serving size, but it's not. A serving
can be as small as a half-cup to a cup."
to proper nutrition is the multi-billion-dollar fast-food industry
and its huge advertising budget, says Linda Nebeling, chief of
health promotion research at the NCI.
the 10-year-old "5 A Day" program -- from the cancer
institute and its co-sponsor, the Produce for Better Health Foundation,
a produce industry group -- has totaled about $1 million a year,
Coke and Pepsi outspend what the produce area is able to spend
by tens of millions of dollars," she says. "We don't
have the same kind of in-your-face advertising dollars."
The good news
is that some people are getting the message. In Arizona, the number
of people who eat at least five fruit and vegetable servings a
day more than doubled in the past decade -- from approximately
17 percent in 1991 to 40 percent in 2000, according to a survey
highlighted in the "5 A Day's" summer newsletter.
So how do
you reach that elusive goal of nine daily servings of fruits and
vegetables. Consider adding a bit here and there to whatever else
you normally eat, health experts say. For instance:
- For breakfast,
a 6-ounce glass of juice and a banana sliced on a bowl of cereal
gives you two servings.
- For lunch,
you can get four more servings from a 12-ounce bottle of juice
and a small salad that includes a cup of lettuce and one-half
cup of some combination of raw vegetables, like broccoli, mushrooms,
celery and carrots.
- For dinner,
a half cup of beans and a medium-size baked potato adds two
- For dessert,
or perhaps as a mid-afternoon snack, half a cup of berries and
melon or other fresh fruit chunks provides a serving -- and
brings your daily total to nine.
opt for a supplement or pill and expect to reap the same disease-preventing
benefits, Stables says.
the synergy of all the substances [in fruits and vegetables] working
together that gives the biggest bang for the buck," she says.
Do: For a range of recipes and tips on upping your intake
of fruits and vegetables, check out the Web site of the
"5 A Day" program. For more information on healthy
eating, here is the Food Guide Pyramid, provided by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture.