Stop Counting Produce Servings and Focus on Colors Instead

Written By: Gloria Tsang, RD

Title: Founding Registered Dietitian

Alumni: University of British Columbia

Last Updated on:

You’ve probably had the 5-a-day slogan for fruits and vegetables drilled into your brain since you were a little kid. Most people don’t want to spend time measuring their fruits and vegetables, so we’ll let you in on a secret. While you should definitely try to incorporate more fruits and veggies into your diet, it’s actually more important to get a good variety of different colors of produce. Each color group has different phytochemicals, so mixing and matching gets you the most bang for your produce buck. That’s why we say 5-a-day is out, and 3-a-day is in: 3 different color groups of fruit and veggies, that is!

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Fruit and Vegetable Color Groups

  • Red: Provides lycopene, which may help prevent lung and prostate cancers, and antioxidants that may help prevent heart disease.Top picks: red grapes and apples, cherries, rhubarb, red bell peppers, tomatoes, beets.
  • Purple: Provides anthocyanins, which may help prevent heart disease and lower the risk of cancer.Top picks: concord grapes, blueberries, blackberries, plums, figs, eggplant.
  • Green: Provides lutein, which may reduce the risk of stroke and protect eyes against macular degeneration.Top picks: green grapes and apples, honeydew melon, kiwi, spinach, avocado, green beans.
  • Orange: Provides beta carotene, which may help prevent some cancers, reduce the risk of heart disease, and improve immune function.Top picks: mango, oranges, peaches, pumpkin, carrots, corn.
  • White: Provides anthoxanthins and allicin, which can help lower blood pressure and protect against stomach cancers.Top picks: bananas, cauliflower, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, turnips.

The Bottom Line

Choose at least one item from three different produce color groups daily to maximize the benefits of the fruit and veggies you eat. Stop counting 5-a-day and focus on 3-a-day instead!

So how much fruit and veggies should you be eating? An adult female should eat 2.5-3 servings of veggies and 1.5-2 servings of fruits, while an adult male should eat 3-4 servings of veggies and 2-2.5 servings of fruit. A serving amounts to one cup of raw fruit, one cup of cooked veggies, or two cups of raw veggies – so it’s not as simple as it may seem.

Health, Nutrition 101

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