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!
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.
Gloria Tsang is the author of 5 books and the founder of HealthCastle.com, the largest online nutrition network run by registered dietitians. Her work has appeared in major national publications, and she is a regularly featured nutrition expert for media outlets across the country. The Huffington Post named her one of its Top 20 Nutrition Experts on Twitter. Gloria’s articles have appeared on various media such as Reuters, NBC & ABC affiliates, The Chicago Sun-Times, Reader’s Digest Canada, iVillage and USA Today.