We are all aware how important it is to get enough fresh fruit and vegetables in our diet, yet most of us fail to accomplish that. Plus, the old “5 servings a day” recommendation, recently turned into “7 servings a day”. But how much is enough?
A study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health measured the health benefits derived from eating different amounts of fruits and veggies every day. It seems that even eating a little fresh produce daily is a lot better than eating none at all, but the benefits dramatically increase with the quantity.
According to the research, people who ate 1-3 servings of fruits and vegetables a day had 14% lower risk of dying (from any cause), the ones who ate 3-5 servings daily had 29% lower risk and eating 5-7 servings a day was associated to 36% lower risk.
Taking into account this new evidence on the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables it’s pretty obvious most of us are not getting enough of them. However, the “7 servings a day” is a bit vague, considering a 130 pounds 20-year old woman can’t have the same nutritional needs with a 200 pounds 60-year old man (just one example out of an endless list of possibilities).
For this reason the USDA is providing us with the necessary information on vegetable and fruit serving sizes as well as the daily number of servings required based on age and gender.
How much is one serving of fruits or vegetables?
The basic unit for measuring one serving is one cup for vegetables & vegetable juice, two cups for leafy greens like spinach and lettuce, one cup for fresh fruits and fruit juice and ½ for dry fruits.
It would be hard to check a chart every time you want to eat fruits or veggies, which is why we are offering you some basic measurements to get you started so you’ll be able to perform rough measurements without using documentation.
The following amounts count as 1 cup (serving) of fruit:
– 1 small apple
– 1 large banana
– 1 cup of grapes
– 1 large orange
– 1 medium grapefruit
– 1 large peach
– 1 medium pear
– 1 cup of pineapple (in any form)
– 2 large or 3 medium plums
– 8 large strawberries or 1 cup of strawberries
– 1 small wedge of watermelon or 1 cup of diced watermelon
– ½ cup of dried fruit (apricots, raisins, prunes…etc.)
– 1 cup of fruit juice
The following amounts count as 1 cup (serving) of vegetables:
– 1 cup of chopped broccoli
– 1 cup of cooked greens (kale, collards, mustard greens, turnip greens)
– ½ of raw spinach and leafy greens (lettuce, romaine, iceberg, watercress, endive, escarole…etc.)
– 1 cup of carrots (in any form)
– 1 cup of pumpkin
– 1 large red/green pepper or 1 cup chopped red/green peppers (raw or cooked)
– 1 large tomato or 1 cup of sliced tomato (raw or cooked)
– 1 cup of tomato juice
– 1 large (baked) sweet potato or 1 cup mashed or sliced (cooked)
– 1 cup winter squash (cooked)
– 1 cup of cooked dry beans and peas (whole or mashed)
– 1 cup of corn
– 1 cup of green peas
– 1 medium boiled/baked white potato or 1 cup mashed/diced
– 1 cup of cooked beansprouts
– 1 cup of chopped/shredded green cabbage (raw or cooked)
– 1 cup of pieces/florets of cauliflower (raw or cooked)
– 1 cup of sliced/diced celery (raw or cooked)
– 1 cup of raw sliced/chopped cucumbers
– 1 cup of cooked green beans
– 1 cup of mushrooms (raw or cooked)
– 1 cup of chopped onions (raw or cooked)
– 1 cup of sliced/diced cooked zucchini
There you go! These are the serving sizes for the most common fruits and vegetables. Now all you need to know is how many servings of each you need every day. The recommendations listed below are provided by the USDA for individuals who get less than 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity on top of normal daily activities. Your requirements might be higher if you are more active.
Daily fruit servings requirements based on age and gender
– 2-3 yrs old: 1 cup
– 4-8 yrs old: 1 – 1 ½ cups
– 9-18 yrs old: 1 ½ cups
– 9-13 yrs old: 1 ½ cups
– 14-18 yrs old: 2 cups
– 19-30 yrs old: 2 cups
– 31+ yrs old: – 1 ½ cups
– 19+ yrs old: 2 cups
Daily vegetable servings requirements based on age and gender
– 2-3 yrs old: 1 cup
– 4-8 yrs old: 1 ½ cups
– 9-13 yrs old: 2 cups
– 14-18 yrs old: 2 ½ cups
– 9-13 yrs old: 2 ½ cups
– 14-18 yrs old: 3 cups
– 19-50 yrs old: 2 ½ cups
– 51+ yrs old: – 2 cups
– 19-50 yrs old: 3 cups
– 51+ yrs old: 2 ½ cups