So far we’ve looked in depth at the three macronutrients — carbohydrate, proteins and fats — as the basis of good nutrition. Now let’s shift gears and take a look at a group of foods that really should have their own distinct classification — vegetables and fruits.
Plant foods should make up the bulk of your dietary intake because they contain vitamins, minerals and, just as important, phytonutrients. And, there are thousands of phytonutrients that scientists believe may have an even more important role than vitamins in promoting health and preventing disease.
Fruits and vegetables also contain small amounts of protein and essential fatty acids, and are a key source of fiber and prebiotics, which are both essential for good health, as we will learn in the following chapter. Generally fruits are foods that contain a seed within, whereas vegetables have a separate seed. Both contain some carbohydrates, some high enough for those who are carbohydrate intolerant to avoid.
These include most potatoes, corn, watermelon, pineapple and dried fruits. Some foods that are technically fruits are usually thought of as vegetables — these include avocados, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, squash and other fruits that are not sweet. But basically, vegetables and fruits are all plant foods that should make up the bulk of the diet.
Most people don’t eat enough vegetables and fruits, and there are very, very few who eat too much of this good thing. I often recommend as a general guideline that people try to eat at least 10 servings of vegetables and fruits per day. Many of these should be raw, and most, if not all, should be fresh.
What is a serving?
Traditionally many have considered a serving to be a half-cup. More recently, however, many dietary guidelines have recommended different approaches for measuring servings. For instance, a serving of lettuce might be a cup and a half; a serving of carrots might be one medium carrot; a serving of broccoli is one medium stalk, and a serving of asparagus is five spears. Using guidelines like these will help you to eat more vegetables than using the traditional half-cup serving.
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