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The high five.

The National Cancer Institute recommends that all Americans eat at least five servings daily of fruits and vegetables, in order to help protect against not only cancer, but also a wide range of other diseases. But only about 23% of us currently follow this advice. What about you? Unless you are a vegetarian, your answer will probably be, "I'm not sure." First of all, which foods count? (Iceberg lettuce? French fries? Popcorn? Orange marmalade?) Second, what counts as a serving?

What counts?

All fruits, melons, and berries count, and so do fruit and vegetable juices. Leafy vegetables, root vegetables, and legumes all count. Potatoes count, except potato chips and french fries, which can be largely fat. Popcorn is good food but is classified as a grain, not a fruit or vegetable. Orange marmalade and other sweet fruit preserves don't count: they are of little nutritional value and are usually eaten in small quantities. Fruit-flavored yogurts don't count as fruits, since they contain only a little fruit (usually just jam or preserves). Breads, cereals, rice, pasta, and other grains do not count as part of the daily five, but they should definitely be part of your diet. In fact, the experts recommend 6 to 11 servings of grains a day.

Servings don't need to be huge. Allow about a cup of raw leafy vegetables, 1/2 cup of cooked fruits and vegetables, including tomato sauces, 1/4 cup of dried fruit, one raw carrot, one whole fruit, one slice of melon, or 6 ounces of juice. Melons are tricky, since they come in so many sizes. If a canteloupe is small, half might be a serving, rather than one-third.

How to get enough: some options

* Be sure that every meal and snack includes a fruit, juice, or vegetable--or more than one.

* Start the day with a glass of orange juice plus a banana or raisins on your cereal. If you prefer toast and jam, add sliced apples or pears for an open-faced sandwich. Low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt and fruit also make a good breakfast. Add berries or cooked or diced fresh fruit to pancake batter. Try fruit on top of pancakes instead of (or with) syrup. On hurried mornings, blend a banana, orange juice, and plain nonfat yogurt for a fruit smoothie. Many fruits and juices can be added to smoothies.

* If you eat a sandwich at lunch, add tomato and lettuce, and have a small salad on the side. If you brown-bag it, pack carrot sticks, celery, tomatoes, and fruit. Cooked potatoes or broccoli left over from dinner travel well. So do chick peas and other canned legumes. If you eat in a restaurant, order extra vegetables.

* When you make soups and stews, cut down on meat and add a large variety of vegetables.

* Buy plain or flavored nonfat yogurt, rather than the kind with preserves, and add a serving of fresh or dried fruit.

* Instead of a coffee break, take a fruit- or vegetable-juice break. Make sure the juice you buy is real juice, not fruit "drink." Managing your five Choose nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables whenever you can. Accentuate the yellow or orange and the dark leafy green-- choose at least one of each daily. Spinach, romaine, and watercress are richer in nutrients than iceberg lettuce, which is little more than water. Carrots are far more nutritious than celery, berries than grapes, cantaloupe than cucumber, sweet potatoes than onions, and Brussels sprouts than mushrooms. But even celery and iceberg lettuce have something to offer in the way of flavor and texture.

The most important point is to choose a wide variety of produce. If you're bored with white potatoes, substitute sweet potato or acorn squash. Try sugar snaps or snow peas instead of shelled peas. Try different kinds of beans. Experiment with various cooking methods--steam, microwave, broil, or stir-fry your veggies. Keep a good selection of fruits and vegetables-- fresh, frozen, canned, and dried--in your pantry and refrigerator.
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Title Annotation:five servings of fruits and vegetables each day recommended
Publication:The University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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