Life Times Newsletter

Winter 2005
Vol. 7, No. 1

New dietary guidelines: Eat more fruits, veggies

Linda S. Rellergert, MS
Nutrition & Health Education Specialist


The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans was released January 12, 2005. For the first time, the amount of fruits and vegetables recommended is more than any other food group. Proportionally, the recommended amount is about half your plate.

Although Americans eat more than enough calories, most Americans do not get enough vitamins A & C, potassium, magnesium, and fiber. Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in calories, yet rich in those missing nutrients. Eating more fruits and vegetables can help with healthy weight management while providing essential nutrients.

Fruits and vegetables help with weight management

·   Fruits and vegetables are high in water and dietary fiber, which makes them low in calories  and helps you feel full.

·   Studies show that eating more fruits and vegetables results in eating fewer calories overall. People tend to eat about the same quantity of food even when calories in the food vary. When people eat more low-calorie foods, like fruits and vegetables, they naturally eat fewer high-calorie foods.

·   Emphasizing a positive message like “eat more fruits and vegetables” is encouraging, whereas messages about what you can’t eat focus attention on loss and deprivation. Accentuating the positive is more likely to bring success.

Fruits and vegetables fill nutrient gap

·      Fruits and vegetables can help us get enough of several key nutrients we have been lacking: potassium, fiber, and vitamins A and C.

·   Most Americans get less than half the amount of potassium they need for healthy blood pressure. Potassium is also necessary for muscles to contract, maintain fluid and electrolyte balance, send nerve impulses and release energy from food. Great sources of potassium include dark leafy greens like spinach, sweet potatoes, winter squash, potatoes, orange juice and beans like white beans, pinto beans, and kidney beans.

·   Fiber is another nutrient most Americans lack. Fiber helps maintain a healthy digestive tract and helps lower cholesterol, which in turn is important for a healthy heart. Although we often think of bran cereal and whole wheat as good sources of fiber, most beans provide more than two times as much fiber per half cup. Great sources of fiber include beans like navy beans, kidney beans, and split peas, raspberries, pears, green peas, blackberries, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens like spinach, parsnips, broccoli and blueberries.

·   Vitamin A is important for vision, healthy cells, growth, immune function, and maintenance of healthy bones, teeth, and hair, and yet most Americans do not get enough. Super sources of vitamin A include carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens like spinach, winter squash, red bell peppers, Chinese cabbage, and cantaloupe.

·   In spite of the popularity of orange juice, Vitamin C is another nutrient in short supply in most American diets. Other great sources of vitamin C include papayas, green peppers, strawberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, grapefruit, peas, kiwi, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, mangoes, cauliflower, pineapple, dark leafy greens, cabbage, asparagus, honeydew melon, okra, watermelon, tangerines, winter squash, and summer squash.

Filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables every meal—or 5 cups a day—will give you the potassium, fiber, vitamins A and C you need, and help you maintain a healthy weight. What a winning idea!

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University of Missouri Extension Editor: Roxanne T. Miller