Nutrition in our Food: It’s From Eating It

By Posted on How many wrong ways are there to eat a plain, raw apple? Answer: None.

According to an opinion piece in this past Sunday’s New York Times, the vegetables and fruits we eat today contain a fraction of the health promoting phytonutrients found in the wild varieties of these foods. These stripped down versions, says the author, Jo Robinson, are a driving force for many chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer.

Her conclusion: The message to eat more of our current vegetables and fruits is not enough – we must also select the “right” varieties, including blue corn, arugula (pictured) and wild foods like dandelion greens, for best health.

I love seeing the heirloom purple carrots, blue potatoes and dark red apples in farmer’s markets and even in some grocery stores. And it’s a dietitian’s dream to see people eating a wide variety of deep and colorful fruits and vegetables.

But right now, most Americans are not eating even the minimum recommended amounts of any kinds of veggies and fruits – a total of about 3-4 cups per day. A 2009 report from the CDC shows that barely one-third of U.S. adults consumed fruit two or more times per day and only about one in four reported eating at least three servings of vegetables per day.

And the evidence is clear: eating plenty of those basic supermarket varieties of vegetables and fruits and other plant foods like grains and legumes link to reduced risk for many cancers, according to AICR’s expert report and its updates. These plant foods also help people get to and stay a healthy weight, and excess body fat is a cause of seven different cancers.

Plant foods do contain health-promoting phytochemicals like anthocyanins and carotenoids and polyphenols, but what they don’t contain is a lot of calories per bite. That means you can eat a lot of these foods and feel satisfied without overeating. And that, by itself, is one great reason to focus on finding ways to get more vegetable and fruit in your diet because a healthy weight is one of the most important ways to reduce your risk for cancer and other chronic diseases.

Fresh, frozen or canned – find ways to fill two-thirds of your plate with vegetables, fruits and other plant foods. And, yes, the more color the better.

How do you add more plant foods to your diet?



    Author: Alice RD

    Alice G. Bender, MS, RDN, is the Director of Nutrition Programs at AICR. She helps put the science of cancer prevention by providing tips and tools to choose nutritious and delicious foods. Alice has guided thousands of individuals to healthier lives through diet changes and choices.

    One thought on “Nutrition in our Food: It’s From Eating It”

    1. The Article ‘Nutrition in our food: It’s from eating it’, clearly sets out the need for adults to eat about 3-4 cups – a-day of leafy green and brighly coloured greens for health health benefits. To increase the likliehood of gaining such benefits, cooking from scratch ingredients in food provision versus, ready-made meals, can make a huge positive difference. Learning to cook from an early age then continued through education must surely be made a priority- a birthright.

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