A lot of people ask me how many vegetables should I eat a day to stay healthy. There truly is no limit to the number of veggies that you should have a day. Even if you don’t like vegetables you should always have 5 servings a day. Perhaps you’ve heard the expression “eat your vegetables”, but do you really know why these foods are so important? Here we have some excellent healthy
food sources packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber that play a vital role in protecting your health. When starting a healthy diet plan, it is important to not only focus on your protein and carbohydrate intake but also work to incorporate vegetables every single day. Eating a large amount of vegetables every day will not only allow you to have a more nutritious diet but also
provide you with over 170 nutrients that are essential for your body. Eating vegetables is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Below, you will find some of the health benefits of eating vegetables. The word “vegetables” can be pretty boring for some. They’re healthy, low in calories and good for your body but to others, it turns them off.
How Many Vegetables Should I Eat A Day
A question that I hear asked all the time from people looking to improve their health is: How Many Vegetables Should I Eat A Day? That’s a great question, and one I am about to answer for you. I am going to explain why it is so important to not only eat vegetables every day, but how many vegetables you should eat. Not a question you should take lightly because it’s important to your health.
The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 2 1/2 cups of vegetables per day (based on a 2,000-calorie diet).
One cup of vegetables is…
- = 1 cup of raw or cooked veggies
- = 1 cup of frozen or canned veggies
- = 1 cup of 100-percent vegetable juice without any added sugars
- = 2 cups of raw, leafy salad greens
For canned vegetables, choose no-salt-added or low-sodium varieties, or be sure to rinse your vegetables before using them. For frozen vegetables, choose those without sauces, butter, or gravy. Make sure to also read the label on vegetable juice, as some have added sugars.
When it comes to getting enough vegetables, it does get a little more complicated. There are five subgroups of vegetables you want to choose from each week in order to get a variety of nutrients. The greater variety of vegetables you take in, the more good-for-you nutrients your body gets which helps keep you healthy.
- Dark green vegetables (e.g. kale, spinach): 1 1/2 cups per week
- Red and orange vegetables (e.g. carrots, red bell peppers): 5 1/2 cups per week
- Beans, peas, lentils: 1 1/2 cups per week
- Starchy vegetables (e.g. potatoes, corn): 5 cups per week
- Other vegetables (e.g. asparagus, cabbage): 4 cups per week
Again, someone with a health condition, such as kidney disease or diabetes, may need to modify the types of fruits and vegetables they take in. In this case, best to talk to your doctor and a nutritionist to find out the best types of produce for you and your health.
What Eating Enough Fruits and Vegetables Per Day Might Look Like
Adding fruits and veggies to your meals and snacks throughout the day helps ensure that you get the amount you need.
Breakfast: Warm bowl of oatmeal (made with 1/2 cup dry rolled oats and 1/2 cup milk or water), topped with 1 cup fresh blueberries
Lunch: Caprese sandwich made with mozzarella cheese and 1/2tomato, sliced; 1 cup salad greenstopped with balsamic vinaigrette
Afternoon snack: Hummus with 1 cup cut-up veggie sticks such as carrots, bell peppers, and cucumbers
Dinner: Baked salmon fillet, 1/2 cup roasted Brussel sprouts, 3/4 cup cooked farro
Evening snack: 1 medium pear topped with 1 tablespoon peanut butter
Still hungry after a meal? Start by adding 1/2 cup of vegetables or fruit. If you still need more, then increase it to 1 cup of either or both. Both are lower in calories than other post-meal noshes you might have in your cabinet and provide many beneficial nutrients.
Now, just because you figured out how many servings of fruits and vegetables to eat per day, doesn’t mean you’re always going to meet those amounts every day. After all, you’re only human (and, please, don’t beat yourself up!). And while you should try not to make a regular habit of not meeting your daily intake recommendations, your diet is really an average of what you eat over a few days. So missing one day and having extra fruit the next day evens out at the end. And remember: Fruits and vegetables have been shown over and over again to have so many health benefits, so don’t fall for those diets that tell you to avoid certain vegetables or eliminate fruit. It’s really about balance, and removing healthful food from your diet is the worst thing you can do for your body.
Squeezing in five servings per day
If five servings per day is the goal, how much, exactly, is a serving? We spell that out for a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in the table below (see “Fruit and vegetable servings”).
This can guide you in planning meals that include your favorites. Aim for a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to get the best mix of vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial nutrients in your personalized five-a-day plan.
|Fruit and vegetable servings|
|Fruit (and serving size)|
|Apple (1 fruit)|
|Apricots (1 fresh, 1/2 cup canned. or 5 dried)|
|Avocado (1/2 fruit or 1/2 cup)|
|Banana (1 fruit)|
|Blueberries (1/2 cup fresh, frozen, or canned)|
|Cantaloupe (1/4 melon)|
|Grapefruit (1/2 fruit)|
|Grapes (1/2 cup)|
|Peaches or plums (1 fresh or 1/2 cup canned)|
|Pear (1 fruit)|
|Prunes or dried plums (6 prunes or 1/4 cup)|
|Raisins (1 ounce)|
|Strawberries (1/2 cup fresh, frozen, or canned)|
|Vegetable (and serving size)|
|Broccoli (1/2 cup)|
|Brussels sprouts (1/2 cup)|
|Cabbage (1/2 cup)|
|Carrot juice (2–3 ounces)|
|Carrots (1/2 cup cooked, 1/2 raw carrot, or 2–4 sticks)|
|Cauliflower (1/2 cup)|
|Celery (2–3 sticks)|
|Corn (1 ear or 1/2 cup frozen or canned)|
|Eggplant (1/2 cup)|
|Kale, mustard greens, or chard (1/2 cup)|
|Lettuce (1 cup iceberg, leaf, romaine)|
|Mixed or stir-fry vegetables (1/2 cup)|
|Onion (1 slice)|
|Peppers (3 slices green, yellow, or red)|
|Salsa, picante or taco sauce (1/4 cup)|
|Spinach (1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw)|
|Squash, dark orange (winter) (1/2 cup)|
|Summer squash or zucchini (1/2 cup)|
|String beans (1/2 cup)|
|Tomato or V-8 juice (small glass)|
|Tomatoes (2 slices)|
|Tomato sauce (1/2 cup)|
|Vegetable soup (1 cup)|
|Yams or sweet potatoes (1/2 cup)|
The most healthful vegetables
Spinach is a leafy green vegetable and a great source of calcium, vitamins, iron, and antioxidants.
Due to its iron and calcium content, spinach is a great addition to any meat- or dairy-free diet.
One cup of raw spinach is mostly made up of water and contains only 7 calories. It also provides:
- an adult’s full daily requirement of vitamin K
- high amounts of vitamin A
- vitamin C
Vitamin K is essential for a healthy body — especially for strong bones, as it improves the absorption of calcium.
Spinach also provides a good amount of iron for energy and healthy blood, and a high level of magnesium for muscle and nerve function.
It is also rich in antioxidants, and research suggests that spinach leaves may lower blood pressure and benefit heart health.
If a person is taking blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), they should use caution when increasing their intake of dark leafy greens. Doctors recommend maintaining a consistent vitamin K intake over time for people taking these medications.
How to eat spinach
People enjoy spinach raw in salads, sandwiches, and smoothies. Cooked spinach also has significant health benefits and is a great addition to pasta dishes and soups.
Kale is a very popular leafy green vegetable with several health benefits. It provides around 7 calories per cup of raw leaves and good amounts of vitamins A, C, and K.
Kale may benefit people with high cholesterol. One small 2008 study reports that males with high cholesterol who drank 150 milliliters of kale juice each day for 12 weeks experienced a 10% reduction in low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol and a 27% increase in high-density lipoprotein, or “good,” cholesterol.
Research from 2015, meanwhile, suggests that kale juice can reduce blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.
If a person is taking blood thinners, such as Coumadin, they should use caution when increasing their intake of dark leafy greens. It is best to maintain a consistent vitamin K intake while taking these medications.
How to eat kale
People use baby kale in pasta dishes, salads, and sandwiches. A person may also enjoy kale chips or juice.
Broccoli is an incredibly healthful vegetable that belongs to the same family as cabbage, kale, and cauliflower. These are all cruciferous vegetables.
Each cup of chopped and boiled broccoli contains:
- around 31 calories
- the full daily requirement of vitamin K
- twice the daily recommended amount of vitamin C
According to the National Cancer Institute, animal research has found that certain chemicals, called indoles and isothiocyanates, in cruciferous vegetables may inhibit the development of cancer in several organs, including the bladder, breasts, liver, and stomach.
These compounds may protect cells from DNA damage, inactivate cancer-causing agents, and have anti-inflammatory effects. However, research in humans has been mixed.
How to eat broccoli
Broccoli is very versatile. People can roast it, steam it, fry it, blend it into soups, or enjoy it warm in salads.
Peas are a sweet, starchy vegetable. They contain 134 calories per cooked cup, and they are rich in:
- fiber, providing 9 grams (g) per serving
- protein, providing 9 g per serving
- vitamins A, C, and K
- certain B vitamins
Green peas are a good source of plant-based protein, which may be especially beneficial for people with vegetarian or vegan diets.
Peas and other legumes contain fiber, which supports good bacteria in the gut and helps ensure regular bowel movements and a healthy digestive tract.
They are also rich in saponins, plant compounds that may help protect against oxidative stress and cancer.
How to eat peas
It might be handy to keep a bag of peas in the freezer and gradually use them to boost the nutritional profiles of pasta dishes, risottos, and curries. A person might also enjoy a refreshing pea and mint soup.
5. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are root vegetables. Baked in its skin, a medium sweet potato provides 103 calories and 0.17 g of fat.
Each sweet potato also contains:
- much more than an adult’s daily requirement of vitamin A
- 25% of their vitamin C and B6 requirements
- 12% of their potassium requirement
- beta carotene, which may improve eye health and help fight cancer
Sweet potatoes may be a good option for people with diabetes. This is because they are low on the glycemic index and rich in fiber, so they may help regulate blood sugar.
How to eat sweet potatoes
For a simple meal, bake a sweet potato in its skin and serve it with a source of protein, such as fish or tofu.
One cup of raw beets contains:
- 58.5 calories
- 442 milligrams (mg) of potassium
- 148 micrograms of folate
Beets and beet juice are great for improving heart health, as the vegetable is rich in heart-healthy nitrates. A small 2012 study reports that drinking 500 g of beet juice significantly lowered blood pressure in healthy people.
These vegetables may also benefit people with diabetes. Beets contain an antioxidant called alpha-lipoic acid, which might be helpful for people with diabetes-related nerve problems, called diabetic neuropathy.
How to eat beets
Roasting beets brings out their natural sweetness, but they also taste great raw in juices, salads, and sandwiches.
Each cup of chopped carrots contains 52 calories and over four times an adult’s daily recommended intake of vitamin A, in the form of beta carotene.
Vitamin A is vital for healthy eyesight, and getting enough of this nutrient may help prevent vision loss.
Certain nutrients in carrots may also have cancer-fighting properties. A 2018 review of 10 articles reports that dietary carrot intake was associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer.
How to eat carrots
Carrots are extremely versatile. They work well in casseroles and soups, and they provide great health benefits when eaten raw, possibly with a dip such as hummus.
8. Fermented vegetables
Fermented vegetables provide all the nutrients of their unfermented counterparts as well as healthful doses of probiotics.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that are present in the body and in some foods and supplements. Some researchers believe that they can improve gut health.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, probiotics may help with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. They may also prevent infection- or antibiotic-induced diarrhea.
Some good vegetables for fermentation include:
- cabbage, as sauerkraut
- cucumbers, as pickles
Health Benefits of Eating Vegetables
Vegetables are a good source of nutrients and vitamins that help you reduce risk of several conditions including cancer and heart disease. In this article, we will discuss several health benefits of eating vegetables. Eating your vegetables was never so fun! If you’ve ever tried to get your kids to eat the stuff, then you’ll want to read this article. ‘Cause yes, there really is a reason for eating our veggies.
1. Fight inflammation
Sometimes inflammation is good, but too much chronic inflammation isn’t great for our bodies. Veggies are one of the best foods to eat to help you fend off inflammation. They are rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals to help your body.
2. Improve blood pressure
Nearly half of Americans have high blood pressure, according to the CDC. When it comes to your diet and blood pressure, eating too much salt isn’t great. But, eating more potassium-rich foods can help reduce the damage of a high-sodium diet. Vegetables, like beets and spinach, deliver potassium (amongst other nutrients) and the fiber from vegetables also helps your heart.
3. Up your fiber
Most of us don’t hit our recommended fiber intake (that’s 38g/day for men and 25g/day for women). Eating high-fiber foods like whole grains, fruits, legumes, nuts and yes, vegetables can help you get enough of this key nutrient. Fiber is great for your heart and gut, but also can keep you full and reduce your risk of developing diabetes. All vegetables have fiber, so choose a variety to get your fill. Artichokes, sweet potatoes and peas all make our list of foods with more fiber than an apple.
4. Help your eyes
Eye health may be top of mind if you stare at a computer and phone all day, which can strain your eyes, according to the American Optometric Association. If you want to protect your eyes, eat more vegetables (you’ll also want to take some screen breaks and see your eye doctor). Lutein and zeaxanthin are two carotenoids that help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). You’ll find them and other eye-protecting carotenoids in basil, corn, red peppers, spinach and broccoli.
5. Improve your skin
You can help take care of your skin by staying hydrated and getting quality sleep, but what you eat can help too. Tomatoes deliver lycopene, which can actually help protect your skin from sunburn (sunscreen is important too). Kale and avocados can help keep your skin more elastic. Many vegetables, like cucumbers and celery, also have a high water content to help you meet your hydration goals for glowing skin.
6. Reduce risk of heart disease
Heart disease is the leading killer of men and women in America and diet plays a big role in helping keep your heart healthy. Vegetables give you potassium and fiber, two nutrients that are good for your heart. Adding lots of veggies to your diet can also help you keep your weight in a healthy range, which takes some pressure off your heart. Leafy greens, avocados and tomatoes make our list of top heart-healthy foods, but all veggies have benefits for your heart.
7. Benefit for blood sugar
Whether you have diabetes or not, vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber and nutrients, so they can help fill you up and can minimize blood sugar spikes during meals. Adding some arugula to your pasta helps bulk up your plate and keep you satisfied. Try adding peppers to tacos or cauliflower to stir-fries. Some vegetables are higher in starches and carbs—think potatoes, corn, squash, peas—but they can still be included in your diet.
8. Reduce risk of cancer
No diet choice is guaranteed to keep you cancer free, but vegetables are full of cancer-fighting nutrients and antioxidants that may reduce your risk of certain types of cancers. Cruciferous vegetables, like Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, have been studied for their cancer-fighting power. They deliver potassium, folate, vitamin C and phytochemicals, as well as sulforaphane (highest in broccoli) which may protect your cells from carcinogens. Variety is key here, as all veggies have different nutrients and protective effects.
9. Keep your brain young
If you want to keep your brain sharp, including vegetables in your diet is the way to go. Vegetables, especially leafy greens, are part of the MIND Diet, which was designed by researchers to help reduce your risk of Alzhemier’s disease and dementia. The antioxidants and folate they deliver are key nutrients for your brain.
10. Improve your immune health
It’s no secret that what you eat impacts your immune system. Vitamin C is a key nutrient that’s found in lots of vegetables (people are always surprised to learn that broccoli and bell peppers have more vitamin C than an orange) that helps keep your immune system strong. Eating a well-balanced diet with a variety of foods is also important for your immune system, so include lots of different veggies as well as fruits, whole grains, healthy fats and protein sources.
11. They fight bloat
Although you may associate vegetables with creating a bloated belly, most vegetables actually do the opposite. Vegetables are rich in fiber, which flushes out waste and gastric irritants and prevents constipation by keeping the digestive tract moving.
Vegetables can also help you look leaner by counteracting bloat caused by salt. Most American adults get nearly twice the recommended sodium limit. Eating a bacon and egg biscuit, a typical restaurant meal, or instant soup means consuming nearly an entire day’s sodium allotment. Vegetables are rich in both potassium and water, which help flush excess sodium out of the body while restoring the body’s normal fluid balance.
To ease that full feeling in your stomach, try eating fennel, cucumbers, summer squash, romaine lettuce, red leaf lettuce or tomatoes.
If you experience gas when you start to add more fiber and vegetables to your diet, choose steamed vegetables rather than raw ones. The heat from cooking breaks down some of the fiber and will keep gastric distress to a minimum as your body adjusts to consuming the fiber you need.
12. They create a youthful glow
Want younger-looking skin? Vegetables prevent unwanted signs of aging and keep skin young and supple thanks to phytonutrients, vitamin C and high water content.
Many vegetables are 85% to 95% water, which helps hydrate the skin and reduce wrinkles. And phytonutrients, found in all vegetables, can guard against premature aging by preventing cell damage from stress, the sun, pollution and other environmental toxins. Vitamin C aids in collagen formation, according to studies.
Choose brightly colored red and orange vegetables and you’ll get an added boost of beta carotene, which can give you a healthy glow as it protects skin from sun damage. Similarly, lycopene, found in red vegetables such as tomatoes, also has been shown to act as a natural sunscreen.
Eat vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, broccoli and potatoes for vitamin C, and carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and other orange produce for beta carotene.
13. They reduce stress
Stress can make you tired and moody, hindering your ability to make healthy nutrition choices. The result is emotional overeating and binges.
Meanwhile, nutrients like magnesium and vitamin C are quickly depleted during stressful times. Luckily, many vegetables contain these very nutrients, as well as tension-reducing omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins that fight anxiety and depression.
The potassium and magnesium found in some vegetables can also calm you on the inside as they relax blood vessels and keep your blood pressure down, according to research. And fiber keeps blood sugar levels stable, preventing dips in energy and the associated mood swings.
To reduce stress, eat any vegetable. Mushrooms, leafy greens, squash, potatoes, bell peppers, spinach, bok choy, fennel, string beans and edamame are especially good sources of several vitamins and minerals.
For a no-fuss way to consume more vegetables and combat stress, add leafy greens, mushrooms and peppers to your sandwiches, wraps, soups, pizza, tomato sauce and omelets.
14. They protect your bones
Most people think of dairy foods as the bone protectors, thanks to their high calcium and vitamin D content. But some vegetables also have these same nutrients in addition to bone-building vitamin K, magnesium, potassium and prebiotic fiber.
Tomatoes in particular have recently been connected to bone health. A study found that when you remove lycopene-rich foods like tomatoes from the diet, women are at increased risk of osteoporosis.
Eat strong-spined, dark leafy greens like collard greens, turnip greens, kale, spinach (cooked for more calcium!), broccoli and green peas for calcium and vitamin K. Mushrooms contain vitamin D while asparagus, chard, kale, artichokes, onions, garlic and leeks are full of prebiotic fiber.