Everyday Wellness: Fruits and vegetables -- peachy partners for preventive care

July 21, 2011

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Most of us know we're supposed to get our five-a-day of fruits and veggies. But does it really matter if we don't? Is it worth swapping a cookie for a banana when you get hungry? You decide.

What you eat doesn't just affect how much you weigh and whether you have to let your belt out another notch. Getting your five-a-day can reduce your chances of dying from stroke, cancer and heart disease by as much as 20 percent. Diet is thought to contribute to the development of one-third of all cancers, and upping the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat is one of the most important ways you can protect yourself from disease. 

What counts as a serving size?
Is broccoli the same as beans? Dried fruit the same as fresh fruit? Here are some answers on what counts as a serving:

* Vegetables
Fresh, frozen or canned varieties: 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw
Raw, leafy greens such as romaine, spinach, iceberg: 1 cup
* Beans or starchy vegetables such as potatoes, corn, peas or winter squash: 1/2 cup whole or mashed, cooked

* Fruits: 1 medium piece or 1/2 cup chopped, cooked or canned

* Dried fruits: 1/4 cup; for raisins, 2 tablespoons

* Juices: 8 ounces of 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice (limit juice to one serving per day)

How many servings a day should you have?
The appropriate number of servings you should have in a day depends on your age, gender, activity level and weight goals, but a good starting point is to aim for at least three vegetable servings and two fruit servings per day. In addition, larger serving sizes of non-starchy vegetables can help fill you up at meals so that you are less inclined to indulge in large portions of higher-calorie foods.

Sources: CIGNA, American Institute for Cancer Research

American Institute for Cancer Research:
* Serving size finder: www.aicr.org/site/PageServer?pagename=elements_serving_size
* Recommendations for cancer prevention: www.aicr.org/site/PageServer?pagename=recommendations_home
* Plant-based diet: www.aicr.org/site/PageServer?pagename=recommendations_04_plant_based

American Cancer Society:
* ACS guidelines on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention: www.cancer.org/Healthy/EatHealthyGetActive/ACSGuidelinesonNutritionPhysicalActivityforCancerPrevention/acs-guidelines-on-nutrition-and-physical-activity-for-cancer-prevention-diet-cancer-questions

* What counts as a cup of vegetables: www.choosemyplate.gov/foodgroups/vegetables_counts.html

How Purdue can help
* One-on-one nutrition counseling
Free one-on-one counseling (www.purdue.edu/hr/WorkLife/counseling.html) with a WorkLife Programs registered dietitian (R.D.) is available. Consultations are also available in Spanish. To make an appointment, complete the nutrition questionnaire at www.purdue.edu/hr/pdf/NutritionQuestionnaire.pdf, print it and send it to WorkLife Programs R.D., VPHR, PWF (campus mail) or 1402 W. State St., PWF, West Lafayette, IN 47907. Call 49-45461 if you have questions.

* Purdue Farmers Market
The Purdue Farmers Market will be open every Thursday through Oct. 27 at the corner of Sheetz and Wood streets. The number of growers and amount of produce on a given day depends on the natural progression of the growing season. For up-to-date information, visit the Purdue Farmers Market website at www.purdue.edu/physicalfacilities/farmersmarket.htm.

* myCIGNA.com
For information on nutrition and more, visit myCIGNA.com, select the Manage My Health tab and browse the online medical encyclopedia and other resources.