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Nine Servings a Day Minimum

In trying to reach your nine daily servings of fruits and vegetables, which ones don’t count?

August 30, 2007 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited



Let me make one thing clear though, even if all you have to eat are the single most pesticide contaminated plant foods: the peaches, apples, peppers. The benefits of these fruits and vegetables outweigh the risk even if you can't find organic options. So while organic is absolutely better, we should never avoid buying fruits and vegetables out of fears of pesticide exposure. Remember the green study? Three leaves of spinach! The benefits of even pesticide laden conventional produce blow away the risks, but if you have a choice and the means certainly buy organic.

Plants are storehouses of thousands of special phytonutrients. What is in plant foods that is so good for us? Is it the vitamin C, the vitamin E, the fiber, the folate, flavinoids, phytoestrogens, the antioxidants  beta carotene, potassium, lycopene, luteine? Does it really matter? Well it matters to the drug manufacturers. Right, they can't patent a carrot and make a million dollars off of it, although I'm sure they are trying! Drug companies have done all these studies where they said, look we know fruits and vegetables prevent cancer, I bet it's that beta carotene stuff. So they gave people beta carotene supplements to see if that prevented cancer. Didn't work. There more than 500 different carotinoids. More than 500 different carotenes, from alpha-carotene through zeta-carotene and beyond and they just gave people beta and expected it to work? So they tried vitamin E supplements. Didn't work. Vitamin C supplements. Didn't work. They just can't find the right mixture. Luteine , this great antioxidant in leafy greens has recently been added to Centrum's one a day multivitamin. If you look on the back here, it says each pill has 250 micro-grams of luteine. Well, this single leaf of collard greens has more than 10,000. Popeye was right! Eat your greens!

So instead of trying to synthesize a pill to prevent cancer, we've know all along that whole fruits and veggies prevent cancer naturally so why don't doctors prescribe that? They're cheap. Doctors should be whipping out their prescription pads and writing prescriptions for broccoli, 1 cup a day, unlimited refills. Side effects include, a lower risk of mouth cancer, throat cancer, esophageal cancer, lung, breast, stomach, colon, kidney, bladder, prostate. ovarian, endemetrial and cervical cancer as well. Oh and you might get a little piece of green stuck in your teeth. All embarrassing  The same diet that prevents stroke and cancer, also prevents heart disease and diverticulitis and protects against emphysema, dementia, cataracts and macular degeneration. Imagine if the "kale lobby" had McDonald's $100 million advertising budget. So try to put veggies on everything. The more the better. No longer should we ever have spaghetti with marinara sauce. We should have spaghetti with marinara sauce with lots of veggies on top. Right? No longer just a bean burrito, but a bean burrito with lots of veggies stuffed in it. Vegetables should ideally be the center piece of our meals. The official federal recommendation for the minimum number of servings of fruits and veggies is now up to nine a day. Minimum! And iceberg lettuce doesn't count towards that total. And neither does fruit juice, fruit loops, ketchup or white potatoes.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

To help out on the site please email

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the prequel to this video, Can pesticides be rinsed off?. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos--please feel free to explore them as well!

For some context, please check out my associated blog post: Vitamin B12: how much, how often?

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the prequel to this video, Can pesticides be rinsed off?. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them as well!

  • kerleyc

    Great info. Dr. Greger as usual but being Irish, I’ve never heard of federal guidelines for 9 portions of fruit & veg/day. I wonder could you kindly provide a link(s). thanks again…

  • Dirty Cyclist
  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Also be sure to check out my associated blog post Vitamin B12: how much, how often?!

  • Traportka

    Please, would you be so kind as to give me some sort of sample meal plan or guidelines for a full week, breakfast, lunch, dinner for a plant based diet.  I have been winging it and really need the guidance.  Thanks in advance.  I am forever grateful for the knowledge you so generously share.  It’s a treasure!

    • Guest

      Try She has terrific vegan meal plans for an individual or family.

      • Traportka

        Thank you!  I’ve already linked up to her.  I am grateful for your response.  All the best to you………..

  • Umfatimah

    especially lovely post!! thanks so much for making nutritional science simple and applicable!

  • Beng645

    Dear Dr. Greger I have been diagnosed with Ulcerated Colitisand treated with Asacol 5.7g/day Is there a reason to hope that a plant based nutrition can treat this condition without aggravating it farther? Benjamin

  • Sue

    Can you give me some other sources/studies to refer to that show that whole plant foods are superior to isolated supplements of vitamins & minerals?
    Thank you.

    • Toxins

      Isolated vitamins usually can result in toxicity, aside from that, whole plant foods have thousands of phytonutrients you will never find in a single supplement.

    • barbarabrussels

      you may also want to check out Terry Wahls Ted talk

  • Karin Parsons Curran

    I’m curious why not white potatoes, as long as they’re prepared without added oils/fats/dairy/other bad stuff? I’ve been reading Dr McDougall for decades (along with lots of the other similar-minded ones) and it seems that white potatoes are one of the few virtually nutritionally complete foods out there (sweet potatoes better). By that, I mean that one could live on white potatoes alone without nutritional deficiencies (assuming no underlying issue and able to eat enough to meet caloric needs).

    Also curious about iceberg lettuce not counting either. I thought the perception around iceberg being totally worthless as a food was a myth thing that Jeff Novick or someone else I trust debunked. Thanks!

    PS: even if you do consider the potatoes and lettuce to be not as good as “real” vegetables, it seems a bit rough to lump them in with fruit loops and ketchup!!!!!

    • Scott Beavers

      There is no reason to NOT consume potatoes, even white. As you say, they are nutritionally complete as a whole food. They have a bad rap and myth, but it is completely unfounded. Dr. McDougall has it right. Eat your potatoes and be a starchivore!