Nine Servings a Day Minimum

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

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Let me make one thing clear, though. Even if all you have to eat are the single most pesticide-contaminated plant foods—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 greens 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’s so good for us? Is it the vitamin C, the vitamin E, the fiber, the folate, flavonoids, 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’re 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 are more than 500 different carotinoids. More than 500 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 micrograms 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 known 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: one 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, endometrial, 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 diverticulosis, 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 centerpiece 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 do 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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Let me make one thing clear, though. Even if all you have to eat are the single most pesticide-contaminated plant foods—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 greens 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’s so good for us? Is it the vitamin C, the vitamin E, the fiber, the folate, flavonoids, 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’re 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 are more than 500 different carotinoids. More than 500 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 micrograms 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 known 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: one 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, endometrial, 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 diverticulosis, 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 centerpiece 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 do 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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

For more on the efficacy of supplements versus whole foods:

And more on the carotenoid family of phytonutrients:

Learn more about lutein:

And check out the prequel: Can pesticides be rinsed off?

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

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

23 responses to “Nine Servings a Day Minimum

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    1. Hey there! Just got the daily dozen app, it looks fantastic. One question, what’s a serving size? For instance, under Beans, it says “1/4 cup of hummus/bean dip, 1/2 cup cooked beans…, 1 cup of fresh peas/sprouted lentils.” Are you saying that 1 serving size is 1/2 cup cooked beans, and therefore at 3 servings/day, I should be having 1 1/2 cups of beans a day? I feel so stupid for asking that, as it seems obvious, but there it is.

  1. 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…

  2. 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!

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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!!!!!

    1. 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!

    2. Below is the link to the article by Jeff Novick where he shows nutrient by nutrient that iceberg lettuce is almost a nutrient dense as romaine lettuce.
      http://jeffnovick.com/RD/Articles/Entries/2008/3/21_Iceberg_Lettuce__A_Lesson_In_Nutrient_Density.html

      And here is Jeff Novick’s response to the outcry against potatoes due to the results from the Nurses’ Health Study published in Am J Clin Nutr 2006;83:284 –90.
      https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=434650191818

  6. For nearly 3 decades I have been eating a diet rich in fiber, fruits and vegetables. Although I am not vegan, the importance of getting a huge amount of our nutrients from whole foods is well documented and continues to be supported by the scientific research. Getting enough is not as hard as one would think, but it does require preparation and planning.

  7. I have a question about apps and websites that count nutritional intake based on foods you type in and their amounts. I used a website called Chronometer and I eat a very healthy mostly plant based diet, but everytime I use it it says that I am having too much folate and manganese (I got it from oats, lentils, chickpeas, cabbage, quiona and so on). Usually I dont really worry about what I eat, since I am taking B12, D3 and omega 3 supplement and as I said mostly plant based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes, but everytime I use one of these apps I start worrying if there may be some side effects due to increased levels of some vitamins and minerals. Thank you for your help :)

  8. Hi, Marta! In most cases, it is unlikely to get too much of a micronutrient (vitamin or mineral) from whole plant foods, because our bodies are smart. They can usually absorb only as much as they need, and get rid of the rest. When people tend to get in trouble with excess vitamins and minerals, it is usually from animal-derived foods and supplements. If you are eating a healthy diet guided by the Daily Dozen and these: https://nutritionfacts.org/2011/09/12/dr-gregers-2011-optimum-nutrition-recommendations/, then it is unlikely you are doing any harm to yourself. If using these diet tracking apps makes you worry more than usual, then maybe it is best not to use them. I hope that helps!

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