5-A-Day For Better Health Program: General Info

The 5-A-Day For Better Health program is a national initiative with the goal of increasing fruit and vegetable consumption among Americans to 5-9 servings a day. According to the 1988 Surgeon General's Report on Nutrition and Health, the three most important personal habits that influence health are smoking, alcohol consumption and diet. Two thirds of all deaths, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and many types of cancer are related to diet.

Eat more healthily by eating more fruits and vegetables

One of the easiest, and tastiest, ways to eat more healthfully is to increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are low fat, low calorie, high fiber, and high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients. Studies have shown that people who consume 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day have lower rates of cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and many other conditions. For example, a review of more than 200 epidemiological studies recently found people who consumed about 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily were at approximately half the risk of developing cancer of the digestive or respiratory tracts as those who consumed fewer than 2 servings a day.

Since the 5 A Day program was founded in 1991 by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Health, fruit and vegetable consumption by Americans has risen. Recent data has shown that the average American currently eats 4.4 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, up from 3.0 in 1991 at the program's founding. Awareness of the health benefits of fruits and vegetables has also risen, especially among women. However, there is still room for improvement.

The program particularly hopes to reach out to men and African Americans. Men have higher death rates than women for many of the most common diet-related diseases, including heart disease and many types of cancer, and need more fruits and vegetables per day (the program recommends 9 servings) but are significantly less likely than women to attain that goal, or even to recognize the health benefits of eating lots of fruits and vegetables. African Americans in general and African American men in particular have higher risks of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers, making eating lots of fruits and vegetables doubly important, but African Americans are even less likely than many other Americans to eat the recommended daily allotment.

Make 5-a-day part of your life

The program encourages men to aim for 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day and women for 7 servings. This may sound daunting, but one serving is a lot smaller than many people think. An easy rule of thumb is that one serving should fit in the palm of your hand. A medium sized apple, banana, or orange, 1/2 cup cooked vegetables, 1 cup of salad greensall these are equivalent to 1 serving. A large salad can easily be the equivalent for 2 or 3 servings.

It's also important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Where fruits and vegetables are concerned, the more colorful your plate, the better. Different colored vegetables provide different combinations of nutrients. For example, many yellow and orange fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins A and Vitamin C, while green vegetables offer more vitamin K. (For more examples of foods, their color and the health benefits see the following article for TheDietChannel: Prevent Cancer & Heart Disease with Phytochemicals.)

Eating more fruits and vegetables is a fun, easy and delicious way to live healthier and longer, so join the 5-A-Day For Better Health program today!

For more tips on who to eat 5-a-day see the following article from TheDietchannel: Eat Like a King on A Budget: A Healthy Diet Doesn't Have to Be Expensive.

For more information on 5-a-day and kids see the following article from TheDietChannel: 5-A-Day Challenge for Kids.