Make half your plate fruits and veggies

Howard Manly | , Karen Miller | 3/3/2014, 6 a.m.

Variety is the key, she emphasized. “If you eat only blueberries, you will miss out on other nutrients,” she explained.

Color-code your choices to get the full health benefits. Carrots and other orange vegetables contain beta-carotene, a compound that boosts not only vision health but is beneficial for the skin, bones and the immune system. Red fruits and veggies, like tomatoes and watermelon contain lycopene, which has been found to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

The green group, such as spinach and bell peppers may help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration, while the blues and purples are powerful antioxidants that may help ward off stroke, heart disease and cancer.

How much of fruits and veggies a person should eat each day can be puzzling. That’s because one size does not fit all. The amount depends on gender, age and physical activity. For instance, minimum daily consumption ranges from a cup a day of fruit for children between the age of 2 and 3 to 2½ cups for men 19 to 50.

People should discuss a healthy plan with a registered dietitian or visit ChooseMyPlate.gov and work out a personal plan.

Determining the serving size can be tricky, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have simplified it. Servings are now measured in cups and half-cups. For example, one cup of fruit is one small apple or eight large strawberries. A half-cup is 16 grapes or a small box of raisins. Visit www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/fruitsvegetables/cup.html for more examples.

Morris said that she recognizes that some vitamins and minerals found in fruits and veggies are also found in meat, but she noted a distinction. Meats are a major source of unhealthy fats, such as cholesterol. “One does not have to eat meat to be healthy,” she said. “You can be healthy without eating meat. It’s less clear that you can be healthy and not eat fruits and vegetables.”