Did you know that, according to the CDC, the average sedentary adult needs a minimum of 2 cups fruit and 3 cups vegetables to meet their most basic nutritional needs. That’s the minimum to avoid malnutrition, not the ideal. In order for health to thrive and to combat disease, the government now says that most people need from 7 to 13 cups of fruits and vegetables every day. Sounds like a crazy amount, right?
Well, it’s not at all when you think about how your ancestors would have eaten. When they got hungry, there were no fried potato and meat based fast food chains to count on; you went in your pantry or out in your yard, picked up some organic fruit and vegetables, and prepared your own food because that was all you had. These ancestors grew their own fruits and vegetables and enjoyed eating them. In fact, as recently as the Victorian Era, most people consumed around TEN times the vital nutrients that the average American does today through food alone. They ate a lot of fruits and vegetables every day, much of it freshly prepared, and they were far, far healthier than we are today. Although people usually think that life expectancy was less back then, that’s not strictly true. It may have been a little harder to save your life if you were injured or ill, but the degenerative diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease that kill so many today were rare back then and the average life span was close to what it is now. That’s pretty significant, considering how much more “advanced” we supposedly are than them.
The scary truth is, in our money rich, nutrition poor society, most of us usually only eat around 1 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables a day. And that probably isn’t organic or fresh either. Fresh, in season produce has the best taste and nutrition, so think about how much body building goodness we’re missing if all we usually eat is 1 1/2 cups of vegetables from packages and cans.
You’re probably wondering right now how you could possibly consume such high recommended servings of produce. Do you have to mow through entire heads of lettuce at every meal and never eat dessert? Of course not. All you need to do is make vegetables the focus of your meals, at least half your plate, and eat fruits as everyday desserts. Save the chocolate cake for your birthday.
Here is an example menu made up of around 1,800 calories per day and 13 cups of fruits and vegetables.
- BREAKFAST: Vegetable frittata with 3 eggs, 2 cups finely chopped spinach, 1/4 cup diced onions, 1/4 cup shredded carrots, 1/4 cup diced tomato, plus a side of 1 cup orange slices = 3.75 cups
- LUNCH: Salad with 2 cups leafy greens, 1/4 cup cheese, 1/4 cup avocado slices, 1/4 cup tomatoes, 1/4 cup carrots, 1/4 cup onion, plus 1 cup vegetable soup and 1 apple = 5.25 cups
- SUPPER: Salmon fillet with 1 cup broccoli, 1 cup baked squash, 1 banana and 1 cup of blueberries for dessert = 4 cups
3.75 + 5.25 + 4 = 13 cups fruits and vegetables
If you want a more simplified formula for nutritional success, you could try to eat 4 cups of fruits and vegetables at each meal, plus 1 cup as a snack. Then, include healthy proteins like 2 to 3 servings (4 -6 oz.) of grass-fed or wild caught meats and fish, and 3 tbsp. or more of healthy fats like grass-fed butter, coconut oil, or avocadoes. Some people will obviously need to and be able to eat more than others; just make sure you’re not focusing so much on things like calories or weight loss that you forget to nourish your body. A healthy, nourished body is much better at fighting off invaders like toxins, bacteria, and viruses, plus it will be able to maintain it’s own upkeep and prevent degenerative diseases from developing. So, don’t worry; eat your veggies.