In Woody Allen’s Whatever Works, Larry David’s character complained in a very Larry David fashion, "Christ, if I have to eat nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day to live, I don’t wanna live." And he has a point. How the hell are we supposed to chomp down on nine portions of produce each day while still fitting in our protein, grains, and occasional guilty pleasures? And what exactly is a "serving" anyway?
We’ve always been told to eat about five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and a January 2011 study actually suggested it should be eight if you want to seriously lower your risk of dying from heart disease. We’re with you — eight sounds like we’ll need to stuff our pockets with celery stalks and carrots so we can munch on them all day.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines of 2010 recommend eating 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables a day. (At least they switched to "cups" instead of the pyramid’s mysterious "servings"; for the record, these measurements translate into about nine servings.)
But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention takes a more individualized approach. After all, our bodies’ requirements must differ with age and lifestyle, right? The CDC offers a calculator that asks for your age, sex and amount of physical activity, and spits out how many fruits and vegetables you should be getting each day. Click here to find out how much you need.
According to the CDC’s calculator, a 26-year-old female with less than 30 minutes of exercise every day — in addition to the light activity of everyday life — requires about 1.5 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables each day.
My recommended 4 cups of produce a day might still sound a little overwhelming, but it’s actually not as bad as it seems. Click through our slideshow to see how to get your 4 cups of produce a day.
— Melissa Valliant, HellaWella
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