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Vegetables

What are the benefits of vegetables in a healthy eating pattern?

Foods in the vegetable food group offer a unique package of nutrients.

Including vegetables as part of a healthy eating pattern can reduce the risk of some chronic diseases, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes, as well stroke and cancer. USDA's MyPlate includes all vegetables and 100% vegetable juice in this group. Vegetables can be raw or cooked, and they can be fresh, frozen, canned or dehydrated. This offers a wide variety of options for meeting daily and weekly intake recommendations.  

MyPlate divides vegetables into the following subgroups: dark-green vegetables, starchy vegetables, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas, and other vegetables. Foods from every subgroup do not have to be consumed daily; instead, they can be incorporated into a weekly eating pattern for optimal health.

 

How Many Servings of Vegetables Are Recommended? 

Daily Recommendation  
 AgeNo. of servings
Children2–8 years1–1.5 cups
Girls9–18 years2–2.5 cups
Boys9–18 years2.5–3 cups
Women19–50 years2.5 cups
Women51+ years2 cups
Men19–50 years3 cups
Men51+ years2.5 cups

Essential Nutrients in Vegetables

Vegetables are an important part of a healthy eating pattern and are excellent sources of many nutrients, including potassium, fiber, folate (folic acid) and vitamins A, E and C. These nutrients are vital for overall health and maintenance of body systems:

 

  • Potassium: This nutrient may help to maintain healthy blood pressure. A few sources of potassium include sweet potatoes, white potatoes, tomato products and spinach.
  • Fiber: Fiber regulates bowel function, helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease.
  • Folate (folic acid): The body uses folate to form healthy red blood cells. Women of childbearing age who may become pregnant and those in the first trimester of pregnancy need adequate folate to reduce the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida during fetal development.
  • Vitamin A, E and C: These vitamins are found predominantly in green and yellow vegetables. Together, they protect against infection, help maintain eye and skin health, aid in wound healing, and have antioxidant functions.

Find out more about the relationship of a healthy eating pattern and activity to overall health by visiting the Healthy Eating page.

 

References
 
What foods are in the Vegetable Group? US Department of Agriculture ChooseMyPlate.gov website. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/eathealthy/vegetables. Accessed October 1, 2019. 
 
Why is it important to eat vegetables? US Department of Agriculture ChooseMyPlate.gov website. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/eathealthy/vegetables/vegetables-nutrients-health. Accessed October 1, 2019.