Fruit and vegetables should be an important part of your daily diet. They are naturally good and contain vitamins and minerals that can help to keep you healthy. They can also help protect against some diseases.
Most Australians will benefit from eating more fruit and vegetables as part of a well-balanced, regular diet and a healthy, active lifestyle. There are many varieties of fruit and vegetables available and many ways to prepare, cook and serve them.
You should eat at least five different vegetables and two serves of fruit each day. Choose different colors and varieties.
A serve of vegetables is about one cup of raw salad vegetables or 1/2 cup of cooked.
A serve of fruit is about one medium piece, 2 small pieces of 1 cup canned (no added sugar).
Vitamins and minerals in fruit and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables contain many vitamins and minerals that are good for your health. These include vitamins A (beta-carotene), C and E, magnesium, zinc, phosphorous and folic acid. Folic acid may reduce blood levels of homocysteine, a substance that may be a risk factor for coronary heart disease.
Fruit and vegetables for good health
Fruits and vegetables are low in fat, salt, and sugar. They are a good source of dietary fiber. As part of a well-balanced, regular diet and a healthy, active lifestyle, a high intake of fruit and vegetables can help you to:
Fruit and vegetables and protection against diseases
Vegetables and fruit contain phytochemicals or plant chemicals. These biologically active substances can help to protect you from some diseases. Scientific research shows that if you regularly eat lots of fruit and vegetables, you have a lower risk of:
Fruit is the sweet, fleshy, edible part of a plant. It generally contains seeds. Fruits are usually eaten raw, although some varieties can be cooked. They come in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and flavors. Common types of fruits that are readily available include:
Apples and pears
Citrus – oranges, grapefruits, mandarins, and limes
Stone fruit – nectarines, apricots, peaches, and plums
Tropical and exotic – bananas and mangoes
Berries – Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, kiwifruit, and passionfruit
Melons – watermelons, rockmelons, and honeydew melons
Tomatoes and avocados.
Types of vegetables
Vegetables are available in many varieties and can be classified into biological groups or ‘families’, including:
Leafy green – lettuce, spinach and silverbeet
Cruciferous – cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and broccoli
Marrow – pumpkin, cucumber and zucchini
Root – potato, sweet potato and yam
Edible plant stem – celery and asparagus
Allium – onion, garlic and shallot.
Legumes or pulses contain nutrients that are especially valuable. Legumes need to be cooked before they are eaten – this improves their nutritional quality, aids digestion and eliminates any harmful toxins. Legumes come in many forms including:
Dried beans and peas – haricot beans, red kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils
Fresh beans and peas – green peas, green beans, butter beans, broad beans and snow peas.
Colours of fruits and vegetables
You will get the most health benefits and protection against the disease if you eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Australian dietary guidelines recommend that adults eat at least five kinds of vegetables and two kinds of fruit every day.
Foods of similar colours generally contain similar protective compounds. Try to eat a rainbow of colourful fruits and vegetables every day to get the full range of health benefits. For example:
Red foods – like tomatoes and watermelon. These contain lycopene, which is thought to be important for fighting prostate cancer and heart disease
Green vegetables – like spinach and kale. These contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which may help protect against age-related eye disease
Blue and purple foods – like blueberries and eggplant. These contain anthocyanins, which may help protect the body from cancer
White foods – like cauliflower. These contain sulforaphane and may also help protect against some cancers.