Fruit and vegetables are categorised into the 2nd largest group on the 'food group triangle'. They provide many of the vitamins and minerals needed for good health (especially vitamin A and vitamin C, folic acid, potassium and magnesium). These optimise the body's health for fertility, pregnancy and the baby's growth and development, because they help to create healthy, new body cells. Vitamin C also increases the body's absorption of iron that is present in other foods eaten.
Fruit and vegetables are considered very healthy, because they do not contain fat, cholesterol or salt. They also contribute to your fibre intake, helping to keep your intestines healthy and avoiding constipation. Ideally, fruit and vegetables should be eaten whole, rather than juiced (but juiced fruit and veg is better than none at all!) You should try and eat a variety of 'colours' in your fruit and vegetables. For example, green, yellow, orange, red, purple etc.
Both men and women need about 2 to 4 servings of fruit each day, and about 3 to 5 servings of vegetables each day, regardless of their physical activity. This equates to a combined 5 to 9 servings of fruit and vegetables per day. Frozen fruit and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh fruit and vegetables, as are canned fruit and vegetables (as long as they do not have added sugar or salt). Some vegetables lose nutrients through excessive boiling in water. A better alternative is to steam them.
The following are some examples of what constitutes a 'serving' of fruit or vegetables. Again, try not to feel overwhelmed by 'how many servings' you need to have. For example, a glass of 100% unsweetened fruit or vegetable juice is 2 servings, as is 8 pieces of dried fruit. Fruit and vegetable juices will provide essential vitamins and minerals, but less fibre and may not satisfy your hunger as effectively as eating them whole.
1 serve of fruit =
1 piece of fruit (apple, banana or orange), a bunch of grapes OR
4 pieces of dried fruit or a handful of sultanas OR
½ cup of canned or frozen fruit OR
½ cup of 100% fruit juice (unsweetened).
1 serve of vegetables =
½ cup of cooked or raw vegetables OR
½ cup of cooked legumes (beans, lentils, split peas) OR
1 cup green leafy vegetables, or ½ cup of tabouli OR
1 small potato or a carrot, or a piece of sweet potato OR
1 tomato, piece of broccoli, a hand full of bean sprouts OR
½ cup of 100% vegetable juice.
Be aware that fried chips have a very high fat content and usually also contain excess salt, and some fruit juices are watered down and may have added sugar. Check the labels.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Pregnant women need to have about 3 to 4 servings of fruit and about 4 to 5 servings of vegetables each day. Having plenty of dark green, leafy vegetables, several times a week, and a variety of fruits, will contribute to you having adequate folic acid intakes and increase the absorption of iron into your body from other food sources. Breastfeeding women need similar amounts of fruit and vegetables (3 to 4 servings of fruit and 4 to 5 servings of vegetables) after the birth.
Twins or triplets
Women carrying twins will need to increase their servings of fruit to about 6 to 7 per day, but vegetables can remain at about 4 to 5 servings per day. Women with triplets need about 8 servings of fruit per day per day and about 5 servings of vegetables. Women breastfeeding twins can reduce their fruit servings to 5 per day after the birth (with vegetables remaining at 4 to 5 servings). Women breastfeeding triplets will need about 5 servings of both fruit and vegetables per day (for at least the first 6 months of breastfeeding.
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