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Nutrition is arguably the most important aspect of good health. Do the standard serving sizes apply to both good health and cancer prevention?
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the USDA, have been telling us for years to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, expert medical bodies such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Cancer Institute disagree - but why? It isn't that the aforementioned experts got it wrong, but the more scientists study environmental factors and increased disease risks, the more they are discovering that the amount of nutrients consumed from 5 servings a day just isn't enough for at-risk groups. Groups that have a moderately low-risk factors for chronic disease can continue the regular 5-a-day recommendation; however at risk groups, particularly African-American men, should up their intake to nine.
Why it's so Important to Get the Serving Size Right
Having ice cream topped with fruit or the occasional salad is a good start, but it isn't enough to benefit from the health boosting nutrients that fruit and vegetables provide. They not only contain cancer-fighting phytochemicals and antioxidants, but they also contain a variety of nutrients that are known to provide a better quality of life. Some of the many health-boosting nutrients that fruit and vegetables provide are: - Fiber - A bulk-forming nutrient that improves digestion, lowers blood pressure, decreases the risk of heart disease and wards off type-2 diabetes. - Water Soluble Vitamin C - This vitamin is known to boost collagen production, improve the immune system and lower the risk of developing certain types of cancer. - B-Complex Vitamins - B vitamins convert food to energy, protect the nervous system, improve brain health, and make lipids, hormones and hemoglobin. - Fat-soluble Vitamin A - This vitamin doubles as an antioxidant that protects the eyes from premature degeneration that could lead to vision loss. According to Harvard Public Health, it may also lower the risk of prostate cancer.
Who Needs That Much?
According to Experts at the Mayo Clinic, the top two killers of men in the United States is heart disease and cancer, both of which can be caused by being overweight, eating foods that are low in nutrients and having very little physical activity. African-American men are at a higher risk factor for these diseases than white men. The National Cancer Institute states that African-American men between the ages of 35 to 50 currently eat an average of 3.5 servings per day, which is lower than the national average. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Cancer Institute partnered up to launch a national campaign against chronic disease in the African-American community, and specifically in African-American men. When asked why the two expert bodies increased the fruit and vegetable serving to 9 a day for African-American men, the secretary for the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, Tommy G. Thompson had this to say: African-American men suffer much higher rates of almost every type of cancer than white men, and they're more likely to have heart disease and high blood pressure. These leading causes of death are largely preventable through changes in our lifestyle choices. The 9 A Day campaign will help us to start emphasizing prevention of this epidemic by letting African-American men know the vital importance of eating fruits and vegetables to their overall health. Although the two expert bodies are setting their sights on African-American men, the recommendation to eat more than 5 servings of fruit and vegetables is nothing new. The current recommendation of eating 5 a day is the bare minimum; however, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans actually recommends 5 to 13 servings per day. In general, all Americans should try to aim for more than 5 servings per day, especially those who are at risk for chronic disease. Photo Credit: USDAgov