The "season of mists and mellow fruitfulness," the poet John Keats called autumn in his famous ode. Fruitful, indeed. Fall brings a cornucopia of rich flavors and colors: dark leafy greens, sweet pumpkins, golden and red beets, and crisp apples.
"Those are just the sort of fruits and vegetables Americans need to eat more of," says Robert Post, deputy director of the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The deeper and more vibrant the color of produce, the more nutrients it typically contains.
Five servings of produce daily used to be the mantra. Happily, there's no longer a one-size-fits-all rule. Instead of "servings," which are vague and confusing, the current advice is based on simple cup measurements.
Most of us should eat two to three cups of vegetables and about two cups of fruit a day. But some people need more, others less, depending on age, gender, and activity level. (You can input your own data and get a personalized recommendation at mypyramid.gov.)
Some things haven't changed, including the many reasons why fruits and vegetables matter. But let's review: They're rich in nutrients and low in calories. And they're loaded with antioxidants, fiber, and an array of vitamins and minerals, which may protect against heart disease, bone loss, cancer, diabetes, stroke, and other conditions.
What's more, the health-promoting substances in fruits and veggies work together synergistically in ways that supplements don't.
"It's always better to get your nutrients from whole foods," Post says. With a few good recipes like these, the right amount of produce might be closer than you think.
3 Meals with Plenty of Produce
Roasted Squash, Apple, and Cipollini Onion Salad:
2 3/4 cups of produce per serving
Fall-Vegetable and Quinoa Hash with Poached Eggs:
1 3/4 cups of produce per serving
Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Meatballs:
3 1/4 cups of produce per serving
Get more vitamin-rich recipes from our Natural Pantry.