The newest dietary guidelines from the federal government call for five to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. That means average people (those who eat 2,000 calories a day) need to eat nine servings - 4-1/2 cups per day. Here are seven lucky ways to eat green and meet that requirement.
Experts at Baylor Tom Landry Health and Wellness Center in Dallas created a "lucky seven" list of green foods that people should be consuming for lifelong health.
Abby Kallio, a registered dietitian at the center, said all seven foods contain disease-fighting vitamins like A and C. They also are packed with antioxidants which help rid the body of environmental toxins that can damage cells and sometimes lead to cancer and other diseases.
Another reason these foods are great, said Kallio, is their convenience. All are easily found in regular grocery stores. "There is nothing bizarre that requires a trip to a special store," she said. Several can be eaten raw or require only a few minutes of steaming or cooking time.
The Lucky Seven
Asparagus: This spring vegetable contains folate, which is vital to preventing certain types of birth defects. It contains potassium and is low in sodium so it also works as a natural diuretic, helping relieve swelling for those with arthritis and rheumatism. It also might be helpful for PMS-related water retention.
Broccoli: This member of the cabbage family is a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, iron and fiber. Broccoli has as much calcium per ounce as milk and contains phytochemicals, which research has shown can help to prevent cancer. Broccoli also contains lutein, which can help prevent eye disease.
Collard greens: This Southern staple has phytonutrients that can help prevent a wide variety of cancers including breast and ovarian cancer. Collard greens also are a good source of three important antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene.
Green apples: Apples of any color (or size) have fiber, which fights heart attack and stroke. Don't throw away the peels, because studies show that they have nutrients that may offer natural protection against the sun.
Green tea: Full of antioxidants, which can prevent cancer, this favorite beverage in China also can help lower cholesterol and prevent the formation of blood clots.
Kiwi: This small green fruit is packed with fiber and vitamin C, which has been shown to help reduce the severity of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and asthma. It also helps boost the immune system.
Spinach: Popeye was right. Spinach contains large amounts of iron, essential for energy. It also contains vitamin K, necessary for good bone health. It can help prevent osteoporosis, heart disease, colon cancer and arthritis.