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Ask Tufts Experts March 2012 Issue

Q: I’ve read that eating more than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day may reduce the risk of a stroke. What is considered to be a “serving”?

Answer :  Lynne M. Ausman, DSc, RD, a scientist in Tufts’ HNRCA Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory, says the serving sizes used in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the MyPlate program are a good benchmark. In general, 1 cup of fruit or 100% fruit juice, or 1/2 cup of dried fruit can be considered as 1 serving. For whole fruit, 1 serving would include 1 small or half a large apple, 1 large banana (6-9”), 1 medium grapefruit, 1 large orange, 1 large peach, 1 medium pear, 3 medium or 2 large plums, or 1 small wedge of watermelon (1” thick).

For vegetables, in general, 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice, or 2 cups of raw leafy greens can be considered as 1 serving. That’s about 3 broccoli spears (5” long), 2 medium carrots, 1 large bell pepper, 1 large tomato, 1 sweet potato, 1 large ear of corn, 1 medium white potato, or 2 large celery stalks (11-12”).

A 2006 review of the evidence published in The Lancet concluded that, compared with individuals who had less than 3 servings of fruit and vegetables per day, those consuming 3-5 servings daily were at 11% lower risk of stroke and those eating more than 5 servings daily were at 26% lower risk. Fruits and vegetables had a significant protective effect on both ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke.

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