National Cancer Institute announces increase in fruit and vegetable consumption

Current data show consumers are getting the message and eating their fruits and vegetables.

provided by the National Cancer Institute

5 A Day For Better Health

For those who say, "Five servings of fruits and vegetables a day sounds like a lot," think again. Contrary to popular belief, eating the "5 A Day" way is easy because one serving is less than people think, and because there are so many ways people can include more fruits and vegetables in their daily eating plan.

According to the National Cancer Institute, sponsor of the "5 A Day for Better Health" program, one serving size is defined as:

- 3/4 cup (6 oz.) 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice

- One medium fruit (e.g., apple, orange, banana, pear)

- 1/2 cup cut-up fruit

- 1/2 cup raw or cooked vegetables

- 1/4 cup dried fruit (e.g., raisins, apricots, dates)

- 1 cup raw, leafy vegetables

- 1/2 cup dry, cooked or canned peas or beans

These serving examples are just an introduction to the choices of fruits and vegetables - dried, canned, fresh, or frozen - that people can include every day. So be creative about eating the 5 A Day way, and remember that five is a minimum the more the better.

esearch shows that adult Americans are eating better. The average adult now eats about four and a half servings of fruits and vegetables a day - a significant step closer to the five or more servings a day recommended by the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) National "5 A Day for Better Health" program.

The data, from the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Continuing Surveys of Food Intakes by Individuals (CSFII), are the most recent available on fruit and vegetable intake. Previous data showed that from 1989-91 the average adult ate approximately 3.9 daily servings of fruits and vegetables. The new data show that by 1994, adults had increased their consumption to approximately 4.4 daily servings - just about a half a serving away from the recommended five or more.

"This increase in fruit and vegetable consumption is very significant to the '5 A Day' program," said Peter Greenwald, M.D., Dr.P.H., Director of NCI's Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. "We have made big strides to raise public awareness of the need to eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day. The next critical - and often more difficult - step is to actually do it. The new CSFII consumption numbers show that behavior change is happening."

For many Americans, hearing and understanding the "5 A Day" message has been the easy part. Consumer awareness of the need to eat "5 A Day" has more than quadrupled, from 8 to 39 percent, since NCI and the Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) initiated the program in 1991. However, consumer behavior change happens more gradually. The goal of the program is to increase the American public's consumption of fruits and vegetables to five or more servings a day by the year 2000.

"With only two more years to go before the year 2000, it's promising to see that on average, adults are only about a half serving away from the recommended five or more," said Gloria Stables, director of NCI's 5 A Day for Better Health program. "It's important to remember, though, that five is the recommended minimum. Now that people are eating more fruits and vegetables, we're going to keep working to build all Americans' intake to five to nine daily servings."

Both NCI and PBH attribute much of the program's success to the strong partnership between government and industry. "NCI provides health information based on sound science and PBH provides that information to consumers through a network of 35,000 grocery retailers nationwide," said Elizabeth Pivonka, PBH president. "PBH also provides support to the marketing efforts of more than 600 industry organizations, as well as employee wellness programs, schools, and restaurants."

It is not all good news, though. Although the CSFII survey shows that adults are doing better, children's intake of fruits and vegetables is still well below the recommendations set at the start of the program. Children's average consumption went from 3.1 servings per day between 1989-91 to 3.4 in 1994.

Efforts by "5 A Day" state coordinators across the country bring the national message to a local level - reaching children and their parents - by partnering with schools, community groups, local health facilities, and other organizations. As the year 2000 grows nearer, efforts will increase to ensure that both adults and their children are getting the message.

"This CSFII research shows that although we are well on our way to meeting our year 2000 goal, there is still important work ahead," noted Stables. "Adults need to be reminded of the importance of helping their children to develop sound eating habits early to last a lifetime - and encouraging them to enjoy fruits and vegetables is an easy way to do it."

"The importance of the '5 A Day' message cannot be underestimated," said Greenwald. "It is estimated that about 35 percent of all cancer-related deaths in the United States may be related to the diet. Eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day may reduce the risk of cancer and is an easy way for everyone to better their overall health."

A 5 A Day serving can come from fresh, canned, frozen, or dried varieties of fruits and vegetables. This variety keeps 5 A Day simple, even for the growing number of Americans who are always on the go but still looking for ways to reap health benefits. And, a 5 A Day serving is smaller than many people think. One serving is one medium fruit, 3/4 cup (6 oz.) of 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice, 1/2 cup cooked or canned vegetables or fruit, one cup of raw leafy vegetables, 1/2 cup dry peas or beans, or 1/4 cup dried fruit.

Consumers may call NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER or visit the "5 A Day" home page at for more information on nutrition and cancer.

  Contact: Tracy Monday (202) 973-5886, Leslie Hillman (202) 973-1373.