- Serving sizes are suggested for optimum health benefits. Through scientific studies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has determined what foods are beneficial for our bodies and what foods should be eaten in moderation. Through testing and research, it was found the human body needs certain minerals, vitamins and other nutrients to survive and thrive. For instance, peppers and tomatoes help to protect the lungs from the smoke of cigarettes, while oranges help with mild depression. Serving sizes were determined to help people understand just how much of these nutrients were needed on a daily basis and where and how to obtain them.
- Problems occur when the portion served is not really a serving size. The two cups of fruit listed for a young woman on the food pyramid can be interpreted in many ways. A large apple is considered one cup of fruit while a small apple less than three inches in diameter is measured as one-half cup. One 8-ounce glass of orange juice is considered a single serving from the fruit group, while 1/2 cup of raisins is considered 1 cup from the fruit group on the food pyramid. This misconception about serving sizes is why it is important to read nutrition labels. The nutrition information panel on food packages lists how many servings are offered in a particular package. It is surprising to note that many people do not realize that individual packages often contain more than one serving. Bottles of juice may contain two or more servings per individual container. The 8-ounce can is the one that contains only one serving.
- The amount of fruits needed for the average person varies greatly with age, gender and physical activity. Also, different fruits offer different benefits to the body. Fruits that help protect the body from cancer include watermelon, cantaloupe and pumpkin. These same fruits help with weight loss and diabetes. Great sources of vitamin C not only includes citrus fruits but apricots, plums and pears. Vitamin C protects the body from scurvy and aids in the healing of wounds. The amount of fruit needed for the average adult is 2 cups. Children need 1 to 1 1/2 cups of fruit. Those people who are more active are able to eat more fruit because the physical activities help balance the higher caloric intake.
- Color, texture and nutrients are added to the diet with vegetables. The vast selection allows for variety while adding the needed minerals to a healthy diet. Vegetables are versatile in that they can be served raw or cooked. Steaming is generally the accepted way to serve a more nutritious portion of vegetables. The suggested daily serving size of vegetables for people older than 8 years of age is 2 1/2 to 3 cups of vegetables. It is recommended that children have 1 to 1 1/2 cups of vegetables. Vegetables are a good source of fiber, which helps protect the body from strokes and heart disease.
- Processed foods are natural and/or artificial foods processed into foods for human consumption. The problem with trying to get the nutrients from a serving size of processed fruits or vegetables is that many times the processed food product does not contain the recommended portion of food. The body is not getting the proper nutrients needed for maintaining a healthy condition. With fruits and vegetables being so readily available year round, processed foods do not need to be added to the diet. The recommended serving size of fruits and vegetables can be obtained from frozen, dried or canned food items when the fresh fruits and vegetables are not available.