Here’s How To Tell If You’re Eating Enough Vegetables, According to Experts

Photo: Stocksy/Jenna Maslovska
No matter who you turn to for health and nutrition advice, nearly all experts can agree on the importance of eating enough vegetables on a regular basis. However, data from the USDA shows only 10 percent of Americans are meeting the Dietary Guidelines' recommendation of three servings per day. That means most of us are likely missing out on our daily fiber, vitamin, and mineral needs as well.

We asked two health experts—Vanessa Rissetto, MS, RD, co-founder and CEO of Culina Health and Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, DC—to help us determine if we are hitting or missing the mark on vegetable-forward meals and how to make increasing our intake easy-peasy.


Experts In This Article

How many servings of vegetables per day is recommended by nutrition experts

Both of our experts recommend aiming higher than the current USDA Dietary Guidelines that suggest consuming three servings a day, which means most of us have some room for improvement. Cole advises the majority of his clients to consume six cups a day, while Rissetto aims to get a serving of vegetables with each meal and snack when possible. She defines a serving as a cup of cut-up vegetables, such as carrots or bell peppers.

Cole and Rissetto also stress the importance of eating a wide variety of vegetables each day. That doesn’t mean you have to buy eight different types at the grocery store or farmers market each week—you can simply focus on a few veggies one week and prioritize others the next.

Risetto says that different groups of vegetables offer different nutritional profiles, so changing up your intake is the best path to a well-rounded diet. "One easy way to do this is with salad," she says. Rotating your greens each week is a great way to diversify your intake without having to change up your routine or go-to lunch. Plus, you can keep the same salad formula while swapping in one or two different veggies each week.

“The more fiber-rich veggies are going to give you greater bacterial diversity," says Cole. She especially loves food high in sulfur, like Brussels sprouts, onions, garlic, and asparagus. “Sulfur compounds help support methylation and glutathione production.” Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that protects against cellular damage and can even help rebuild antioxidant stores in the body, Cole says, while increased methylation protects against chronic diseases, particularly cancers, while boosting energy levels.

How to boost your veggie intake

Risetto’s favorite way to boost her vegetable intake is by having a side of chopped raw veggies with her meals and snacks that can be paired with a tasty dip like hummus or eaten alone. Cole suggests upping your intake with cooked vegetables that can be served as a side or in soups and stews, and also recommends adding them to smoothies to help make digestion easy.

“You’ll likely experience improved digestion, and in our epidemic of gut health problems, that is so important,” says Cole. “When we start eating fresh produce and other plant foods, we diversify and strengthen the gut, which has far-reaching effects on our moods, skin, and reducing inflammation.”

“Start low and slow if your intake isn’t great so that your microbiome has time to adjust,” says Cole. “I’ve actually had some patients say they felt better when they were eating more processed foods because they tried to increase their intake of fiber too quickly since it requires more upfront work to digest fiber. You’ll want to increase your intake over a few weeks to help feel your best along the way.”

The benefits of eating enough vegetables

While there are plenty of other factors to account for such as sleep quality, stress, and activity levels, increasing your vegetable intake—and intake of whole foods across the board—will offer an abundance of benefits. Cole says you may even start to notice them within weeks.

“You’ll likely experience improved digestion, and in our epidemic of gut health problems, that is so important,” says Cole. “When we start eating fresh produce and other plant foods, we diversify and strengthen the gut, which has far-reaching effects on our moods, skin, and reducing inflammation.”

Upping our intake of veggies and other whole foods means that we are replacing more refined or processed foods that don’t pack as much of a nutrient-dense punch. This can lead to improved energy levels and functioning at higher levels overall. Cole finishes by saying that "diversifying your intake of various vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and polyphenols will better support a healthy heart, reduce your risk of chronic disease, and can even increase your lifespan."

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