Practicing
and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is critical for the overall health and
well-being of an individual. The consumption of fruits and vegetables is an
important component for leading a healthy lifestyle. Good nutrition plays a
role in the prevention of several chronic diseases—cardiovascular diseases,
diabetes, obesity, and respiratory diseases. Despite the benefits associated
with healthy eating, many individuals engage in unhealthy dietary habits. Insufficient
fruit and vegetable (FV) consumption has become a major public health concern
in the United States as adolescents consume lower than the recommended amounts
(Dwyer, 2017). The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends daily fruit
and vegetable consumption for adolescents who participate in less than 30
minutes of daily physical activity. The daily fruit and vegetable
recommendation for males is 2.5 cups of fruits and 3.0 cups of vegetables and
for females, 1.5 cups of fruits and 2.5 cups of vegetables are recommended
daily (U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 2015). The dietary guidelines for
fruit and vegetable consumption are designed to provide information to help
Americans improve and maintain their health by encouraging them to make healthy
choices.

Health Benefits of Fruit and Vegetable
Consumption

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            The benefits of fruit and vegetable
consumption on an individual’s health have been supported in many
epidemiological studies. Fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that are responsible
for preventing risk factors associated with chronic diseases. Vitamin C, an
antioxidant found in fruits and vegetables, inhibits cell damage through oxidation
(Van Duyn & Pivonka, 2000). The oxidation of cholesterol lowers an
individual’s risk for heart disease. Dark-green leafy vegetables contain a rich
source of folic acid, which plays a protective role in the development of
cancer (Van Duyn & Pivonka, 2000). Flavonoids are found in fruits and
vegetables and inhibit the development of cancer by removing carcinogens from
body cells (Van Duyn & Pivonka, 2000). Research shows that folic acid
decreases homocysteine levels in the blood. Elevated homocysteine levels in the
body are linked to cardiovascular diseases—stroke and congenital heart disease.

The nutrients found in vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage contain
sulfur. Sulfur helps in the removal of carcinogens and other foreign substances
in the body by increasing enzyme activity (Van Duyn & Pivonka, 2000). Fruits
and vegetables are rich in fiber and help control cholesterol levels,
decreasing lipids in the blood and lowering the risk of heart disease (Van Duyn
& Pivonka, 2000).

Cardiovascular Disease and Cancer

{Introduction: Chronic Disease
(CVD and Cancer)}. The World Health Organization (WHO) describes
cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) as the leading cause of deaths worldwide.

Cardiovascular diseases resulted in approximately 17.7 million deaths in 2015
(WHO, 2017). Recent studies have found that CVDs can be prevented by addressing
unhealthy eating habits. A healthy diet includes the consumption of whole fruits
(fresh, canned, frozen, and dried fruit) and vegetables (dark green, red and orange,
legumes, starchy, and other) (USDA, 2015). Cancer is the second leading cause
of death, being responsible for nearly 1 in 6 deaths worldwide in 2015 (WHO,
2017). One-third of cancer-related deaths are associated with low fruit and
vegetable intake, a leading risk factor for cancer (WHO, 2017). The Institute
of Cancer Research reported that diets high in fruits and vegetables could
prevent at least 20% of all cancer incidence (Van Duyn & Pivonka, 2000). There
is a plethora of evidence supporting the role of fruits and vegetables on the
prevention of chronic diseases.