Healthy Fruits, Vegetables Reduce Your Mesothelioma Risk

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If you’ve survived a cancer like lung, breast or mesothelioma, or you have a high risk of developing cancer in the future, experts recommend at least half of your plate at meal time should be filled with fruits and vegetables.

Not only do these foods provide us with a multitude of vitamins and minerals, but they also contain cancer-fighting antioxidants that you won’t find in meats and dairy. A diet rich in plant-based foods also lowers the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and stroke.

But in most U.S. households, families still aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables.

A July 2015 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that half of all adults in the U.S. are falling behind on their daily suggested servings of plant-based foods.

When fruits and vegetables are lacking, others foods are in excess — including meat, dairy and processed foods. This means most dinner plates in the U.S. are not filled with the healthful foods that can help us prevent cancer and disease.

CDC Finds Low Fruit and Vegetable Intake

The CDC findings came from a health survey of more than 370,000 adults living in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. The telephone-based inquiry, conducted every two years with technical help from the CDC, is called the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).

The BRFSS used random calls to ask respondents how often they consumed fruits and vegetables over the past day, week or month. It aimed to find out for the first time what percentage of each state’s population was meeting current daily intake recommendations for these food groups.

Results showed that from 2007 to 2010, 76 percent of respondents did not meet fruit intake recommendations, and 87 percent failed to meet vegetable intake recommendations.

Children were no better off, with 60 percent falling short of their fruit recommendations and 93 percent eating fewer vegetables than they should.

5 States with Greatest Fruit and Vegetable Consumption

California led the nation in fruit and vegetable consumption from 2007 to 2010, with 17.7 percent of Californians meeting daily fruit recommendations and 13 percent meeting daily vegetable recommendations.

Top Fruit Consumers

  • California
  • New York
  • Washington, D.C.
  • New Hampshire
  • Florida

Top Vegetable Consumers

  • California
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Alaska
  • Nevada

5 States with Least Fruit and Vegetable Consumption

Tennessee and Mississippi had the lowest fruit and vegetable consumption in the U.S., according to the survey. Residents in the following states should consider eating more fruits and vegetables to stave off heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

Lowest Fruit Consumers

  • Tennessee
  • West Virginia
  • Oklahoma
  • Arkansas
  • Alabama

Lowest Vegetable Consumers

  • Mississippi
  • Oklahoma
  • Tennessee
  • North Dakota
  • Iowa

Picking the Right Portions

Portion sizes in the U.S. have gradually grown too large. While there are several dietary models you can follow to stay healthy and fend off cancer, portion control is a key part of any diet.

Take a look at the serving size finder below to determine how big your servings should be.

What Do Servings Look Like?

Food Serving Looks like
Chopped vegetables 1/2 cup 1/2 baseball
Raw leafy vegetables 1 cup 1 baseball
Fresh fruit 1/2 cup (chopped) 1/2 baseball
Dried fruit 1/4 cup 1 golf ball
Pasta, rice and cooked cereal 1/2 cup 1/2 baseball
Red meat, poultry and seafood 3 ounces (cooked) Deck of cards
Dried beans 1/2 cup (cooked) 1/2 baseball
Nuts 1/3 cup Average adult handful
Cheese 1 1/2 ounces 4 dice

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) currently recommends all adults consuming 2,000 calories per day should be eating 1 ½ to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables daily.

Again, the simplest way to achieve this is to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables for each meal and snack. You can visit choosemyplate.gov to find healthy recipes and access helpful tools and resources for tracking your diet.

In addition to the USDA model for a healthy diet, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) created a similar model called “The New American Plate.” The AICR suggests meals should be made up of 2/3 or more vegetables, fruits, whole grains or beans and 1/3 or less protein from animals. Visit the AICR website to find out more about portion sizes and take a quiz on diet and cancer prevention.

Studies show that our behaviors early in life affect our choices later, so let’s start improving our intake of fruits and vegetables now. It not only helps keep us healthy, but also sets a positive example for our children, promoting better health outcomes in future generations.

  1. Moore, L. and Thompson, F. (2015, July 10). Adults Meeting Fruit and Vegetable Intake Recommendations — United States, 2013. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6426a1.htm
  2. American Institute for Cancer Research. (2012, June 11). The New American Plate. Retrieved from http://www.aicr.org/new-american-plate/reduce_diet_new_american_plate_portion.html
  3. American Heart Association. (n.d.). Serving Size Visuals. Retrieved from https://www.udel.edu/wellness/ambassador/Serving%20Size%20Visuals.pdf

Tejal Parekh is a registered and licensed dietitian in Florida with a master’s in nutrition and dietetics from Georgia State University. She realized her passion more than 10 years ago when she started working with cancer patients. Tejal also is one of the first dietitians in Florida to be board-certified as a specialist in oncology nutrition.

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