Medically reviewed by
Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
6 min read
Fresh fruit and vegetables are critical components of any healthy diet plan. Though it is highly recommended that adults eat at least 1-½ - 2 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of vegetables daily, research has shown that only one in ten adults meet this minimum requirement.
There are at least nine different families of fruit and vegetables known to be in existence, so the available options abound. Filling half your plate with the colors of the rainbow (a wide assortment of fruit and vegetables) will provide you with natural sources of essential vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants. Yet busy lifestyles, preference for the convenience of fast food and processed food, and even the depletion of nutrients in agricultural soil make it difficult to get the most health benefits out of your eating.
While a variety of fresh, healthy, vitamin rich foods may be the key to better nutrition, it’s just not happening. Many people are now turning to fruit and vegetable supplements instead.
Fruit and vegetable supplements are not a replacement for a healthy diet. But they can help to fill in nutritional gaps and provide a wider variety of nutrients than what you can sometimes find seasonally in the produce section of your local grocery store.
These supplements offer a convenient way to boost your intake of essential vitamins like C, E, beta carotene, and folic acid, are easy to transport, and probably have a longer shelf life than fresh produce. Typically they come in powder form, liquid, capsules, or pouches.
Fruit and vegetable supplements can provide your diet with essential vitamins, minerals, and additional antioxidants that support vascular health, immune function, skin health, and healthy aging. They can be a rich source of vitamin C, as you can find in Care/of’s Superberry, The Antioxidant Ace. They can also be an excellent source of dietary fiber, which promotes gut health and helps to regulate bowel movements. Berries, which are known to promote cardiovascular health, are also rich in polyphenols, a key player in the regulation of metabolism, weight, and cell proliferation. Found in fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, and cocoa, their extracts also include functional activity increasing antioxidant status while at the same time modulating oxidative stress.
Supplements are not intended to replace real food. Whole fruit and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are critical for any healthy diet. Supplements cannot replicate all of the nutritional benefits of whole foods. They lack the fiber most fruits and vegetables contain and they will not leave you feeling full, satiated, or satisfied the way real, whole, delicious foods will.
They are not designed to be used as replacements for fruits and vegetables. There is no substitute for the taste, smell, and feel of a delicious, crisp apple. Similarly, no pill will ever provide either the nutrients or the appeal of a beautiful salad with assorted greens, heirloom tomatoes, and fresh avocado topped with olive oil. But most people struggle to get the recommended daily amount (RDA) of either fruit or vegetables. Supplements may, in this case, be the perfect way to increase your intake and get closer to that RDA.
The best alternative to fruit and vegetable supplements is actually fruit and vegetables. There are plenty of creative ways to get more of them in your diet if you’re willing to spend the extra time, or a little bit of extra money. The easiest, most cost-effective way to get your fill of healthy produce involves a blender and some trial and error to find your perfect recipe. Green drinks are all the rage, but you don’t have to leave your home to get one. You can achieve that perfect balance of nature’s superfoods in your own kitchen. Toss some spinach, kale, dandelion greens, a stalk or two of celery, a whole apple, a piece of fresh ginger, ¼ of a lemon (or more to taste), a splash of Apple Cider Vinegar, and a dash of cayenne pepper into a blender. Add cold water and hit the on button. In no time at all, you will have an incredibly healthy, tasty green drink to enjoy. Put the rest in your refrigerator and you’ll have at least one or two more glasses of green goodness waiting for you.
Part of the fun of this do-it-yourself blending is that you have enough possible combinations of fruit and vegetables to satisfy any palette. And once you start drinking them regularly, you’re going to notice that you’re feeling better, your skin looks healthier, and you have an extra little kick in your step. You can use any kind of berries, though frozen strawberries and blueberries are especially tasty and really good for you. Toss in a banana (or a frozen one), some nuts, seeds, peanut butter, almond butter, protein powder, or greens powder. It’s your call. You are now taking better care of yourself and it takes almost no time once you get the hang of it. You might even find some joy in making them. What are you waiting for? Get your blender out.
Smoothies and juice drinks are very popular everywhere you go. Be warned, if you’re not making it yourself, you should check the ingredients. You might be getting large amounts of sugar or ingredients you’ve never heard of in what you think is a healthy drink. Check labels before you buy, and check menus carefully before you order. You can get some amazing, healthy drinks if you’re paying attention. A good rule of thumb: If it tastes like ice cream or an amazing dessert, it’s probably not as healthy as you thought it was.
On its own, fruit can be a nutritious snack anywhere, anytime. You can also add it to plain unsweetened yogurt with some nuts for a healthy treat. Again, be creative.
Vegetable soup and cold gazpacho soup are two additional ways to make sure you’re getting more of the good stuff in your diet. Both can be made in large quantities and stored in the refrigerator. You can also turn plain old eggs into an omelet by adding a few chopped veggies or some leftovers from yesterday’s dinner. It’s easy once you get started.
Of course, if you prefer, all of these options are available for purchase in both small and large quantities. Just be sure you’re looking at the ingredients and try to use organic when you can.
Most people are not getting nearly enough fruit and vegetables in their diet. And what they’re getting might not be as nutritionally dense as it once was due to the depletion of minerals in agricultural soil. While there are plenty of high quality fruit and vegetable supplements available today, they are not recommended as replacements for the real things. At best, they are intended to be a supplement to your healthy diet. If you do choose to supplement, know what, and how much, you are taking. You could also find many ways to add fruits and vegetables into your diet. It’ll make you feel like you’re taking control of your own healthy eating. And it’s so good for you!
As always, check with your physician when taking supplements.