RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Americans are getting a raw deal in the produce department. Less than 25 percent of people living in the U.S. eat the minimum five servings of fruits and vegetables a day recommended by the National Cancer Institute. But a new study investigating online food tracking found that using your computer to track your eating habits will help you enjoy more fruits and vegetables while making long-lasting healthy menu changes.
THE DETAILS: Researchers followed about 2,500 people ages 21 to 65 for a year, breaking them up into three groups: All visited a website with general health advice, but the second and third groups accessed a website that helped them track their diets and was tailored to their dietary needs and preferences. The third group also received individualized counseling by email. The researchers found a significant increase in the fruits and vegetables eaten, particularly among the branch of participants that also received motivational emails.
WHAT IT MEANS: Fruits and vegetables are nutritional superstars because they offer a wide variety of nutrients, in addition to disease-fighting phytochemicals. And accumulating evidence is linking produce to protection from certain cancers and other chronic diseases. But it can be hard to include enough healthy food in your diet when you're constantly tempted by fast-food fare and other heavily marketed, unhealthy choices. This study suggests that online tools can help you keep track of what you eat so that you can see where your diet falls short and can make changes accordingly. Just don't spend too much time at the computer, since exercise is another lifestyle factor that can cut your risk of health problems.
Here's how to use technology to help you eat a more healthful diet:
• Figure out what you need. There are several recommendations for how many fruits and vegetables you should eat each day, with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services calling for men to eat nine servings a day, and women, seven. To get a more precise estimate, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Fruits and Veggies Matter site to figure out how much produce you should eat each day, based on your age, sex, and activity level.
Read on to see how your computer and iPhone can help you eat healthy.