Myth: I Follow the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance Guidelines, So My Diet is Fine.
The U.S. “Recommended Daily Allowances” is Mostly Meaningless, or Worse.
The U.S. government doesn’t want to hurt your feelings with the RDA chart, or make you do anything hard, so it tells you five servings of fruits and vegetables are enough. Food-pyramid silliness and dramatically changing curricula accepted all the way from elementary schools to medical schools is heavily influenced by industries with a profit motive to steer us away from the truth. Those industries are, in order of their influence, the dairy, meat, and refined-foods industries. If you were in elementary school in the 70’s like I was, you may remember that back then (before research overwhelmingly disputed these standards), we were supposed to get 2 servings of meat and 4 servings of dairy every day!
Our Congress has been strong-armed by Agribusiness to author yet another bogus set of dietary recommendations, after many shifts in policy since the government started telling us what to eat. Fortunately the food pyramid has at least improved in the last 30 years to include more plant food. Too bad it still mostly ignores the difference between whole and refined plant foods.
As an experiment, I went to my BlendTec Total Blender with a list of fruit and vegetable serving portions according to the RDA chart. I made myself a green smoothie for the next day with 11 servings according to those portions. You might be imagining a giant blenderful of stuff, but you’re way off.
It yielded THREE CUPS of smoothie—that’s one cup less than I drink every single day. I would still be hungry if that’s all I ate. (I usually eat more than just the smoothie for lunch anyway.) Consider that cup of that smoothie is WATER, so we’re really talking about 2 cups of blended food. That means your government thinks ONE cup of smoothie (5 servings) is plenty for an adult’s fruit and vegetable consumption for a whole day.
These are sample portion sizes:
2 inches of a cucumber, 10 blackberries, 3 heaped tablespoons beans, 3 celery sticks, 7 cherry tomatoes, 2 spears broccoli, 1 cereal bowl raw spinach
So yes, your government’s RDA chart says that 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day is enough, and I am telling you that twice that much makes a snack that liquifies to ONE PINT (without the water). That would not satisfy even my 10-yr. old for more than an hour.
Speaking of 10-year olds, here’s a quote from the 5-a-day website: “These portion sizes are for adults. Children under five should also eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day, but the sizes may be smaller.” How much smaller can they get?
Apparently, according to the portion sizes, my kids and I eat at least 25 fruits/vegs a day. If you eat only 25 grams of dietary fiber as your government recommends, you may still have significant digestive problems and disease risk (most Americans get 11-14 grams).
I recommend you shoot for 40 grams or more. It’s not hard, if you replace refined foods with whole foods.
Fact: The RDA chart serving sizes and nutritional recommendations are pathetic. Our government dumbs down nutrition curriculum and standards because (a) they are in the vise grip of the meat/dairy/processed food industries, and (b) only a small percentage of Americans are getting even 5 servings (includes french fries), so your government doesn’t want to tell you to do anything too challenging. The healthiest populations on earth don’t look at food charts but eat most of every meal as vegetables. We would be wise to do the same and eat whole foods.