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Healing Foods Pyramid

Healing Foods Pyramid™

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Fruits and Vegetables are included in the Healing Foods Pyramid™ as part of a balanced, whole foods, plant-based diet. This Food Pyramid emphasizes foods that nourish the body, sustain energy over time, contain healing qualities and essential nutrients, and support a sustainable environment.

What are the recommended servings per day?

Why should you choose fruits & vegetables?

What is the threshold effect?

Research supports evidence of an inverse relationship of fruit and vegetable consumption with development of chronic disease. This means that the more fruits and vegetables you eat, the less likely you are to develop chronic diseases. The most significant reductions in risk of illness are seen when individuals consume 7-10 servings of fruits & vegetables per day (the threshold). Therefore, to get the most health benefits we recommend a minimum “threshold” of 7 servings of fruits & vegetables daily.

Recommended Serving Sizes of Fruits & Vegetables

Fruit or Vegetable
Serving Size


Size of tennis ball

Baby carrots





¾ cup

Vegetables, cooked

½ cup



Fruit, Dried

¼ cup

Melon, Chopped

1 cup

Fruit/Vegetable, Raw, Chopped

½ cup

Leafy Greens, Raw, Chopped

1 cup

Specific Considerations



Glycemic Index



The most well known phytochemicals are the antioxidants:

Cooking Fruits and Vegetables

Pesticide Use

To reduce consumption of pesticides, follow these tips:

Consider Organic

According to the Consumers Union and The Environmental Working Group as of 2009, the top fruits and vegetables to buy organic because of potential pesticide residue are:

Ways to Increase your Organic Fruits and Vegetables Intake

Ideas to Increase Consumption of Fruits and Vegetable

  1. Do it gradually
  2. Snack on raw vegetables instead of chips and crackers. To keep it interesting, try dipping vegetables in hummus, salsa or low-fat dip.
  3. Add fruit to your cereal or yogurt at breakfast
  4. Order salads as an appetizer when out to dinner
  5. Get creative - add vegetables to dishes that don’t always include them, like scrambled eggs, rice or pasta dishes, pizza and casseroles
  6. Drink your fruit (including fruit just past its prime) in the form of a fruit smoothie where the whole fruit is used
    -Be aware, many store bought smoothies and mixes are made with added colors and sugar, and lack the naturally occurring fiber, so check the label before you buy
  7. Choose salads as your main course for lunch or dinner. For variety, top your salads with strawberries, grapes, orange slices, or dried cranberries; and for protein add tempeh, nuts, or fish.
  8. In hot weather, frozen fruit such as grapes, sliced kiwis, sliced peaches, bananas and strawberries are a refreshing snack
  9. Enjoy salad bars at restaurants or grocery stores
  10. When craving a sweet treat, try dried fruit; it’s quick, easy and no mess! For easy access keep some at work or in the car
  11. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables in season. (Find out what to buy:
  12. Frozen fruit and vegetables are frozen soon after harvest and can be eaten during the off season as a nutritious alternative to fresh produce
  13. Watch local grocery advertisements for reduced prices on your favorite fruits and vegetables
  14. Try fruit for dessert, on its own or with a dollop of fresh whipped cream or ice cream. A bowl of mixed berries is an excellent treat for the sweet tooth.
  15. Prepare fruits and vegetables ahead of time, so they are readily available when you are hungry
  16. Fill half of your plate with vegetables and/or fruit
  17. Choose a rainbow of fruits and vegetables daily; quantity is important and variety is the way to maximize your nutrient consumption.
  18. Many fruits and vegetables are easy snacks for a busy day. Try baby carrots, grapes, clementines, apples, bananas, cherries, even broccoli.



10 Fruits and Vegetables to Buy Organic
Children’s Health Environmental Coalition
Accessed May 26, 2009

Fruits & Vegetables
Nutrition Source, Harvard School of Public Health
Accessed May 26, 2009.

Fruits and Vegetables Matter
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Accessed May 26, 2009

The Health Value of Fruits and Vegetables
Iowa State University Extension
Accessed May 26, 2009

High ORAC Foods May Slow Aging
McBride J.
Agricultural Research Service / US Department of Agriculture
Accessed May 26, 2009

How do I get started with cancer fighting nutrition?
Dixon, S.
Cancer Nutrition Information web
Accessed May 26, 2009

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides
Environmental Working Group
Accessed June 9, 2009

Pesticide Residues on Fresh Fruits and Vegetables: What’s the Risk?
Fraser, A.
North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension
Accessed June 9, 2009

The Healthy Facts about Fruits and Vegetables
The American Dietetic Association
Accessed June 9, 2009

Nutraceuticals, Phytochemicals & Antioxidants: What are they?
Dresbach, S.
Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet, Family and Consumer Services
Accessed May 27, 2009

Top Antioxidant Foods
Diana Dyer web site
Accessed May 27, 2009

What color is your food?
Garden-Robinson, J.
North Dakota State University Extension Service, August 2003.
Accessed May 27, 2009

Why Fruit & Vegetable Benefits
Accessed May 27, 2009

Original Research and Review Articles

Bes-Rastrollo M, et a. Association of fiber intake and fruit/vegetable consumption with weight gain in a Mediterranean population. Nutrition. 2006; 22: 504-511.

Brew CT, et al. Indole-3-carbinol inhibits MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cell motility and induces stress fibers and focal adhesion formation by activation of Rho kinase activity. International Journal of Cancer. 2008; 124: 2294-2302.

Broekmans WMR, et al. Fruits and vegetables increase plasma carotenoids and vitamins and decrease homocysteine in humans. The Journal of Nutrition. 2000;130:1578-1583.

Chinnakannu, K, et al. Cell cycle-dependent effects of 3,3’-Diinndolylmethane on proliferation and Apoptosis of Prostate Cancer Cells. Journal of Cellular Physiology. 2009; 219: 94-99.

Darlington LG, et al. Antioxidants and fatty acids in the amelioration of rheumatoid arthritis and related disorders. British Journal of Nutrition. 2001;85(3):251-269.

Djoussé L, et al. Fruit and vegetable consumption and LDL cholesterol: the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Family Heart Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2004;79: 213-217.

Flood-Obbagy J, et al. The effect of fruit in different forms on energy intake and satiety at a meal. Appetite. 2009; 52: 416-422.

Hasler CM, et al. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Functional foods. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2004; 104:814-826.

He F, et al. Fruit and vegetable consumption and stroke: meta-analysis of cohort studies. The Lancet. 2006; 367(9507):320-326.

He X, et al. Phytochemicals of apple peels: isolation, structure elucidation, and their antiproliferative and antioxidant activities. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. 2008; 56 (21): 9905-9910.

Kalt, W. Effects of production and processing factors on major fruit and vegetable antioxidants. Journal of Food Science. 2005; 70 (1) r11-r19.

Lampe JW. Health effects of vegetables and fruit: assessing mechanisms of action in human experimental studies. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.1999;70(suppl):475s-490s.

Liu, RH. Potential synergy of phytochemicals in cancer prevention: mechanism of action. Journal of Nutrition. 2004; 134(12 suppl):3479s-3485s.

Machijima Y, et al. Anti-adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma effects of idol-3-carbinol. Retrovirology. 2009; 6(7); 1-13.

Prior, RL. Fruits and vegetable in the prevention of cellular oxidative damage. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2003; 78(suppl): 570s-578s.

Ribaya-Mercado JD, et al. Lutein and zeanthin and their potential roles in disease prevention. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2004; 23(6): 567s-587s.

Son TG, et al. Hormetic dietary phytochemicals. Neuromolecular Medicine. 2008; 10:236-246.

Van Duyn MAS, et al. Overview of the health benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption for the dietetics professional: selected literature. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2000;100(12):1511-1521.

The Healing Foods Pyramid™ was created by the Nutrition Education Team at the University of Michigan Integrative Medicine, Department of Family Medicine in 2005 and updated in 2009.

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