Mom Says, Eat Your Vegetables: New Categories for Fruits and Vegetables


Vegetables from leafy greens, sulfur and color.

By Cynthia DeWitte

There are numerous recommendations for the daily allowance of fruits and vegetables. The USDA recommends five vegetable servings and four fruit servings per day. A serving is half a cup. This amounts to 2 ½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day. To put this in perspective, one large pear is about two cups of fruit, so that would cover an entire day’s allowance of fruit.

Many experts are now considering these guidelines to be woefully inadequate. Included in this group is Dr. Terry Wahls of the Wahls Protocol™. She suggests almost twice as much is really necessary for optimal health. According to Wahls, a minimum of nine cups of vegetables and fruit is needed per day. Rather than separating them into fruits and vegetables, Dr. Wahls separates them into three categories that include both fruits and vegetables: 3 cups of greens, 3 cups of sulfur vegetables and 3 cups of color vegetables and fruits. The issue of what is a fruit or vegetable does not matter in this context, because all fruits fit into the color category along with colored vegetables. This is the formula I use as the standard for my fruit and vegetable recommendations and in formulating many of my smoothie recipes.

Many vegetables fit into more than one category. Often one part of the plant is from one category and another part of the plant is from another. An example is bok choy. The leaves are in the leafy green category and the stalks are in the sulfur category. Leafy greens and colors are easy to identify.

Leafy Greens Look Like This

Leafy Greens Look Like This


Leafy and green, it goes in the leafy greens. If it is not leafy green, but it is colored, it goes into the color category.



The sulfur vegetables category covers allium vegetables, like onion and garlic as well as cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower.

Here is a list of the main sulfur vegetables:


Sulfur Vegetables

Arugula, bok choy, broccoli, broccoli rabe, brocollina, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage (nappa cabbage), collard greens, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens,  radishes, rutabaga, turnips, turnip greens,  watercress, wasabi from the cruciferous vegetables. From the allium family are onion, garlic, leeks, shallots, scallions, and chives. Mushrooms are also high in sulfur. Eating at least three cups of these vegetables per day provides a bounty of minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients.

The colors of fruits and vegetables are made from compounds that are good for us. Scent, flavor and color are the products of natural chemical compounds called phytonutrients (or phytochemicals) in plants that fill them with nutrients that we need for optimal function of our bodies and disease prevention. As mentioned previously, some vegetables fit into more than one category. For example, yellow onions are both sulfur vegetables and color vegetables, but white onions are only part of the sulfur category. Purple kale can be a leafy green, a sulfur and a color vegetable. Deciding which category to use them in will depend on how many serving you already have in each category.


Color vegetables and leafy greens.


Radishes belong to all three families. The greens are good in smoothies or salads for your leafy greens and sulfur. The bulb is both a sulfur vegetable and a color vegetable.


This may seem like a lot of fruits and vegetables, but it’s probably not as much as you might think. For example, a large apple is equivalent to about two cups of fruit. That is four servings according to the USDA or two servings according to Dr. Terry Wahls. It is easy to get three cups of greens in just one salad or a smoothie. Add three more cups of sulfur vegetables and you have a powerhouse of nutritional stores ready for your body to feast on and use.

There is a lot of research on nutrition and disease. Many diet plans have been designed around this research and some of these diets are developed to treat specific illnesses.  These eating plans can be highly effective. Even though there are differences in these diets, the main thread running through the effective ones is to include lots of vegetables.

Of these diets, The Wahls Protocol™ is based on research regarding what works to feed the body at the cellular level to bring healing, especially from autoimmune diseases, many of which appear to respond to similar nutritional treatment. Dr. Wahls’ diet is designed to feed the body nutrients that can rebuild where the body has been damaged and to remove foods that can cause further damage or may contribute to the problem. Many people report having dramatic improvements in their health from following the Wahls diet.

The Wahls Protocol™ has guidelines that are easy to understand and follow. The diet can be appropriate for anyone, but has specifically been designed to combat multiple sclerosis. Our interest in her diet is regarding her vegetable and fruit recommendations. She has studied the various properties of vegetables and fruits to determine what amounts are required for healing and optimal bodily functioning. The Wahls diet provides a straightforward, easy to understand and implement baseline that includes enough vegetables, but is not too much for the average person to consume.  Therefore, the vegetable and fruit recommendations used in the Good Health Series are based on The Wahls Protocol™. Eating the amount of vegetables and fruit she recommends is significantly higher than the USDA Food Guide recommendations, but this series will teach you how it is possible to get that many fruits and vegetables into your day. After adopting a healthier diet full of whole, real foods, you will be so full on fresh, healthy vegetables you will be unlikely to want the junk anymore, because you will be satisfied on the good stuff.

Whatever is going on with your health, switching from a diet of processed foods that is also low in vegetables to a diet with zero or very little processed food and adding lots of vegetables and some fruit, for most people this will increase health.* However, once a person’s health has deteriorated, it may take a more drastic approach such as seeking the help of a health care professional who is educated in dietary changes that can resolve illness. For example, there are some illnesses such as candida that may require measures beyond nutrition to resolve. 

My recommendations are based on a variety of research and are for the general population. If you have a particular disease that you are struggling with, doctors and researchers have developed diets to combat various maladies. I highly recommend doing your own research to find what would be most helpful for your specific situation. If you prefer to seek help from a trained practitioner, who understands current nutritional research; this could literally transform your life.

Click here for Part 6 of the Good Health Series is full of tips on how to easily get more vegetables into your diet.

*Getting rid of processed foods and only eating real foods and whole foods as much as possible is unlikely to hurt anyone, but there are some cases where people have medical restrictions. Going against the advice of a physician should only be done after careful consideration and personal research and better yet, the help of a professional trained in the area of need. In some cases, adding in a bounty of raw vegetables could make some conditions, like colitis, worse and should only be done under the supervision of a health care profession trained in how to do that safely.

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Good Health: The Basics: Part 1 of the Good Health Series

Food: More Than Calories Count: Part 2 of the Good Health Series

Quick Start Guide to Good Health: Part 3 of the Good Health Series

Whole Foods and Real Foods: Part 4 of the Good Health Series

Supersize Your Vegetables: Part 6 of the Good Health Series


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