As often as I can, I try to emphasize that diet is 80 percent of the battle when you are dealing with health issues. In fact, diet is 80 percent of the battle always. Whether you are healthy, on the road to health, or seemingly so far from health you can’t even fathom it—diet is 80 percent of the battle. If you do not address poor dietary habits, you simply won’t achieve optimal health.

One of the most important parts of diet that just about all of us need to address is fruit and vegetable consumption—I emphasize the vegetable part (and by vegetables, I don’t mean potatoes, corn, and other starches). Only 14 percent of American adults and 9.5 percent of adolescents eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day (and this includes potatoes, corn, and other starches, unfortunately). Yet some experts recommend up to 9 servings daily to achieve optimal health and prevent disease.

A recent study published in The American Journal of Medicine analyzed the antioxidant capacity over ten years of the diets of over 32,000 women aged 49 to 83. The women who consumed a diet with the highest antioxidant capacity—the equivalent of 7 servings of fruits and vegetables daily—had a 20 percent lower risk of heart attack when compared to the women eating the lowest antioxidant capacity diet—only 2.4 servings daily.

How many servings of fruits and vegetables do you eat daily? My guess is that you could use a few extra servings each day. Most of us could. Find ways to work these nutrient-dense, high-fiber foods into your diet. Snack on veggies. Be sure to eat vegetables with each meal. Add low-sugar fruits, such as berries, to your breakfast and snacks. It begins at the grocery store (or farmers’ market!) and continues as you plan your days and weeks. Make it your goal to add more fruits and vegetables into your life. Your health will thank you.