High vegetable and fruit (V&F) intake has been associated with a lower risk of many cancers. However, the specific V&F, the active compounds present in V&F, and the dose at which they confer protection are unknown. Standard methods for assessing, classifying, and quantifying V&F exposures in epidemiologic studies have not been established. Differences among studies occur due to inherent differences among V&F, and across dietary assessment methods, study populations, etiologic hypotheses, and analytic methods. The V&F classification scheme presented here characterizes and quantifies V&F consumption for elucidating risk relationships, identifying chemopreventive compounds present in V&F, and facilitating identification of potential biomarkers of V&F intake. Broad criteria define which plant foods count as V&F. Formation of food groups is based on proposed biological mechanisms of action. Five main groups are included: Total V&F; Total Vegetables; Total Fruits; and two groups orthogonal to these -- the Botanical and Phytochemical groups. Subgroups are specified within each main group. V&F exposure is quantified as the absolute amount consumed (weight) or as the number of household servings. This classification scheme has public health applications and may be used to examine associations with chronic diseases other than cancer.