In case you had any lingering doubts, a new study confirms what mom and dad repeated so many times: eating plenty of fruits and vegetables can help you live a longer, healthier life.
According to a study published in the American Heart Association’s journal “Circulation,” people who ate five servings of fruit and veggies – two servings of fruit and three servings of veggies – lowered their risk of dying from heart disease by 12 percent, cancer by 10 percent and respiratory disease by 35 percent compared to people who ate just two servings per day.
Overall, eating five servings of fruit and vegetables was associated with a 13 percent reduced risk of death from any cause.
Federal guidelines consider one serving to be a half-cup of fruits or vegetables or a whole cup of salad greens. On average, Americans eat about 1 to 1½ servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
“Fruits and vegetables are important parts of a balanced diet,” Jamie Kandora, clinical nutrition manager at Tidelands Health. “They provide us with essential vitamins and minerals, fiber and antioxidants that keep our bodies operating at peak performance.”
Not all equal
The study’s authors reviewed data from nearly 2 million women and men who participated in long-term health studies worldwide.
One key finding of the research: all fruits and vegetable are not created equal.
The study ranks leafy greens, citrus fruits and berries high on the list of foods that improve your longevity. Low on the list: Fruit juices and starchy vegetables such as corn, peas and potatoes – all of which tend to raise blood sugar levels. Those foods don’t hurt, according to the study, but they don’t help either.
Potatoes actually make up more than one quarter of the vegetables Americans consume in a year. Boiled, baked and roasted potatoes get a thumbs-up for healthy eating. But at least half the potatoes we consume are in the form of French fries and potato chips, which are both high in saturated fat and salt – hindrances to good health.
So if you’re a French fry junkie or potato chip lover, dial back in favor of more variety in your diet.
Another key finding: How you get your fruits and veggies doesn’t matter. Fruits and vegetables retain their nutritional value whether they’re fresh, canned or frozen, organic or conventional.
And, for those who think, “if a little of something is good, a lot will be better,” the study’s authors say going beyond five servings a day has no added benefit, though it doesn’t hurt, either.
So, focus on eating at least five daily servings of fruits and veggies every day — the more diverse the better.
“Find the fruits and vegetables you enjoy eating and incorporate them into your diet in some form every day,” Kandora says. “Strive to eat a rainbow of colors to get the nutrients your body needs.”