Eating fruit and vegetables this way can help you live longer

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In a new study, researchers found that eating about five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, in which 2 are fruits and 3 are vegetables, is likely the optimal amount for longer life.

The research was conducted by a team at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Diets rich in fruits and vegetables help reduce the risk for numerous chronic health conditions that are leading causes of death, including heart disease and cancer.

Yet, only about one in 10 adults eat enough fruits or vegetables, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the study, the team analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, two studies including more than 100,000 adults who were followed for up to 30 years.

Both datasets included detailed dietary information repeatedly collected every two to four years.

For this analysis, researchers also used data on fruit and vegetable intake and death from 26 studies that included about 1.9 million participants from 29 countries and territories.

They found that intake of about five servings of fruits and vegetables daily was linked to the lowest risk of death. Eating more than five servings was not linked to additional benefits.

In addition, eating about two servings daily of fruits and three servings daily of vegetables was linked to the greatest longevity.

Compared to those who consumed two servings of fruit and vegetables per day, participants who consumed five servings a day of fruits and vegetable had a 13% lower risk of death from all causes; a 12% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke; a 10% lower risk of death from cancer; and a 35% lower risk of death from respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Not all foods that one might consider to be fruits and vegetables offered the same benefits.

For example, Starchy vegetables, such as peas and corn, fruit juices, and potatoes were not linked to a reduced risk of death from all causes or specific chronic diseases.

On the other hand, green leafy vegetables, including spinach, lettuce and kale, and fruit and vegetables rich in beta carotene and vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, berries and carrots, showed benefits.

The team says this study identifies an optimal intake level of fruits and vegetables and supports the evidence-based, succinct public health message of ‘5-a-day,’ meaning people should ideally consume five servings of fruit and vegetable each day.

This amount likely offers the most benefit in terms of prevention of major chronic disease and is a relatively achievable intake for the general public.

The study also found that not all fruits and vegetables offer the same degree of benefit.

It provides strong evidence for the lifelong benefits of eating fruits and vegetables and suggests a goal amount to consume daily for ideal health.

Fruits and vegetables are naturally packaged sources of nutrients that can be included in most meals and snacks, and they are essential for keeping our hearts and bodies healthy.

One author of the study is Dong D. Wang, M.D., Sc.D., an epidemiologist, nutritionist.

The study is published in Circulation.

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