Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day to boost longevity
Eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day could benefit your longevity, a new study published in the journal Circulation suggests.
Leafy green vegetables, foods rich in beta carotene, and berries seemed to have the biggest health impact, researchers found.
The study defined a serving as a half cup of any vegetable or fruit, or a whole cup of leafy greens.
You know the importance of eating your fruit and veggies, but are you actually filling your plate? Only one in 10 adults eats the recommended amount of produce in a day, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Just one reason that’s a big mistake? New research suggests consuming about five servings a day of fruit and vegetables, specifically two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables, could benefit your longevity.
For the study, published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health followed more than 100,000 adults who had no history of cardiovascular disease, cancer, or diabetes using food questionnaires every two-to-four years for nearly three decades. Additionally, they analyzed data from 24 other studies, which included two million adults from around the world.
They discovered participants who had five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, instead of the average of two, had a 13% lower risk of death from all causes, a 12% lower risk of death from heart disease and stroke, a 10% lower risk of death from cancer, and a 35% lower risk of death from respiratory disease. The study defined a serving as a half cup of any vegetable or fruit, or a whole cup of leafy greens.
Eating more leafy green vegetables, like spinach and kale, cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli and Brussels sprouts, foods rich in beta carotene, like carrots, citrus fruits, and berries—all of which are high in antioxidants—seemed to have the biggest health impact.
While the researchers didn’t find any additional longevity benefits to consuming more than five servings of produce per day, there are plenty of reasons to keep eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
“We get vitamins, minerals, fiber, fluid, and antioxidants [from fruits and vegetables], which all help in keeping our body primed and ready to go,” says Angel Planells M.S., R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics who was not associated with the study. “Those who consume more fruits and vegetables get the added benefit of consuming a more wholesome diet with a reduced risk of some chronic diseases.”
Planells emphasizes eating a diverse mix of fruits and veggies is most beneficial because they all have different nutrient profiles, providing our bodies with various vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants needed for optimal health.
What does a serving of fruits and vegetables really looks like, anyway?
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends four servings of fruit per day and five servings of vegetables per day—nearly double what the study found to benefit longevity.
Serving sizes vary, but the AHA defines one serving of fruit as one medium fruit, ¼ cup dried fruit, or ½ cup fresh, frozen, or canned fruit; a serving of vegetables is 1 cup raw leafy vegetables or ½ cup fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables. Some common measurements include:
A good place to start is to determine how many fruits and veggies you’re already consuming, suggests Planells. Once you have a new personal goal in mind, you can take small steps to boost your intake.
“If you strategize and plan out some of your meals, you are more likely to be aware during the day of what you have consumed, and what you need to consume to meet your personal goal,” Planells says.
He suggests prepping your produce in advance, such as cutting a large melon and storing it in your fridge or pre-cooking veggies so they’re easily accessible to grab as a snack or reheat at dinnertime. Additionally, leave fruits and veggies in plain view when organizing the fridge or out on a counter so you remember they are there and ready to be enjoyed.