Fruits and Vegetables May Lower Risk of Death
Science keeps on singing fruits’ and veggies’ praise! In 2013 we reported a Swedish study finding people who said they ate at least three servings of vegetables a day lived almost three years longer than people who didn’t eat vegetables. Last year we discussed a Dutch study concluding that for every 200 grams of daily produce people ate, risk of death was reduced by 6%. We now have even more evidence that fruits and vegetables may help add years to your life.
In a 2014 meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal, researchers compiled 16 different studies, totaling over 833,000 participants across the United States, Europe, and Asia. After analyzing results from all of these studies, researchers concluded average risk of death from any cause was reduced by 5% for each additional daily serving of fruits and vegetables. They noticed this trend up until people hit five servings a day, which appeared to be the magic number for reducing risk of death. Anything over five servings yielded no additional risk reduction. For this study, researchers considered a serving to be 77 grams for vegetables and 80 grams for fruit.
Scientists propose antioxidants and polyphenols in fruits and vegetables, such as vitamin C, flavonoids, and carotenoids, might be to thank. These compounds have been shown to prevent cholesterol and fat oxidation and promote blood flow, and likely contribute to reduced risk of mortality. Fruits and vegetables are also packed with magnesium and potassium, which other studies have linked to lower risk of death. The observed threshold of five servings a day might be due to availability of these nutrients and the digestibility of fruits and vegetables.
This study, along with a plethora of past evidence, gives even more reason to fill your plates with fruits and vegetables. Eating a variety of colorful plant foods might be a step in promoting health and overall longevity. All you need is five servings a day. Though this study had its own serving standards, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Committee recommends aiming for five full cups per day. What does this look like? Choose five of the following foods daily and you’ll be sure to hit the five-a-day mark.
- 1 small apple
- 1 medium grapefruit or pear
- 1 large banana, orange, peach
- 1 cup sliced cantaloupe, watermelon, or pineapple
- 8 large strawberries
- 3 medium plums
- 1 cup broccoli or cauliflower florets
- 1 cup chopped tomato, cucumber, or bell pepper
- 1 cup cooked green beans, mushrooms, or squash
- 2 cups raw leafy greens
- 2 medium carrots
- 1 large sweet potato
Amp up your fruit and veggie count for the day by trying our Power Colors Kale Salad, made with kale, apple, fennel, beets, and oranges.
Published March 1, 2015