More evidence shows the right foods can extend longevity: A new study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition finds that eating five servings a day of fruits and vegetables increases lifespan by nearly three years. The results are based on data collected from more than 71,000 Swedes, ages 45 to 83, who were followed for 13 years. Those who ate at least three servings of vegetables a day lived almost three years longer than people who reported not eating vegetables. People who reported eating no fruit or vegetables at the start of the study were 53 percent more likely to die during the follow-up period than those who got their five daily servings.

Living longer is less appealing with the process of losing one’s wits – but fortunately, a veggie-rich diet yields brain benefits as well. Researchers at Rush University collected dietary data from 3,718 adults 65 years and older administering memory tests over the course of six years. It turned out that  those who ate more than four servings (that’s two cups) of vegetables had a 38% decrease in the rate of mental deterioration compared to those who ate less than one serving (half a cup) of vegetables per day.

These findings constitute yet more proof of the protective potential of produce, following on the heels of Harvard research in which women who ate more leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables improved their odds of maintaining mental acuity. Particularly greens, such as spinach, may even be able to reverse cognitive decline.

Bypass the temptation to smother your veggies in fat and overcook. Instead, make sure to get the most flavor and nutrition out of your veggies by using cooking techniques to preserve natural flavors, boost color, and save the nutrients. Steam vegetables in the microwave, roast in the oven or lightly sauté with olive oil.  For an easy and tasty vegetable to serve your family, try our Grilled Celery with Spicy Peanut Sauce.

Published August 1, 2013