A new large review of studies, representing nearly two million adults worldwide, has found that eating 5 daily servings of fruits and vegetables, in which 2 are fruits and 3 are vegetables, is likely the optimal amount for a longer life.
Diets rich in fruits and vegetables help reduce the risk of many chronic health conditions that are leading causes of death, including heart disease, stroke, 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.
While the American Heart Association recommends four to five servings each of fruits and vegetables daily, consumers can get inconsistent messages about what defines the optimal recommended amount.
Canada’s Food Guide, for example, updated in 2019, did away with recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables. The guide now advises Canadians to “make half your of plate vegetables and fruit”. The plate analogy is easier to understand and, therefore, to apply.
But consumers may wonder how much is that? How much of it should be vegetables versus fruit?
About the study
The researchers analyzed data from two large U.S. studies including more than 100,000 adults who were followed for up to 30 years. They investigated the association between the amount of fruits and vegetables consumed each day and the risk of early death.
The link between specific types of fruits and vegetables and mortality risk was also examined. Both datasets included detailed dietary information repeatedly collected every two to four years.
The combined analysis of all of the studies, which included more than two million participants, revealed the following:
- Eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day was associated with the lowest risk of death. Eating more than 5 servings was not associated with additional benefit
- Eating 2 servings of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables each day was associated with the greatest longevity.
- Compared to people who consumed two servings of fruit and vegetables per day, those whose daily diet included five servings of fruits and vegetable had a 13 per cent lower risk of dying from all causes, a 12 per cent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, a 10 per cent lower risk of death from cancer, and a 35 per cent lower risk of death from respiratory disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Starchy vegetables, such as green peas and corn, fruit juices and potatoes were not associated with reduced risk of death from all causes or specific diseases.
- 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 researchers also pooled and analyzed data on fruit and vegetable intake and mortality risk from nearly two million participants enrolled in 26 studies conducted in 29 countries. The results were similar. The lowest risk of death was tied to a daily intake of five servings, two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables.
The new findings suggest that people should ideally aim to include 5 servings of fruit and vegetable each day (2 fruit servings and 3 vegetable servings), an amount that likely offers the most benefit in terms of preventing major chronic diseases.
It’s also a relatively achievable goal for people. One serving is a medium-sized fruit, 1/2 cup (125 ml) of chopped fruit or berries, ¼ cup (50 ml) unsweetened dried fruit, ½ cup (125 ml) of cooked vegetables or one cup (250 ml) of salad greens.
A limitation of the research is that it is observational, showing an association between fruit and vegetable consumption and risk of death. It does not prove that there is a direct cause-and-effect relationship.
Source: Circulation, March 1, 2021.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.