Health and nutrition experts recommend taking five servings of vegetables a day to take care of our body. What is sometimes not very clear is how much to take from one to the other. Studies representing nearly two million adults worldwide show that the ratio of two pieces of fruit and three of vegetables is probably the optimal combination for a longer lifeaccording to new research published in “Circulation,” the flagship journal of the American Heart Association.
Diets rich in fruits and vegetables ahelp reduce the risk of numerous chronic diseases which are the main causes of death, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. However, only one in 10 adults eats enough fruits or vegetables, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“While groups like the American Heart Association recommend four to five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, consumers are likely to receive inconsistent messages about what defines the optimal daily intake of fruits and vegetables, such as the recommended amount and what foods include and avoid, ”says study lead author Dong D. Wang, an epidemiologist, nutritionist, and member of the faculty of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Wang and his colleagues analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, two investigations that included more than 100,000 adults who were followed for 30 years. Both data sets included detailed dietary information collected repeatedly every two to four years. For this analysis, the researchers also combined data on fruit and vegetable intake and death from 26 studies that included about 1.9 million participants from 29 countries and territories in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa. and Australia.
Analysis of all the studies, with a combination of more than two million participants, revealed that the intake of approximately five servings of fruits and vegetables a day was associated with the lowest risk of death, while eating more than five servings was not associated with an additional benefit. In addition, taking two daily servings of fruits and three of vegetables was associated with the greatest longevity.
Compared to those who ate two servings of fruits and vegetables per day, participants who ate five servings of fruits and vegetables per day had 13% lower risk of death from all causes; 12% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke; 10% lower risk of death from cancer; and a 35% lower risk of death from respiratory disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Not all foods that can be considered fruits and vegetables offer the same benefits. For example, starchy vegetables, like peas and corn, fruit juices and potatoes were not associated with a reduced risk of death from all causes or specific chronic diseases.
On the other hand, green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, lettuce, and kale, and vegetables rich in beta-carotene and vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, berries, and carrots, also showed benefits.
‘Our analysis of the two cohorts of US men and women yielded similar results to 26 cohorts worldwide, supporting the biological plausibility of our findings and suggesting that these findings can be applied to broader populations. “Argues Wang.
The lead author believes that this study identifies an optimal level of fruit and vegetable intake and supports the succinct and evidence-based public health message of ‘5 a day». “This amount probably offers the greatest benefit in terms of preventing major chronic diseases and is a relatively achievable intake for the general public,” he says. «We also discovered that not all fruits and vegetables offer the same degree of benefit“Although current dietary recommendations generally treat all types of fruits and vegetables, including starchy vegetables, fruit juices, and potatoes equally,” he concludes.
The limitation of this research is that it is observational. That is, it shows an association between the consumption of fruits and vegetables and the risk of death, but does not confer a direct cause and effect relationship.
“The American Heart Association recommends filling at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables at every meal,” recalls Anne Thorndike, chair of the nutrition committee of the American Heart Association and associate professor of medicine at the School of Medicine of Harvard in Boston. “This research provides strong evidence for the lifetime benefits of eating fruits and vegetables and suggests a target 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 are essential for keeping your heart and body healthy, “he concludes.