Here are the numbers to hit and some ways to sneak more fruits and vegetables into your diet.
We often talk about how diets rich in fruits and vegetables are good for your health. But how much do you need to average per day to reap real rewards? An analysis from Harvard indicates that a total of five servings per day of fruits and vegetables offers the strongest health benefits.
Based on dozens of studies from around the world, which included about two million people who were followed up to 30 years. Compared with people who said they ate just two servings of fruits or vegetables each day, people who ate five servings per day had
— a 13% lower risk of death from any cause — a 12% lower risk of death from heart disease or stroke — a 10% lower risk of death from cancer — a 35% lower risk of death from respiratory disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
“Fruits and vegetables are major sources of several nutrients that are strongly linked to good health, particularly the health of the heart and blood vessels: potassium, magnesium, fiber, and polyphenols,” explains Dr. Daniel Wang, lead author on the study
Your Daily Goals
The most effective combination of fruits and vegetables among study participants was two servings of fruits plus three servings of vegetables per day, for a total of five servings daily.
The biggest health benefits came from eating leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach) and fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C and beta carotene (citrus, berries, carrots). “These are primary sources of antioxidants that may play a role in preventing cancer,” Dr. Wang says.
Interestingly, eating more than five servings of fruits or vegetables per day didn’t seem to provide additional benefit in lowering the risk of death. Neither did eating starchy vegetables like peas, corn, or potatoes, or drinking fruit juices. And you don’t need to make major changes to your typical meals: just minor changes. For example, breakfast could be a bowl of cereal with some blueberries, or perhaps eggs and sauteed tomatoes, onions, and spinach.
Lunch could be a salad with your favorite fruits and vegetables (perhaps kale and spinach salad with grapefruit chunks, red peppers, carrots, and pine nuts), a cup of yogurt with strawberries, or a smoothie with kale and mango.
At dinner, include a side salad or a large side of vegetables such as steamed broccoli or yellow squash and zucchini. If you haven’t had a chance to eat enough vegetables throughout the day, make your main meal a large salad with lots of colorful vegetables and some chunks of protein, such as grilled chicken or fish. For dessert: fresh or frozen fruit is a delicious and healthful treat, especially with a dab of frozen yogurt.