Growing up, children have been told a countless number of times to eat their fruits and vegetables. For years, five portions of fruits and vegetables a day has been recommended for people, with one portion weighing in at about 80 grams — the equivalent of one small apple, banana, pear, large mandarin or three heaping teaspoons of cooked spinach, cauliflower, peas or broccoli.
A meta-analysis of studies done on two million people by scientists at the Imperial College London, however, has established a new benchmark for the daily consumption of fruits and vegetables.
The revised recommended daily portion is almost double the previously stated portions, going from five portions a day to around 10 portions a day, a total of 800 grams of fruits and vegetables.
These findings have been published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.
“We wanted to investigate how much fruit and vegetables you need to eat to gain the maximum protection against disease, and premature death,” Dagfinn Aune, researcher at the School of Public Health in the Imperial College London, said in a press release. “Our results suggest that although five portions of fruit and vegetables is good, 10 a day is even better.”
In the population that was examined, there have been 43,000 cases of heart disease, 47,000 cases of stroke, 81,000 cases of cardiovascular disease, 112,000 cancer cases and 94,000 deaths.
Eating even 200 grams of fruits and vegetables a day has shown a significant decrease in the risk for these diseases, but consumption of the newly recommended 10 portions of vegetables and fruits a day has demonstrated more extensive benefits.
Specifically, this doubled dosage of fruits and vegetables has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease (by 24 percent), stroke (by 33 percent), cardiovascular disease (by 28 percent). and cancer (by 13 percent).
The higher produce consumption even resulted in a 31 percent reduction in the risk of dying prematurely: Eating 10 portions of fruits and vegetables a day has been linked to the prevention of about 7.8 million premature deaths.
Apples, pears, citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, yellow vegetables and cruciferous vegetables have all been observed to help prevent heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, early death or cancer.
“Fruit and vegetables have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure and to boost the health of our blood vessels and immune system. This may be due to the complex network of nutrients they hold,” Aune said. “For instance they contain many antioxidants, which may reduce DNA damage, and lead to a reduction in cancer risk.”
Regardless of whether vegetables are cooked or raw, their consumption produces similar effects. However, taking antioxidant or vitamin supplements fails to replicate these same benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption.
A different study published in the journal Thorax also established a connection between a fruit and vegetable-rich diet and a reduced risk of chronic lung disease. An assessment of more than 44,000 Swedish men diagnosed almost 2,000 cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Those individuals who consumed upwards of five portions of fruits and vegetables a day experienced a 35 percent reduction in lung disease compared to those who consumed less.
For those individuals suffering from COPD whose condition could be attributed to tobacco use, additional servings of fruits and vegetables were coupled with reduced rates of COPD risk.
Although more research on the methods of preparing fruits and vegetables for maximum health benefits is needed, there is no doubt that eating a greater number of portions of fruits and vegetables in a day increases health benefits.
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