Five servings of fruits and veggies a day has long been the daily minimum we’ve been encouraged to aim for in order to maintain good health, but that scientists are discovering more about our nutritional needs, the “5-a-day” recommendation is quickly becoming more outdated than ever. A new study from Imperial College London revealed that a minimum of 10 servings of fruits and veggies a day is linked to a healthier, longer lifespan.
This was a very large-scale, meta-analysis study, involving all available research that included up to two million people from populations all over the world. It also included 43,000 cases of heart disease, 47,000 cases of stroke, 81,000 cases of cardiovascular disease, 112,000 cases of cancer and 94,000 deaths.
The researchers discovered that a higher intake of fruits and veggies was associated with a significantly reduced risk of disease and death. They found that 800 grams a day, which is the equivalent of about 10 servings, could cut the risk of heart disease by 24 percent, stroke by 33 percent, cardiovascular disease by 28 percent, total cancer by 13 percent and premature death by 31 percent.
If you’re pretty sure you’re already getting the old 5-a-day minimum, that’s still a great start — because the researchers found that even this helps cut the risk of disease. Even as little as 200 grams of fruits and veggies a day was shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by 16 percent, stroke by 18 percent and cardiovascular disease by 13 percent.
In addition to the serving sizes that the researchers analyzed, they also looked at the specific types of fruits and veggies that had the most positive impacts. The following may be the best choices when it comes to preventing heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease and premature death:
- Citrus fruits
- Leafy greens
The following veggies were associated with a lower risk of cancer:
- Green veggies like spinach and green beans
- Yellow veggies like peppers and carrots
- Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage
The data was more limited for determining which types of fruits and veggies could reduce the risk of disease and early death, so it’s possible that other fruits and veggies could have similar benefits. More research is needed to look into the specifics of how the nutrients from certain fruits and veggies lead to certain benefits, including how to prepare them to maximize their benefits as well as how fruit and veggie intake relates to other causes of death that aren’t from cancer or cardiovascular disease.
So, what exactly is one serving size, anyway? According to the researchers, at 80 grams per serving, this is the equivalent of one small piece of fruit like an apple or a banana. For cooked veggies like peas, spinach, broccoli or cauliflower, one serving size is about the equivalent of three heaped tablespoons.