Katie Toulouse, Communications Director
Produce for Better Health Foundation
Umbrella review reinforces the need for dietary guidance to call for Americans to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day for health and happiness
July 22, 2019 – As part of the Produce for Better Health Foundation’s (PBH) long-standing commitment to supporting scientific research to better understand and communicate the role of fruits and vegetables in health, the organization commissioned a new comprehensive review which demonstrates that fruits and vegetables have unique, synergistic health-promoting properties that not only deliver basic nutrient needs, but also improve life expectancy and quality. The results, published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition this month demonstrate dietary guidance should continue to call for people to enjoy at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day – fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice – to improve health and reduce chronic disease risk. In fact, eating more fruits and vegetables each day may be one of the simplest, most important things Americans can do to enjoy happier, healthier lives.
Led by Taylor Wallace, PhD, PBH’s acting chief food and nutrition scientist and a professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at George Mason University, the paper’s team of co-authors included 13 well-established nutrition scientists from academic centers such as Purdue University, Tufts University, University of Washington, The Ohio State University, among others. As part of its ongoing commitment to scientific research, PBH provided an unrestricted educational grant to support the review.
The umbrella review examined nearly 100 studies, including the effects of fruits and vegetables on 17 different types of cancer as well as cardiovascular disease, immunity, infection, lung health, mental health and cognition, bone health, eye health, gut health, among other health outcomes with the intent to:
- Summarize current clinical and observational benefits on the potential health effects of fruits and vegetables;
- Inform future research strategies and priorities; and
- Offer public health messaging strategies that are reflective of current science. In fact, Dr. Wallace recently provided comments on behalf of PBH at the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Advisory Committee’s second meeting in Washington, D.C. to ensure that fruits and vegetables – fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice – continue to be prioritized as a key food group central to Americans’ health and well-being.
“Our findings confirm that eating at least five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day has benefits far beyond providing basic nutritional requirements,” says lead author Wallace. “Increasing fruit and vegetable intake not only helps to ward off chronic disease, but also extends both life expectancy and quality.”
The authors also note evidence demonstrates that eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day can drastically reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, the number one killer of Americans. Other key points include:
- Fruits and vegetables are nutrient-rich plant foods that deserve their prominent place on Americans’ plates and in the plant-forward food dialogue.
- Fruits and vegetables may protect Americans from a range of diseases, including certain forms of cancer, as well as promote eye and bone health, among other benefits.
- Science shows that fruits and vegetables are likely effective at reducing disease risk due to their unique, synergistic combination of micronutrients, fiber, and bioactive compounds.
- There are hundreds of fiber structures in fruits and vegetables that support the good bacteria in the gut, which scientists are increasingly recognizing as integral to overall health.
- Dietary guidance should recognize the role of non-nutrient bioactives in fruits and vegetables in health promotion.
- While research is still emerging, eating fruits and vegetables, as part of healthy dietary patterns, including plant-based dietary patterns, has been associated with overall life satisfaction and happiness, as well as some improved cognitive abilities and mental health.
- All forms of fruits and vegetables – fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice – offer generally consistent nutritional benefits that can improve health and overall diet quality.
- Strongly designed research, such as randomized controlled trials, is needed to better understand the role of fruits and vegetables in promoting health and reducing disease risk.
Despite this well-established evidence on the benefits of fruits and vegetables, nine out of 10 Americans do not eat the recommended five servings per day. PBH has recognized that Americans need creative, yet realistic advice to help them enjoy more fruits and each day. To that end, PBH recently launched a new consumer movement, Have A PlantTM, which aims to inspire Americans with actionable, realistic and FUN steps to connect eating fruits and vegetables with feeling happier and healthier. And, with more people trying to enjoy plant-packed meals more often, Have A PlantTM reminds them that all fruits and vegetables are delicious, nutrient-rich plants.
“The time is now for industry stakeholders across the produce supply chain, as well as health professionals, food influencers, chefs, scientists, thought leaders and other advocates, to work together and inspire Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables,” said Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, MS, RD, President and CEO, Produce for Better Health Foundation. “We’re committed to providing Americans with smart strategies to enjoy more fruits and vegetables every day for happy, healthy and active lives.”
To learn more about Have A Plant™ and to donate to help extend the movement, visit www.fruitsandveggies.org.
About the Produce for Better Health Foundation
Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH), a nonprofit 501(c)(3), is the only national organization dedicated to helping consumers live happier, healthy lives by eating more fruits and vegetables, including fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice, every single day.
Since 1991, PBH has invested decades into developing trended insights on attitudes toward all forms of fruit and vegetable consumption, in addition to campaigns and partnerships with government, food industry stakeholders, health professionals and other thought leaders to collaborate, facilitate and advocate for increased intake. Campaigns included first, the 5-A-Day program, and then, the Fruits & Veggies—More Matters public health initiative. While five fruits and vegetables each day is great advice, and more will always matter, PBH’s new behavior-based call-to-action is Have A Plant™. Rooted in behavioral science, PBH’s transformative Have A Plant™ movement is an invitation that will inspire people with compelling reasons to believe in the powerful role fruits and vegetables can play to create happy, healthy and active lives.
Be sure to join the Have A Plant™ movement and get new recipes, snack hacks, meal ideas and other tips from chefs, registered dietitians, as well as food and wellness experts by visiting www.fruitsandveggies.org. Follow us on Facebook @fruitsandveggies; on Twitter @fruits_veggies; on Instagram @fruitsandveggies; on Pinterest @fruits_veggies; and on LinkedIn at Produce for Better Health Foundation. And remember to #haveaplant.