WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
New research provides evidence that eating 10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day is
optimal in preventing chronic diseases and premature mortality.1
WHAT THIS MEANS
Before we go any further, let’s discuss how this new recommendation of eating 10 servings of fruits and veggies a day came into being. Chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, hypertension and obesity, cause millions of premature deaths each year. Cardiovascular disease and cancer alone accounted for 25.5 million deaths worldwide in 2013. Due to the immense health benefits of fruits and vegetables, researchers and healthcare professionals have long sought an optimal level of fruit and vegetable intake to reduce the risk of chronic diseases. No definitive recommendation has been identified and as a result, serving recommendations vary globally.
A new study, published in The International Journal of Epidemiology, conducted the largest study ever undertaken on fruit and veggie intake and risk of several chronic diseases and premature death. The purpose of the study was to determine the optimal number of servings needed per day reduce the risk of chronic disease and premature death. Journal articles were included from as far back as the 1940s and nearly 50,000 potential articles were screened for inclusion. After eliminating studies that were irrelevant, 142 publications that included over 2.1 million participants were selected. In total, the study assessed up to 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. The study included 44 publications from Europe, 26 from the United States, 20 from Asia and five from Australia. All publications included were cohort studies, meaning the studies were longer in duration and participant information was collected for years or even decades.
RESULTS OF THE STUDY
Results show an unprecedented benefit of increased fruit and veggie intake on preventing chronic disease and premature death. When individuals consumed 10 servings of fruits and veggies per day, researchers observed:
- 24% lower risk of coronary heart disease
- 33% lower risk of stroke
- 28% lower risk of cardiovascular disease
- 31% lower risk of all-cause mortality
- 14% lower risk of cancer (7-7.5 servings/day)
For cancer, a 14% risk reduction was observed for 7-7.5 servings per day, with no added benefit observed in higher intake levels.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Current dietary recommendations for adults in the United States are 1.5-2 cups of fruits and 2-3 cups of veggies per day, depending upon age, weight, height and physical activity level.2 In 2013, only 13.1% adults met the fruit intake recommendation and 8.9% met the vegetable intake recommendation.2 While new research clearly demonstrates it’s beneficial to eat 10 servings of fruits and veggies per day, many people will likely find this recommendation overwhelming, unattainable and downright unrealistic.
Ten (10) servings of fruits and veggies per day proved the most protective against chronic disease and premature death, however much lower levels of fruit and veggie consumption will absolutely benefit one’s health. The study found an 8% reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease, a 16% reduction in the risk of stroke, a 8% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease, 3% reduction in the risk of total cancer and 10% reduction in the risk of all-cause mortality for 2.5 servings of fruits and veggies intake per day.
Fill half your plate with fruits & veggies!
Rather than fixating on consuming 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, we advocate that individuals seeking to improve their health and reduce their risk of chronic diseases focus on filling half their plate with fruits and veggies during each meal and snack. Using USDA’s MyPlate method as a guideline during each eating occasion will enable you eat healthfully without much effort and hit the fruit and veggie intake recommendations in the process. As stated above, fruits and veggies will benefit health and wellbeing at any level.
While we can’t speak to each and every reason that Americans are consuming so few fruits and veggies, we would like to address some of the most common concerns and suggestions to overcome these concerns to help you fill half your plate with fruits and veggies.
How To Overcome Common Reasons Americans Don’t Eat Enough Fruits & Veggies
- Cost. Fruits and veggies are perceived as expensive food items. Buying produce in season, purchasing in bulk and buying canned fruits and veggies can lower your grocery bill. For more money-saving ideas, check our recent article to shop & save on produce.
- Time. Eating nutritiously doesn’t have to be a time consuming burden, but it’s often perceived as one. If you’re a busy parent, student or just a busy person with little free time, try meal planning to avoid last minute, unhealthy decisions to fill your fridge and freezer with healthy options. If you feel you don’t have time to go to food shopping, many grocery stores now offer free or inexpensive grocery delivery options (depending upon geographic location).
- Shelf Life. Most fresh fruits and veggies need to be prepared and eaten within a few days of purchase, but fresh fruits and veggies are not the only way to meet the recommendations for fruit and veggie intake. Fresh, frozen, canned, dehydrated, dried, and 100% juice all count toward filling half your plate. All of these alternative options to fresh produce are nutritious and offer the same or similar health benefits of fresh fruits and veggies. If you live far from a grocery store, stock up the next time you food shop.
Video Center: Selection. Storage. Preparation.
How Many Cups Do You Need?
Key Nutrients in Fruits & Vegetables
Fruit & Veggie Database