We’ve all been told to eat our fruits and vegetables. It’s a common refrain from parents and pediatricians who want to help us grow up strong and healthy. Then we grow up and the pull of that double cheeseburger or the best taco ever is just too great. That’s not just assumption, it’s backed by science: Between 2009 and 2015 there was a seven percent decrease in adult American’s consumption of fruit and vegetables. Not cool.
A consensus study was recently conducted by the International Journal of Epidemiology that looked at 95 studies of 2 million people’s intake of fruit and vegetables. These studies “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.” You know where this is going, right?
We need to eat a lot more fruit and vegetables if we want to avoid a premature death from one of those illnesses. And the results weren’t just a slight decrease in risk — they’re big. Dr Dagfinn Aune, lead author of the research, said, “it is clear from this work that a high intake of fruit and vegetables hold tremendous health benefits, and we should try to increase their intake in our diet”.
How much should you be eating you ask? A lot. Consuming ten portions of fruit and vegetable daily “was associated with a 24 percent reduced risk of heart disease, a 33 percent reduced risk of stroke, a 28 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, a 13 percent reduced risk of total cancer, and a 31 percent reduction in premature deaths.” That’s cutting your chance of dying early by one-third by simply eating more apples, avocados, or salad instead of a cheeseburger — or at the very least make that burger more about lettuce, tomatoes, and some other fruit than about the cheese and bacon. Combined this equals in the neighborhood of 7.8 million fewer premature deaths worldwide every year.
The study also concluded a few other interesting details: There’s no loss of nutrients or health benefits by cooking fruits or vegetables versus eating them raw. And if you’re trying to get the same nutrients of real fruit and vegetables from supplements, don’t bother because they’ll never give you the same benefits. Dr. Aune notes, “Most likely it is the whole package of beneficial nutrients you obtain by eating fruits and vegetables that is crucial to health. This is why it is important to eat whole plant foods to get the benefit, instead of taking antioxidant or vitamin supplements (which have not been shown to reduce disease risk).”
It sounds like it’s time to order that salad.
(Via The Guardian)