Five a Day

Eating two fruits and three veggies daily can help you live longer

By Cara Rosenbloom Published Feb 2, 2023 16:46:47 IST
Five a Day Image by Kamran Aydinov; Freepik

A new study backs up the long-standing nutritional guideline that consuming five daily servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables, from apples to zucchini, is linked to longevity. But if you consider fruit juice or French fries among those servings, you may have to rethink your diet.

“People who eat five servings of vegetables and fruit daily have a 13 per cent lower risk of all-cause death compared to people who eat two servings of fruit and vegetables per day,” says Dong Wang, a faculty member at Harvard Medical School, and one of the study’s researchers. The study found that people who consumed five daily servings—specifically two fruits and three vegetables—had a 12 per cent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, a 10 per cent lower risk from cancer, and a 35 per cent lower risk from respiratory disease, compared with people who ate just two daily servings.

One ‘serving’ is 125 millilitres of any vegetables or fruits, or 250 millilitres of salad greens. You get the same beneficial vitamins, minerals and fibre in both, but vegetables are lower in calories and sugar, which is why the guidelines recommend slightly higher consumption levels for them.

The findings, published in the journal Circulation, included two studies of more than 1,00,000 American men and women who were followed for up to 30 years. Those studies were then added to 24 other studies from across the globe to conduct one large meta-analysis on more than 1.8 million participants.

Which Ones Are Best?

Variety is key, because different fruits and vegetables contain different beneficial nutrients and antioxidants. Wang’s study showed that almost all fruits and vegetables, including leafy greens, citrus fruits and berries, were associated with lower mortality, but there were some exceptions. Fruit juices and starchy vegetables such as peas, corn and potatoes were not associated with reduced risk of death or chronic diseases. It may be due to their higher glycaemic load compared with other fruits and vegetables, which means they have a greater ability to raise blood sugar levels. While the sugar content in two servings of fruit isn’t a cause for concern in general, if you have Type 2 diabetes you should discuss your portions with a dietitian.

What to Buy

Your five daily servings can be met from a variety of fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables, whether conventional or organic. Whichever options are available, affordable and appealing are good choices.

Studies show that freezing and canning preserves nutrients, which often makes these foods even more nutrient-dense than their fresh counterparts. Plus, canned and frozen produce are good options for people whose barriers to consuming enough servings per day include the high cost, low access, poor quality and lack of variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.

And what about organic options? They’re fine if you can access and afford them, but it’s not necessary to purchase organically grown produce.

Make Them Taste Good

Although fruits are convenient because you can eat most types from your hand, some people don’t know what to do with vegetables to make them enjoyable. Try adding your favourite herbs and spices. Salads, veggie-based smoothies, stir-fries and steamed vegetables are also great options. And don’t skimp on fat: Studies show that a bit of oil helps your body absorb the vitamins and carotenoid antioxidants from the vegetables.


The Washington Post (18 March 2021), Copyright © 2021 by The Washington Post

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