Five-a-day keeps the doctor away
It seems we get new information every day about how to stay healthy. And frankly, it’s sometimes hard to keep up with it or to know what to believe. Research has confirmed what our parents and grandparents have been telling us for decades: there’s a connection between good nutrition and good health. Remember the old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away?” Well, it turns out that this is true with some modification, according to a new Harvard study. Instead of an apple a day, it’s now a 5-a-day mix of fruits and vegetables. Nutritionists have long recommended a balanced diet to provide the body with the proper nutrients such as vegetables, fruits, grains, proteins and dairy to stay healthy. You don’t have to be a genius to know that you’ll benefit from eating fresh produce. We all know that a healthy diet should include fruit and vegetables, but this doesn’t mean eating more of them. It means eating the right combination of them. Like much else in life, it’s all a question of balance. And in this case, eating the right balance may make you live longer.
In one of the most comprehensive studies to date, researchers found that two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables each day will add years to your life. But what’s unique about this study is that it also expands beyond current guidelines by differentiating among specific groups of fruits and vegetables. Prior to recommending this 5-a-day mix of fruits and veggies to reduce such leading causes of death as heart disease and cancer, the authors of the study scrutinized the health records of nearly two million adults from every continent. Sadly, they also found that only one in ten people “are eating enough fruits or vegetables on a daily basis.” And that’s certainly not enough to keep the reaper at bay.
“While groups like the American Heart Association recommend four to five servings each of fruits and vegetables daily, consumers likely get inconsistent messages about what defines optimal daily intake of fruits and vegetables such as the recommended amount, and which foods to include and avoid,” said author, epidemiologist and nutritionist Dong D. Wang in a media release. Wang and his team of researchers drew this conclusion after comparing the results of studies that examined the link between consuming fruit and vegetables and death from more than 1.9 million people from 29 countries. They found that adults who ate five servings of fruit and veggies daily lowered their overall risk of premature death from all causes by 13 percent.
The serving sweet spot
“The chances of dying from heart disease fell by 12 percent and cancer risk dropped by 10 percent. Moreover, the risk of death from respiratory diseases like Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) fell by 35 percent for those having the ‘5-a-day’ mix.” While researchers observed that there was no additional benefit gained by eating more than five servings, they did find that those who hit the serving sweet spot and ate more vegetables than fruit lived the longest. They cautioned, however, that starchy veggies (corn and peas), fruit juices (eat the fruit instead) and potatoes did not add additional years to the lifespans of participants. Researchers also observed that green leafy vegetables (lettuce, kale and spinach) and citrus fruits, berries and carrots, all of which contain beta carotene and vitamin C, could extend your life.
Why fruits and veggies?
My parents and grandparents were always encouraging me to eat my fruits and veggies, and I often wondered why. After all, most of it tasted yucky except for some of the fruit. The only answer they could give me when I asked why was “they’re good for you.” If it was like that for you, too, here are some reasons that the oldies never covered. Fruits and veggies are usually low in calories and fat as long as you don’t roast them or fry them in lots of oil. They can also help keep your heart healthy and maintain a healthy weight. They are a great source of vitamins and minerals such as folate vitamins A, C and E, as well as magnesium, zinc, phosphorous and potassium. And they’re an outstanding source of dietary fiber, which promotes a healthy gut and prevents constipation. Still unconvinced? Well, they also reduce your risk of bowel cancer. I don’t know about you but that sounds like a winner to me.