Five Is the Magic Number for Fruits and Veggies

Many of us wonder if we eat enough produce. We want to maintain a healthy diet, but it can be hard to know what we should be aiming for. A new study has found that five servings a day will help you!

The American Heart Association (AHA) published research that looked at data from almost two million adults worldwide. They found that eating five servings of produce a day was the optimal number for a longer life. According to the study, you should have three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit to reap the benefits. According to the CDC, only one in 10 adults eats enough produce, so it’s a great goal to set for yourself.

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 lead study author Dr. Dong Wang, an epidemiologist and nutritionist at Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

The study found that people who ate five servings of produce every day — three vegetables and two fruits — had the lowest risk of dying in a 30 period. But, eating more than that didn’t appear to offer any extra protection. They were 13 percent less likely to die for any reason, 12 percent less likely to die from heart disease, 10 percent less likely to die from cancer and 35 percent less likely to die from a respiratory disease. Fruit juices and starches like potatoes and corn didn’t appear to offer any health benefits.

This amount likely offers the most benefit in terms of prevention of major chronic disease and is a relatively achievable intake for the general public,” Dr. Wang said.

Eating five servings is undoubtedly more achievable than thinking you have to switch over to being a vegetarian, as some sources often argue. A different study found that eight or nine servings of produce per day are needed to keep your immune system at peak performance. That might be true, but for many people, eight or nine servings is — or at least feels — unmanageable. If you set unreasonably high goals, you may give up before you begin, so this smaller goal is an excellent place to start.

The author of the study that found that eight or nine servings would be better points out that this research was based on surveys and is therefore imperfect. “It is mainly based on observational studies and dietary intake records, which I do not believe has the sensitivity to differentiate and pinpoint the exact dose needed,” said Dr. Simin Meydani. “In order to recommend that five serving of fruits and vegetables is the best dose, they will need to do a randomized controlled trial looking at either disease outcomes or biomarkers of health, which has not been done in a systematic way.”

Dr. Meydani might be right in saying that more studies are needed. We’re always interested in learning more! But, as so few of us are eating five servings a day, we’ll take that as a great goal. Whether or not it will make our bodies the absolute best they can be, this study shows it can improve our health and potentially lower our mortality risks!

Banner image: Chantal Garnier via Unsplash
March 26, 2021
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