If you had a penny for every time someone extolled the virtues of eating fruits and veggies every day, you’d have enough to buy a couple of kilos of those. Chockfull of vitamins, minerals and plant compounds, fruits and vegetables are the cornerstones of a healthy diet. Nature also offers a wide variety for our snacking needs with at least nine different families of fruits and veggies in all.
But there’s no single fruit or vegetable that will have all your nutritional needs covered. So popular wisdom says you need to eat different types to give your body the right cocktail of nutrients. So the question that begs to be answered is “How many types in all?”
American Heath Association and researchers at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health have an answer. Their latest study pegs the number at five servings — two types of fruit and three types of vegetables. The study published in the AHA’s journal Circulation says that for good health and long life, that’s the optimal number.
Why fruit and vegetables are important
When was the last time you ate a piece of fruit or snacked on a salad? Only one in ten adults eat enough fruits and vegetables, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study says that about five servings of fruit and vegetables is associated with longevity. There’s a 13% reduction in risk of death from all causes, 12% reduced risk of death from cardiovascular diseases, 10% lower risk of death from cancer and a whopping 35% reduction in risk of death from respiratory diseases.
Are all fruit and vegetables made equally?
No, says the study. Certain fruits and vegetables are clearly better than others when it comes to health benefits. In the study, starchy vegetables — like peas, corn and potatoes — and fruit juices weren’t that impressive. They didn’t show any death risk-reducing properties.
But, green leafy veggies — spinach, lettuce, kale and the likes — and fruit and veggies rich in beta carotene and vitamin C definitely helped! These included citrus fruits, berries and carrots.
How to eat more fruits and vegetables
The real struggle is getting our lazy asses to eat more fruit and vegetables. Here are some tips you can use from Harvard T.H Chan.
Place fruit and veggies within eyeshot. The more they are in your line of vision, the greater the chances of them being eaten!
Eat one serving from each of the colour categories — dark green leafy, yellow or orange and red fruits. Also include legumes, peas and citrus.
Give potatoes a miss and instead eat veggies that have a more slowly digested form of carbs. But did you know it’s possible to survive entirely on potatoes and butter?
Prepare an entire meal with just fruit and veggies. To sum it up, find ways to sneak more of them into your diet.