Forget an apple a day, eat 10 portions of fruits and veg for disease prevention
06/09/2021 / By Joanne Washburn / Comments
Forget an apple a day, eat 10 portions of fruits and veg for disease prevention

Fruits and vegetables are important components of a healthy diet, and quantity is just as important as variety. No single fruit or vegetable can give you all the nutrients you need, so you should eat a lot of them daily.

Nutritionists say eating five portions of fruits and vegetables daily is enough for good overall health. However, a recent review published in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that just five portions a day might not be enough after all.

You should eat about eight to 10 portions of fruits and vegetables daily if you want to maintain optimal health and avoid serious conditions that could lead to premature death, according to the review.

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10 portions a day may prevent disease, premature death

Researchers from Imperial College London analyzed 95 studies that looked at the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables. In total, the studies involved almost two million participants, as well as 43,000 cases of heart disease, 47,000 cases of stroke, 81,000 cases 0f cardiovascular disease (CVD) and 94,000 deaths.

The researchers looked at each participant’s fruit and vegetable intake, particularly at how much they ate on a daily basis and the specific foods they ate. One portion of fruits and vegetables was defined as 80 grams (g), which is the equivalent of one small banana, pear or apple or three tablespoons of cooked vegetables.

They then calculated the association between fruit and vegetable intake and the risks of heart disease, CVD, stroke, cancer and premature death.

They found that people who ate 200 g or around 2.5 portions of fruits and vegetables daily saw more health benefits than people who didn’t eat fruits and vegetables. These benefits include an 18 percent lower risk of stroke, a 16 percent lower risk of heart disease and a 13 percent lower risk of CVD.

Eating roughly 2.5 portions of fruits and vegetables daily was also associated with a four percent lower risk of cancer and a 15 percent lower risk of premature death.

But the benefits didn’t stop there. It turns out, people who ate even more portions of fruits and vegetables a day saw even greater benefits. In particular, people who ate up to 800 g or roughly 10 portions of fruits and vegetables a day had a 33 percent lower risk of stroke, a 28 percent lower risk of CVD, a 24 percent lower risk of heart disease and a 13 percent lower risk of cancer compared to people who didn’t eat fruits and vegetables.

Moreover, people who ate up to 10 portions of fruits and vegetables per day enjoyed a 31 percent lower risk of premature death than those who didn’t eat fruits and vegetables.

What’s more, the researchers found that if everyone ate 10 portions of fruits and vegetables per day, about 7.8 million premature deaths worldwide could be prevented annually.

Plus, they found that apples, pears, citrus fruits, leafy greens (e.g., kale, spinach) and cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli, cauliflower) were the best foods for reducing the risks of stroke, CVD, heart disease, and premature death.

The researchers did not look at the mechanisms behind high fruit and vegetable intake and reduced risk of diseases and death. That said, they noted that the benefits highlighted in their review may be due to the complex network of nutrients in fruits and vegetables, which includes vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

To sum up, the review highlights the importance of eating fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet.

Tips for adding more fruits and veg to your daily routine

Though the idea of scarfing down 10 portions of fruits and vegetables can seem intimidating, it’s not really impossible. The trick is to add more fruits and vegetables where you can, be that in a savory marinade or a popular meat dish like meatloaf or kebabs.

Try these easy ways to sneak more fruits and vegetables into your meals:

  • Make vegetable-based soups – Soups let you consume multiple servings of vegetables in one sitting. For one, you can make the base of the soup out of vegetables by pureeing them. You can also just toss more veggies into broth- or cream-based soups. This technique is best for bitter vegetables that aren’t as pleasant to eat on their own.
  • Swap boxed pasta for veggie ones – Ever heard of zoodles? This popular health food is just long strips of zucchini made to resemble pasta noodles. It’s great for making low-carb pasta dishes and increasing your vegetable intake on the side. You can also make a vegan lasagna with zucchini.
  • Incorporate vegetables into sauces and dressings – If you have picky kids, try sneaking extra vegetables into your sauces and dressings. For example, you can add chopped onions, carrots, bell peppers and leafy greens to your marinara sauce. You can also try making your pesto with roasted beets.
  • Make smoothies – Smoothies are a great way to drink several portions of fruits and vegetables in one go. After all, you’ll need to blend more portions than you can actually eat to fill one glass of smoothie. Smoothies are also versatile. You can make an all-fruit or an all-veg smoothie or a mixture of both.
  • Cook a vegan omelet – Omelets are an easy way to eat more vegetables. Cook eggs as usual then fold them over a filling of vegetables. Common additions include spinach, mushrooms and bell peppers.
  • Eat fruits for dessert – Ditch unhealthy desserts like ice cream and parfaits for some fresh fruits. Fruits are naturally sweet, so you still get to satisfy your sweet tooth without loading up on added sugar.
  • Grill vegetable kebabs – Traditional kebabs are cubes of meat, like lamb or beef, that are marinated and cooked on a skewer. Make your own vegan version by using fruits and vegetables instead. Bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes, squash and pineapples are great for kebabs.
  • Stuff bell peppers or squash – Stuff bell peppers or squash with cooked meat, beans and rice, then bake them in the oven. You can make an all-veg one by stuffing them with even more vegetables.
  • Make a plant-based “meatloaf” – Almost any dish can be made vegan these days, including meatloaf. Here’s an easy recipe that uses chickpeas in place of ground meat.
  • Make cauliflower rice – Cauliflower rice is made by shredding cauliflower florets in a food processor. It makes a great low-carb substitute for white rice. You can also make “rice” with other vegetables, including broccoli, beets, carrots, zucchini and sweet potatoes.

For better overall health and protection against diseases, aim to eat more than five portions of fresh fruits and vegetables every day. But remember: healthy eating doesn’t stop at fruits and vegetables. Keep your diet balanced by eating more fish, nuts, seeds, lean meat and whole grains. Cut back on sweets and salty foods, too.

Sources:

NaturalHealth365.com

Academic.OUP.com

Healthline.com

Delish.com

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