If you want to live longer, then eat more fruit and vegetables. Forget the five-a-day rule; munching your way through ten portions a day will help ward off cancer, heart disease and plenty of other ailments.
A new study carried out by the UK’s Imperial College London found that eating ten portions of fruit and veggies each day could prevent 7.8 million deaths in Britain each year.
The research also identifies the specific fruits and vegetables that reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Eating small portions of fruit and veggies is good for you, but researchers found that the more you eat, the better.
Compared to not eating any fruit and vegetables, two daily portions cuts the risk of dying early by 15%. Eating twice this amount more than doubles this, reducing the chances of premature death by 31%. The figures for heart disease are similar, according to the research published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.
For cancer, eating more fruit and veggies has even greater benefits. While two portions reduce the chances of developing cancer by 4%, eating nine helpings (28oz) cuts this risk by more than three times to 13%.
A standard portion is 3oz – roughly equal to a small banana or three tablespoons of vegetables.
Imperial College’s research, based on data from 95 different studies of 2 million people’s diet, also pinpointed food that lowered the risk of specific diseases.
For cancer prevention, the best foods to eat are cruciferous vegetables (e.g. broccoli and cauliflower), and green and yellow vegetables.
Lower risks of heart disease and strokes are linked to eating pears, apples, citrus fruits, and salads. Green leafy vegetables and cruciferous veggies also help maintain a healthy heart.
The health benefits of fruits and vegetables are thanks to the complex network of nutrients they contain. Fresh produce is teeming with antioxidants, for example, which reduce DNA damage and thus help lower the risk of cancer.
Fresh produce has long been known to boost the immune system and reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. However, many people struggle to eat even the five a day (14oz) recommended by the World Health Organization.
But getting your ten-a-day is not as hard as it might sound. The best way is to make sure every meal you eat includes fruits and veggies. The portions soon add up.
Some tips include:
- Start the day with a tomato or spinach omelette.
- Have a salad with your lunch
- Eat stir-fries or stews for evening meals.
- For snacking try fruit smoothies or vegetable dips.
Although the study did not take into account other lifestyle factors such as exercise, researchers say there is strong evidence to link eating plenty of fruit and veggies with living longer. Eating more than ten portions a day might have even greater benefits, but as yet there is not enough evidence for researchers to study.