As science accumulates more data, the recommended amount of fruits and veggies keep going up.  It used to be six servings, and then eight. But now, the latest study shows that there is added benefit to getting ten servings of fruits and veggies a day!

This was a large meta-analysis—in this case a compilation of 95 eating studies involving over two million people—that examined the effects of what you eat on heart disease and cancer.  This is what they found:

  • 33% reduced risk of stroke
  • 28% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
  • 24% reduced risk of heart disease
  • 31% reduction in dying prematurely
  • 13% reduced risk of total cancer

Consuming fruits and vegetables is so important that even if you only get 2.5 servings a day, you still get a 10% reduction of risk. And while we always hear about the “rainbow” of fruits and vegetables you should color your plate with, white-fleshed apples and pears were also found to be helpful so you don’t have to worry too much about the white on your plate.

Why do fruits and vegetables make such a difference? 

We hear it so often that “eat your fruits and vegetables” glides in one ear and out the other like a tired mantra. But why are fruits and veggies such a powerhouse of life change? The reasons could easily add to infinity, but here are just four practical reasons.

  1. Fruits and veggies are nutrient dense—not calorie dense. This means you can eat a lot without gaining weight.
  2. Fruits and veggies have a lot of fiber. This lowers your risk of colon cancer by almost 50%, and fills you up to avoid being “hangry” (hunger + angry).
  3. Fruits and veggies have many antioxidants, which may help reduce risk of heart disease and cancer by protecting against DNA damage and mutations that lead to cancer.
  4. Fruits and veggies reduce your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels all of which are cardiovascular risk factors.

Okay, then how is it possible to eat ten servings per day?

Ten whole servings of fruits and vegetables every day may seem daunting, especially if you don’t eat a lot of carrots and apples to begin with. It doesn’t have to be such a challenge, and the following are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Start by planning on adding just one more serving of a fruit or veggie a day. Radically changing your diet will use up all your willpower and energy and will most likely eventually fail (like most restrictive diets). So take it lightly at first and ease in, one additional serving at a time.
  2. Eat what you like. Almost any fruit of veggie will boost your health. If you like berries, add them to your oatmeal. If you like apples, eat them during lunch. If you like mango (although I personally don’t know why you would), eat them.
  3. Try to have fruit at the end of every single meal as your dessert.  That’s what my wife and I do with our kids and it actually works! Fruits are sweet and people like to end their meals on a sweet note.
  4. Gradually move to filling half of your plate with fruits and veggies.  See the Harvard Health Plate for a clear reference, as it’s based on pure research data and not lobby group interests like the FDA plate.
  5. Plan for the day and make fruits and veggies your mid-morning and afternoon snacks. Take an apple, orange, or banana with you to work. Fill a little Tupperware with hummus or another dip and cut a bunch of celery, snap peas, and carrots rather than chips and pretzels.

Granted, all good habits take time and practice. But you’ve heard your entire life to “eat more fruits and vegetables”, and now you know why and how. So take the time to practice something that will truly change your life forever


About the Author

Harvey Hahn, MD, FACC

Dr. Hahn graduated from Loma Linda University in 1994. He is currently the director of the Cardiovascular Fellowship Training Program at the Kettering Medical Center in Kettering Ohio.

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