What counts as fruits and veggies for the “five a day”? This study clears things out
The "five a day" approach is a useful simplification. Although the potato (tragically) doesn't make the cut.
New research from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, reports that getting five servings of fruits and vegetables every day (particularly getting 2 of fruit and 3 of vegetables) is the optimal amount for all your health needs. This ratio was found to help reduce the risks of developing numerous chronic health conditions, including cardiovascular disease and cancer.
However, only 1 in 10 adults in the U.S. eat enough fruits and vegs, the study adds, citing statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
All in all, the analysis revealed that:
- About 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily was associated with the lowest risk of death among participants. Having more than five servings didn’t seem to confer any additional benefits.
- Having 2 servings of fruit and 3 of veggies daily seemed to yield the best results; these participants had a 13% lower risk of death from all causes, a 12% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, a 10% lower risk of death from cancer, and a 35% lower risk of death from respiratory disease, compared to participants who ate 2 servings of fruit or vegetables per day.
- Starchy foods (corn, potato, peas, fruit juices, so on) were not associated with this reduction in mortality. In other words, they don’t count towards your 5 daily servings.
- Leafy greens such as spinach, lettuce, or kale, alongside fruits and vegetables rich in beta carotenes and vitamin C (brightly-colored items such as carrots, bell peppers, berries, or citrus fruits) do count towards these 5 servings.
“Our analysis in the two cohorts of U.S. men and women yielded results similar to those from 26 cohorts around the world, which supports the biological plausibility of our findings and suggests these findings can be applied to broader populations,” Wang said.
The team hopes that their work will help make it a bit clearer to everybody on exactly what constitutes good dietary habits, and which items count towards the succinct public message of 5-a-day. This amount, says Wang, likely “offers the most benefit in terms of prevention of major chronic disease” and is relatively achievable on a day-to-day basis.
Alexandru Micu, March 2021