We know that 87% of Swedes don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables per day, so we created Multitasker with that in mind. It is an easy way to get all the health benefits in one capsule. But say you don’t want to eat a multivitamin, what should you eat to get sufficient nutrients in your body?
A new study backs up the long-standing nutritional guideline that consuming five daily servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables, from apples to zucchini, can help you live longer.
This study, published in March 2021 in the journal Circulation, was a meta-analysis of dozens of studies from around the world that investigated the relationship between diet and cardiovascular health. The study's authors pooled self-reported health and diet information from about two million participants who were followed for up to 30 years.
The study found that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds was associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and premature death. In particular, a diet that emphasized plant-based foods and limited red and processed meat, sugary drinks, and refined grains was associated with the greatest health benefits.
The study's findings are consistent with previous research that has shown the health benefits of a plant-based diet. By incorporating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds into your diet and limiting your intake of red and processed meat, sugary drinks, and refined grains, you can improve your cardiovascular health and reduce your risk of chronic diseases.
Compared to people who said they ate just two servings of fruits or vegetables each day, people who ate five servings per day had:
13% lower risk of death from any cause
12% lower risk of death from heart disease or stroke
10% lower risk of death from cancer
35% lower risk of death from respiratory disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
“Fruits and vegetables are major sources of several nutrients that are strongly linked to good health, particularly the health of the heart and blood vessels: potassium, magnesium, fiber, and polyphenols" explains Dr. Daniel Wang, lead author on the study and a member of the Faculty of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
The most effective combination of fruits and vegetables among study participants was two servings of fruit plus three servings of vegetables per day, for a total of five servings per day.
The biggest health benefits came from eating leafy green vegetables and fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C and beta carotene (citrus, berries, carrots). "These are primary sources of antioxidants that may play a role in preventing cancer," Dr. Wang says.
Fruit juices and starchy vegetables such as peas, corn and potatoes were not associated with reduced risk of death or chronic diseases. It may be due to their higher glycemic load compared with other fruits and vegetables, which means they have a greater ability to raise blood sugar levels.
And it does not seem to matter if the fruit and vegetables are fresh, canned or frozen.
Studies show that freezing and canning preserves nutrients, which often makes these options even more nutrient-dense than their fresh counterparts. For example, one study found that frozen kale had more antioxidants than fresh kale.
Finally, sometimes people ask whether the sugar content of fruit is a cause for concern. It isn’t if you aim for two servings per day. The reality is that most people get about 50 percent of calories from ultra-processed foods, including sweets, but fall short on fruit consumption, so the sugar in fruit is not a public health issue when eaten at recommended levels.
And it’s vital to consider the nutritional properties of the whole food, rather than one nutrient. Beyond sugar, fruits contain fiber, vitamins A and C, potassium, polyphenols and folate, which are all important nutrients for overall health.
So there you have it. Start eating your five daily servings of fruits and vegetables. And if you find it difficult to reach, you can always add a multivitamin to your daily routine.