Five portions of fruit and veg a day is the recommended amount in many national guidelines, with some countries increasing this amount to five veg and two fruit portions in a 24 hour period. According to a new study led by Imperial College London, however, doubling the recommended minimum to 10 portions could have a significant effect on reducing heart disease and cancer. While five-a-day helps to reduce disease risk and is a great first step, 7.8 million premature deaths could be prevented worldwide each year if we double the amount of fruit and veg in our diet.
In order to make their new recommendations, researchers from Imperial College London analysed data from 95 independent studies concerning fruit and vegetable intake. Not only did the study correlate daily intake amounts with reduced risk factors, it also analysed which fruits and vegetables posed the most significant health benefits. While any fruit and veg intake is good, the greatest benefit came from eating 800g a day, or 10 portions of 80g each.
According to Dr Dagfinn Aune, lead author of the research from the School of Public Health at Imperial, “We wanted to investigate how much fruit and vegetables you need to eat to gain the maximum protection against disease, and premature death. Our results suggest that although five portions of fruit and vegetables is good, 10 a day is even better.”
In the study, consuming 10 portions of fruit and veg a day was associated with a 24 percent reduced risk of heart disease, a 33 percent lower risk of stroke, and a 28 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition, 10 daily portions of fruit and veg was also responsible for a 13 percent reduced risk of cancer, and a 31 percent reduction in the risk of premature death. If you're only currently eating three or four portions a day, the best advice is to change your diet and increase your fruit and veg intake.
It's important not to despair or feel guilty, however, with even 200g a day, or 1/4 the recommended amount, associated with some very good news. If you can manage just 2 1/2 standard 80g portions a day, you will experience a 16 percent reduced risk of heart disease, an 18 percent reduced risk of stroke, a 13 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, a 4 percent reduced risk of cancer, and a 15 percent reduction in the risk of premature death.
As it turns out, not all fruits and vegetables are created equal when it comes to their nutritional benefits. Luckily for most, some of the tastiest and most popular fruits are also the most advantageous for preventing heart disease and stroke, including apples, pears, and citrus fruits. Salads and green leafy vegetables like spinach also scored high on the list, as did dinner time favourites such as broccoli and cauliflower. When it comes to reducing the risk of cancer, green, yellow, and orange vegetables such as carrots are the most effective.
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