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Study: Eat More Fruit and Vegetables

Norbert Meissner
Dietitians recommend that people strive for five servings of fruit and vegetables a day.

A recent study finds that a higher consumption of fruit and vegetables is related to a lower risk of all causes of mortality, especially cardiovascular mortality.

Many studies have shown the association between high consumption of fruit and vegetables and reduced risk of all cause mortality, but the one published in the BMJ last month looked at quantifying how much we need to eat to trigger that connection.

The researchers found that our risk for death goes down by five percent for each serving of fruit and vegetable that we eat. Increasing our intake to more than five servings does not change those results much, but the problem remains that people do not eat those five servings.

For Janet Anders, wellness dietitian at St Francis Medical Center, the fact that fruits and vegetables are good for health and reduce the risk of disease is no news.

“These plant based foods do a wide variety of things in our body, and if we were eating them in proper portions then hopefully it would decrease our risk of disease,” said Anders.

Dietitians recommend that people strive for five servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Anders looked at the last statistics done in Missouri regarding how many servings Americans eat.

“Only 27.3% of Americans were eating two servings of fruit, and only 23% were eating at least three servings of vegetables a day, and that’s in the state of Missouri,” detailed Anders.

She points out that people should not consider French fries and potato chips as vegetables when they consider how many servings of fruit and vegetables they consume, as they are plant-based food that go through a lot of processing.

Five servings of fruit and vegetables a day can be a combination of the two. A serving size is half a cup of cooked vegetables, or two cups of green leafy vegetables, like salad or spinach. For a piece of fruit, a serving is about the size of a woman’s fist.

Fruit and vegetables have many health benefits. They help protect against diabetes, keep the gastrointestinal system working efficiently and help fight colds and other infections when we eat a high amount of it. But, like everything, consumption should be in moderation.

“I think it’s still everything in moderation but typically when people overindulge, a lot of the time they are not going to do it on fruit and vegetables,” said Anders.

The study also found a connection between the amount of fruit and vegetables consumed and cardiovascular mortality.

“If you increase your fruit and vegetables by your serving, it decreased your risk of cardiovascular disease by 4% for each serving that you consumed,” explained Anders.

Anders believes that work needs to be done to educate people so they really understand that they should eat five servings of fruit and vegetables each day. People tend to think consuming them takes more time and costs more money but it is not necessarily the case.

“To let people know where they can get them from, how to prepare them, showing them how to work with fruits and vegetables on a budget, I think all those things are very important,” said Anders.

Marine Perot was a KRCU reporter for KRCU in 2014.